Ilana Maletz moved to Northern Arizona seven years ago after spending most of her adult life on the east coast where she raised a family and taught music at the middle and high school levels. The story about Cha’risa first took shape when she left city life behind, enveloping herself in the wide open spaces of Northern Arizona. Every day, she would walk out the door with her dog, Lucy, and enter into a landscape of towering red rocks and box canyons, dotted with the fresh green of scrubby pine and juniper. It amazed Ilana, how she and Lucy could walk for miles and not see a single person. Out in that wilderness they relied on each other to find the paths, steer clear of snakes, and to chase off the roving packs of coyotes. Together they spotted elk, deer, jackrabbits, and all manner of birds and lizards. All the while, Ilana would wonder about those who may have walked these paths before her. Cha’risa’s Gift was Ilana’s way of trying to share with others something of what it feels like to be immersed in the magical beauty and wildness that is Northern Arizona.
Cha’risa’s Gift is about a Hopi medicine woman, Cha’risa, with uncanny healing powers. She leaves her people to begin a journey to help save her son, Ahote. After years of forced attendance at an Indian boarding school, Ahote now questions his traditional beliefs and culture. He is no longer certain which world he belongs to, but Ahote has found employment at C & M Ranch just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona and has decided to link his future to the two brothers who own it. Not wanting to leave Ahote alone in an uncertain world, Cha’risa accompanies him, never realizing how profoundly this decision will change her own life.
Set against a backdrop of towering red rocks, snowcapped peaks and sacred canyons, Cha’risa’s Gift is not only her story, but the story of a family that spans generations. Into this diverse family, children are born manifesting unusual powers inherited from this powerful lineage. Each must find their own way to come to terms with their potential and the responsibilities it brings.