Here are two books celebrating the Native American/Aboriginal experience – one that finally made its way to the top of my reading list, and one new book that the teen librarian kindly purchased for me after I told her how excited Debbie at American Indians in Children’s Literature was about it. (Here’s her review of In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse, too.)
In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III. Amulet Books, 2015.
Jimmy is a Lakota boy, growing up on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, where the author lives in real life. He’s teased by both Lakota and white kids because of the light hair and blue eyes he inherited from his White father – he doesn’t feel like he fits in anywhere. Hearing about this, his Grandpa Nyles tells him about Crazy Horse, who was also lighter than his peers. They go on a road trip visiting many of the sites important in Crazy Horse’s life. At each one, Grandpa Nyles tells Jimmy stories of Crazy Horse at the appropriate period of his life, from boyhood to becoming a battle leader and finally betrayed.
It is rare and important to have books from a modern-day Native perspective, especially one that covers both living on a reservation and not matching the stereotypes. It’s told in short sentences that feel poetic rather than simplistic. They resonate deeply and echo the oral storytelling tradition. That could make it work very well as a classroom read-aloud. The whole thing is quite short for a middle grade novel, and with lots of bloody battle scenes in Grandpa Nyles’s stories (even though he makes it clear that atrocities are atrocious no matter who commits them,) this is one that I could see giving to my own son or any other reader who likes action and is intimidated by longer books. But really, there are so few books with this perspective that this needs to be widely read and discussed.
#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale. Annick Press, 2017.
Many, many Native American and Aboriginal women from the U.S. and Canada, from teen to older adult, contributed to this beautiful book. Original art – painting, drawing, photography – is paired with poetry and reflections. There is a reflection on the myth behind the name “Winona” in sequential art. There are portraits and captures of Twitter and Instagram movements in support of Native women. There are memories of the residential schools and of dropping out of modern public schools, and then finding a way to thrive despite abuse and prejudice. It is being sold as a teen book, though it is equally relevant to adults. This is a powerful and beautiful reflection of the women who created it.