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Apple: Skin to the Core

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Apple: Skin to the Core, is a YA memoir-in-verse. Eric Gansworth tells the story of his life, of an Onondaga family living among Tuscaroras, and of Native people in America, including the damaging legacy of government boarding schools—and in doing so grapples with the slur common in Native communities, for someone “red on the outside, white on the inside,” and reclaims it.

339 pages

First published October 6, 2020

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About the author

Eric Gansworth

22 books142 followers
Gansworth is an enrolled citizen of the Onondaga Nation; however, he grew up in the Tuscarora Nation as a descendant of one of two Onondaga women present among the Tuscarora at the foundation of the nation in the 18th century. Gansworth originally qualified in electroencephalography, considered a profession useful to his nation; however, he went on to study literature and to continue a lifelong interest in painting and drawing.

Gansworth has written five novels, including the award-winning Mending Skins (2005) and Extra Indians (2010). In all his novels, illustrations form an integral part of the reading experience. His most recent novel, If I Ever Get out of Here is his first Young Adult novel, and deals with the 1975 friendship between two boys, one a resident of the Tuscarora Nation, the other living on the nearby Air Force base. In a starred review, Booklist stated that the book succeeded in "sidestepping stereotypes to offer two genuine characters navigating the unlikely intersection of two fully realized worlds."


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 389 reviews
Profile Image for sarah.
377 reviews397 followers
January 4, 2021
This is the third book written-in-verse that I have read this year, and the format has yet to disappoint me!

Apple: Skin to the Core is a memoir recounting the author's experiences, identity and family history in an engaging and often beautiful way. As a white Australian, I was ignorant to many aspects of Native American culture and history. Even the significance of the title and cover were unbeknownst to be when I began, signifying a slur used in Native communities for someone who is "red on the outside, white on the inside."

This book was not written for me, or for the purpose of educating white people as Gansworth acknowledged. I didn't understand every single story, but that is okay. It is so important that this book exists for the people who need it and feel seen as a result.

I listened to Apple as an audiobook, read by the author himself which added a layer of emotion to the experience. This added to the feeling that it was simply Gansworth recounting his life, and I happened to be listening in. I would recommend audibly reading for that reason. However, I think to have the full experience it may be best to have the physical book handy and perhaps switch between them, or listen while looking at the pages. From what I have heard, the print copy has art interspersed which gives it a scrapbook-like quality. I also think seeing some of the poems could enhance the experience, as I often found myself wishing I could see them on the page. If I can manage to find a physical copy, I would love to reread and annotate my favourite lines- of which there were many. I wish I could add some to my review, but I would never be able to do them justice by transcribing them from the audiobook.

A common issue I have seen in reviews is Apple's classification as YA. I have mixed opinions on this discussion. On one hand I fall into the YA age range and happened to really enjoy the book. I think it is critical for teenagers to get a glimpse into the lives of different people and become more accepting and empathetic as a result. For Indigenous teens, I also think the book could be invaluable.

On the other hand, I can definitely see many aspects going over the heads of younger readers or being confronting. I think this may be most appropriate for the older end of the YA spectrum and above. It definitely has adult appeal with 70's nostalgia and countless Beatles references that I wasn't able to appreciate to its full extent. Speaking of the Beatles- Gansworth took the rhyme and rhythm patterns of Beatles songs and constructed some poems around it. Once that was explained I had a whole new appreciation for the effort that went into the book, but I think someone more familiar with their songs will enjoy it even more.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys memoirs, but perhaps wants to experience them in a different format. I truly believe everyone can take something different from the story, and I hope if it sounds like something you would enjoy, you give it a chance!

Thank you to Dreamscape Media and Libro.fm for this ALC

Release Date: 6 October 2020
Profile Image for Mari.
697 reviews4,298 followers
December 8, 2020
I received a copy of this work on audiobook via as part of their advanced listener copy program.

Recommended for fans of memoirs and novels told in verse. I will say what Gansworth says at the beginning of this: this story isn't for you. It's a life story steeped in reclaiming a history and a present. It is both specific to Gansworth's experience as an Onondaga living amongst Tuscaroras, but gives a lot of insight and context to the Indigenous experience in the US.

This is connected by its format, a call back and many nods to The Beatles. It still also reads in a disjointed manner, a stream of memories told in a more conversational way. Still poetic, to be sure, and often cutting and smart, but organized in a conversation way, if that makes any sense at all.

I listened to this and it was read by the author. There was a lot to be gained by listening to his cadence, but at the end, he talks about the photographs and art that are included in the print version. I would love to see it for myself and I think I would also gain a lot from being able to visually distinguish what is written as verse and what is written as prose. I would also love to reread this and highlight and mark things up.

Overall, I'm very glad I read this.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,379 reviews11.7k followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
February 5, 2021
Printz Honor 2021

Important perspective, and the historical context is interesting. Poetry left me completely cold and disengaged. I'd argue there is hardly a teen that will be moved by this work.
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
1,892 reviews3,109 followers
April 29, 2021
Actual Rating: 3.5 stars (rounded up)

I'm going to echo other reviewers in saying I'm not sure why this book was marketed as YA because it doesn't read like a book for teens. The later part of the book includes reflections as an adult and even as a middle-aged man, reflections that I could somewhat connect with now in my mid-30's, but certainly wouldn't have as a teenager. It also uses the Beatles as a motif, which doesn't strike me as something a young audience would really get. I didn't get a lot of it myself and appreciated the explanations in author notes at the end of the book. It's cool as an artistic choice, but again, doesn't read as YA.

That aside, Apple: Skin to the Core is a memoir in verse that sometimes reads like poetry, sometimes like choppy prose, and is a bit up an down in terms of tone and interest level. I appreciate it as a window into the author's experience growing up and coming of age living on a reservation among the Tuscaroras, a member of the disappearing Onondaga tribe. We get insight into the harm done by boarding schools for Native kids, such as the ones attended by some of his grandparents. This piece of history I think is really important to talk more about. He chronicles growing up poor (some but not all of which I could also relate to from my early years), growing up as a nerdy kid into superheroes and Star Wars in a place and time that saw those things as childish. He talks about the struggle of being caught between two cultures, trying to fit in among white Americans at school, and never being able to grasp as much of his Native heritage as he wish he could. About dealing with racism in every day life, and the serious effects of structural racism as well. There is a lot to like here.

At times the stories chosen are more bland and mundane, though perhaps that is actually the point. The idea that Native kids and families are in some ways just people like everyone else, not some myth of a noble savage, or of something more dangerous. It's an interesting, personal, artistic project. I just don't think it quite reads like something for teenagers and in fact, I think making this more explicitly written for an adult audience might have added to what we have here. I received an audio review copy of this book via Libro.FM. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Sheena.
560 reviews250 followers
October 19, 2020
Apple by Eric Gansworth is a memoir on growing up into Native American culture and dealing with the racism that comes with it. It's written in verse which I love books that are written that way but since this was an audiobook, I wasn't really able to experience it the way it was written. I think I would have preferred reading this rather than listening but that's okay. Gansworth narrates his own book which puts a personal touch on it. Overall, I liked this and thought it was eye-opening as well as interesting.

I'm not sure why this is marketing as YA - I would disagree with this and feel like YA and adults could read/listen to this too.

Thank you very much to Netgalley and to the publisher for an audiobook.
Profile Image for Renata.
2,449 reviews329 followers
December 8, 2020
Hmm. I really love Eric Gansworth's YA fiction, so I was excited to pick up his memoir in verse. I'm maybe not sure who the audience here is? It's published as a YA memoir but to me, I feel like it would have more appeal to older people who can relate more directly to Gansworth's love of the Beatles? There are a lot of Beatles references woven throughout this book. But the Beatles aren't exactly obscure?

Also like, poetry isn't super my thing but this didn't exactly feel like poems to me, for the most part? Not the way for example Brown Girl Dreaming or How I Discovered Poetry did. This, and it makes me feel like an asshole to say this but I will speak my truth, this felt more like some essays with extra line breaks? T B H??

That said I think this would be a valuable mirror for some Native readers since Native stories are definitely underrepresented, and also an interesting window into one particular experience of reservation life. This might appeal also to young artists (there are included photos and paintings making this kind of a multimedia experience) and musicians, just to see the way all of these elements are incorporated, even if it wasn't totally successful for me as a reader personally.

Profile Image for Alicia.
5,601 reviews103 followers
February 21, 2020
I don't see this as being a YA memoir and for my students, it would be a hard sell. There's nothing particularly memorable about the choice to write in verse. Actually I don't think the verse does Gansworth's memoir justice at all and would have likely been more comfortable reading it narratively (or even as a graphic novel).

Likewise, Gansworth's choices in iconic moments of his life to highlight aren't told in a particularly riveting way, instead the historical perspective that he provides about Indigenous people is the only quality in the memoir that is worth pausing to digest and even then, if he's choosing to write it for a YA audience, it's not adapted in a way that would be interesting to read. I see this as an adult book with some teen appeal.

So in all, it was just okay. I wanted to love it more but I couldn't get behind the storytelling. I felt close to his family from some of the moments he shared, but I wasn't invested.
Profile Image for Ricki.
Author 2 books102 followers
December 20, 2019
I just finished this manuscript (Gansworth's memoir in words and pictures--a book in verse). I genuinely don't think my life will ever be the same. This is one of the best books I've ever read.
Profile Image for Vicky Again.
581 reviews820 followers
November 22, 2020
I enjoyed this a lot! The author-narrated audiobook was great (I listened at 1.5-1.75x speed) and I really enjoyed Gansworth's free verse.

Content Warnings:
Profile Image for Nev.
995 reviews125 followers
January 25, 2021
Apple is an amazing memoir in verse about Eric Gansworth’s time growing up in an Onondaga family living on a Tuscarora reservation. He details how his grandparents were taken away to boarding schools by the US government to try and strip them of their culture and how the impact of that carried over through generations.

Something I’ve discovered that I really like is when people use pop culture in their memoirs to show ideas they were learning and how they impacted them. Gansworth uses Beatles songs, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, and comic books to talk about his life growing up and the representations he saw of Native characters in the media.

I’m not a big poetry reader, but I really appreciated this memoir being in verse. The rhythm, rhyming, and repetition Gansworth uses throughout the book really helped to drive home certain points. It’s interesting to me that this is marketed as a YA memoir. While it does mainly focus on his life as a kid and young adult, something about the writing that I can’t quite explain made it feel not like YA to me. I think it can still appeal to younger audiences, but I think that people who typically aren’t YA readers will be able to appreciate this as well.
Profile Image for Elizabeth☮ .
1,497 reviews11 followers
April 7, 2021
Where to begin. I have been reading many books on a list NPR put out in December 2020 for the best books published in 2020. This is on that list. It's written in verse, but my goodness it is dense. Gansworth traces his familial roots to the boarding schools that stripped the native nations denizens of their culture and identify. The repercussions are long reaching into generations down the line.

Gansworth uses The Beatles' Apple label and The White Album as inspiration in a unique way. Luckily I read the notes in the back before I completed the sections modeled on the songs from the album or I may have missed the attention to detail. But, while I found the material insightful and I loved the references to the music of the era, I found that the format didn't mesh well with the content. I think this would have worked better as straight paragraphs or short vignettes. As verse, many of the pieces felt verbose. As a teacher of high school students, I would say many would find this difficult to navigate. They also would not understand most of the pop culture and music references. Gansworth writes YA fiction also. I think I would like to read some of those books to get a fuller picture of his writing style.

This is aimed at YA and published by Levine Querido. They also published Everything Sad Is Untrue: which is labeled as YA, but is dense in the same way. Perhaps the editors should reconsider the label and just aim both books at adults. They certainly are not written in a way that suggests the material is more accessible to teens.
Profile Image for Sarah Gay (lifeandbookswithme).
462 reviews29 followers
November 3, 2020
Apple is a memoir written in the format of verse poetry. It follows Eric as he traces his family’s heritage through generations. From recounting his grandfather’s experiences at a boarding school for Indigenous peoples they were forced to attend by the government to Eric’s poverty growing up, the reader gets a glimpse into the lasting impact colonialism has left on the First Nations people. This work reflects on the suffering endured by the Indigenous peoples and how they have worked to overcome their circumstances.

I did really enjoy the format of verse, it was unique and very creative. I did find it a bit difficult to connect with the stories in some parts due to the short length and quick transitions from one idea to the next. That being said, the brevity is what made some parts so meaningful as his points were really driven home. The plot line was nonlinear which also made it a bit difficult to follow but the ending really wrapped up the book nicely. I feel like I learned a lot listening to this memoir and I am glad I was able to read it thanks to @librofm, @netgalley & @dreamscapemedia.
Profile Image for Andy.
2,354 reviews176 followers
February 26, 2021
Thank you to Libro.FM for an ALC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I cannot recommend this book enough. I've made it a goal of mine to read more Indigenous lit in 2021. And I am so happy to have read this book. Gansworth's poetry is lyrical and imaginative, every poem easily painted a picture in my head. He also did a great job narrating.

This story is about identity and how as a Onondaga family living among Tuscaroras, identities can be lost and changed. Gansworth also touches on the damaging and erasing processes of assimilation, especially by the United States government and its boarding school legacy. Throughout the memoir, Gansworth tells various stories and none of them are linear. I really enjoyed seeing how he connected different pieces with an overarching narrative.

A must read!
Profile Image for Jennifer.
343 reviews61 followers
December 17, 2020
I don't typically rate memoirs, so that's why there's no rating. Still, this was incredible and I highly recommend, especially if you like poetry!
Profile Image for Permanently_Booked.
754 reviews54 followers
October 9, 2020
"..but I am hypnotized by this gathering of these dead presidents who wiped out most of my ancestors..."

This is my first memoir written in verse and I have to say that I enjoyed how it was laid out. I love the references to the Beatles, superheroes and pop culture aspects of his childhood that were interwoven with historical facts of the oppressive situations the Onondaga faced. However I wish I would have read this instead of listened to it. The narration is choppy and I felt it took away from some of the important points being made by Gansworth.

I am generations removed from my Cherokee heritage so to read a novel that pushes emphasis on the loss of identity, culture and customs made me sit back and think of all the things I have possibly lost and all the ways my ancestors have conformed. I have nothing but old memories of visiting "pow-wows" when I was little and I could bet dollars to donuts that they were not the real deal. It makes me want to break out the Google search engine and DNA swab to see what I can find of my past. Who I could find.

The glimpses of reservation life, his unique prose on assimilation into the world outside of the Res and straddling the line between both worlds was poetic to read. Another reason I wish I would've grabbed the book first, there is so much to quote and tab. I even took a moment to go over to his webpage (www.ericgansworth.com) to look at the art associated with this book.

I am glad I stepped out of my normal genre preference and grabbed this memoir to enjoy. Though the narration may not be my favorite; I can still see the message unfolding as the narration went on. I would recommend this read to anyone looking to diversify their memoir reads with a glimpse into Indigenous Native American life.
Profile Image for Tracey.
146 reviews1 follower
November 26, 2022
If you've read anything about this book you know it's a memoir written in verse. But as a person who doesn't read a lot of poetry of any sort it felt very attainable and had a very natural flow that I could follow.
This might be the confusion I see that people don't understand why it is directed at YA. I could be mistaken.
I really felt like I got a in-depth look into the authors life and their story and got a better understanding of what it was like growing up on a Reservation and how important it is keep traditions alive and the devastating impact white American had on Native people's lives.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
980 reviews23 followers
January 30, 2021
I started reading this well before the YMAs were announced, and while I can understand why it was selected for a Printz honor, I just didn't care for it at all. It took me 3 weeks to slog through it, which is an eternity for me.
Profile Image for Caroline Tew.
614 reviews
March 30, 2021
I think the first half of the book is a 4 star, second is a 3. Not because there’s anything wrong, simply because the second half tended to drag and I couldn’t really see what we were meandering towards. Also, I preferred the parts that weren’t poetry (or at least the stuff that, when read, didn’t SOUND like poetry?? Maybe it’s all technically in verse??). I’m not opposed to books in verse but he goes HARD on internal rhyme and it starts taking over everything, making the words lose meaning. I appreciated the author’s unique perspective: he is living on a reservation of a tribe that he is technically not a part of. But that distinction was not really made clear, only hinted at, for the first good bit of the book which made the hints confusing for me. Alternatively, I should have read the synopsis cause it’s in that!
Profile Image for Sofía Vakis.
23 reviews1 follower
January 8, 2021
Another book that I highly recommend, this memoir is about a Native American guy who grows up in the 60's and 70's on a reservation, and his (early) life and experience being indigenous, but also being part of a community that is perpetually trying to be assimilated and whose culture is trying to be erased. It's called Apple because that is an insult that is used for Native Americans who are "red on the outside, white on the inside." I liked this book because it was written in verse, and it also had art by the author based on pictures.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,037 reviews7 followers
April 16, 2021
I am so glad I picked up this book. A memoir in verse, with biographical drawings, it took me back to my youth, growing up in WNY. Eric Gansworth lived maybe 30 miles away from me, and the difference between those miles is evident in our life experiences. I enjoyed the way the memoir was put together, all of the Beatles and apple imagery, and particularly some of the references that were shared - Mr. Dressup on Canadian TV, mentions of Buffalo's Aud. And I'm so happy to have read this work during April is National Poetry Month.
Profile Image for Kelsey Bailey.
19 reviews5 followers
January 15, 2021
Valuable as a YA book (might be better for those on the older end to understand some of the references) - but do not think it should be limited at any in the YA ranger AND adults
Profile Image for Clete.
144 reviews2 followers
April 27, 2021
Heavy with the weight of genocide and assimilation, stuffed with brilliant symbolism, evocative allusion, and rich cultural knowledge, this provides a depth worthy of focused study, more like literary fiction than YA and, although many passages are definitely in verse, others are in a freer verse bordering on prose. All of it, though, attempts to find a portion of what was lost.
Profile Image for Melitta Jackson.
125 reviews23 followers
October 27, 2020
Thank you to both Levine Querido Publishing for an Advanced Readers Copy and Libro FM for an Advanced Listeners Copy of this book.

I really enjoyed this.

Despite being from a different generation, Indigenous Entity and geographic location, I found myself relating to the experiences Gansworth talks about in this memoir.

From Commod mac and cheese (despite having the funds to not have to choose this dish, we do so out of nostalgia) to calling a reservation home but still being treated as an "outsider" due to being enrolled in a different tribe, despite having blood ties to the reservation you live on.

I enjoyed Gansworth's words both audibly and physically, with the book being written in free verse I enjoyed the fact that I could follow along when I found I could do so. I filled those pages up with tabs to remind me of passages I connected with, which I felt like I was doing every other page. I'd like to read it through again physically and tab up sections I wasn't able to read physically.

Even after I was done reading, Gansworth's voice was in my head, not continuing his story but inspiring me to want to right mine. In hopes that maybe, someone might read my experiences and feel some sort of connection in this world.
Profile Image for Annmarie García Sheahan.
267 reviews19 followers
January 10, 2021
2nd time around: Reread this to prep for a review I'm writing on it...sometimes it is just all about the timing because I really liked this the first time around but this reread of it just FLOORED me. I'm going to teach this in Studies in Young Adult Lit next quarter. It needs to be experienced.

1st time around: A powerful memoir told in a structure that wow'ed me. Sure, memoir in verse is nothing new these days, but I really appreciated Gansworth's experimentation with form--his choice to parallel the evolution of the Beatles was really moving for me as a reader (and a Beatles lover). Honestly, I am a bit surprised that his memoir is being marketed as YA. It seems to be far more suited for NA or adult readers. Nevertheless, this is an important read for any age who chooses to pick it up.

"We can agree that we each see the world differently, and each have a contribution to the larger story, and believe we have things to learn from each other."

"...and maybe when my mother claimed
there was no word for love, she was
really saying that no word could encompass
all the different ways we find it."

"When we are born outsiders, we sometimes
find bridges we can make with our own stories
embracing the ways they are connected, instead
of pointing out the gaps between the two sides."
Profile Image for Denise.
698 reviews2 followers
February 26, 2021
I could only get past page 200. Although it covers some extremely touching and riveting topics (poverty, otherness, erasure of culture, etc) it is done so in an unreadable way. The narrative style was just not good. But it won the Printz (really?????) so it must be me.
Profile Image for Samantha.
2,886 reviews9 followers
December 10, 2020
Gansworth's writing is beautiful. I'm not sure I had read any of his work before this, but I'm going to go back and look at it. This book details his life growing up on a reservation, and his eventual moving away. In some ways he is an outsider on the reservation as well--Tuscarora on Onondaga land. The title of the book refers to someone who is Native on the outside, white on the inside. I wonder if this has to do with the effect of Indian boarding schools on tribes. That experience is also mentioned.

The whole book is structured similar to an album, and the history of the Beatles comes into play over and over again with the story, in the art and in the writing. There are even liner notes at the end.

It's different than a lot of what I've read this year, and different than a lot of other teen books. I'll have to sit with this one for a while.
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