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review 2017-02-06 17:49
The Primrose Way by Jackie French Koller

In The Primrose Way by Jackie French Koller we find a detailed account of the first years of settlement in the Boston colony and its environs. Beginning in 1633, we find Rebekah onboard a ship from England just as they sight the land surrounding Massachusetts Bay. Rebekah is coming to join her father, an elder in the church. She is excited to reach the colony yet after leaving the comfort of a cozy home with servants she is somewhat taken aback at the conditions she finds in Boston. Things go downhill once more when she leaves the relatively civilized Boston for the new settlement of Agawam at the edge of the wilderness. Throughout the story Rebekah will deal with betrayal, loss, and love. But will she opt to return to England and the chance to be a bride or choose to remain in the colony and seek her true love?

 

The Primrose Way is a clever tapestry of fact and fiction that is skillfully woven by the author. Great detail into the everyday existence of both white settlers and Native Americans gives the reader a true picture of what life was like in the early 17th century. Easy reading that will move you through the story at a rapid pace but you'll want to slow down and savor each finely drawn scene. Don't gloss over the details - they add so much to the story. And while the story is placed in early America the characters deal with problems that are relevant today.

 

This book includes a glossary of Native American terms as well as a detailed bibliography for further reading. Teachers and students alike will enjoy The Primrose Way not only for its story but for the lessons it teaches. Highly recommended.

 

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review 2017-02-06 17:45
One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus

 

One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd, a Chicago socialite from the 1800s, who signs on to the Federal government plan of Brides for Indians as a means to escape an insane asylum where her family has placed her because she had fallen in love with a man below her station. Through her journals May describes her life in the asylum and later her new life as a prairie bride of Chief Little Wolf of the Cheyennes. Along her journey she tells of her fellow brides who come from all walks of life. In return for their marriage to a Cheyenne and subsequent bearing of a mixed race baby or two, the government hopes to assimilate the Cheyennes into the white man’s culture. Along the way May meets an Army Captain and they fall in love but part, knowing that their love could never be. May continues on her journey, assimilating into the life of the Cheyennes as the third wife of Chief Little Wolf, all the while keeping a set of notebooks that become her journals.

 

The descriptions of life on the prairie are both breathtaking and brutal. But through it all May begins to question which side is the real savage – Native American or white Christian. A detailed and fast booking book, it will appear to the reader that the journals they are reading are true although the author states up front that everything contained in the book is fiction based on the true fact that such a Brides for Indians program was proposed but never acted upon.

 

I loved the different ‘brides’ who, although stereotypical, give much needed diversity to the story. And although we see Chief Little Wolf as a proud and courageous warrior we soon learn that he is so much more. Finely researched, cleverly written, and engrossing the reader will find this story difficult to put down.

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review 2016-04-10 16:54
#CBR8 Book 36: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Ellen Forney,Sherman Alexie

Arnold "Junior" Spirit doesn't exactly have an easy time of it. Born poor and hydrocephalic, it's pretty much a miracle that he survived infancy. Suffering from stuttering, his over-large head, bad eyesight and frequent seizures, he's routinely picked on by both children and adults on the Spokane reservation, finding solace in basketball, his drawing and his best friend Rowdy. 

 

When Junior transfers away from the school on the reservation to get a chance at a real education, Rowdy feels deeply betrayed, like Junior's sold out his heritage and he loses the only friend he's ever had. If he thought he was an outcast on the reservation, being the only Native American in an all white high school, 22 miles from where he lives, Junior is in for a rude awakening. Stubborn and fiercely intelligent, he's still determined to prove to everyone that he can make it, without giving up his Native American roots in the process.

 

This book slayed me, as they say. I was a blubbering wreck from the second chapter, when Junior explains to the reader that the worst thing about being poor is that when your beloved dog, a stray mutt, gets sick and needs medical attention, there is absolutely nothing that can be done. Because I listened to this in audiobook, I was straight up sobbing on my way to the grocery store, which is really quite embarrassing. This book, which straight up broke my heart a little, also made me laugh a lot, so it's really not a complete sob-fest. It's a semi-autobiographical account of author Sherman Alexie's own life growing up on a reservation and deciding to go to an all white high school so he could gain enough credits to go to college.

 

For all that there are funny and uplifting passages, there is so much to feel outraged about too. Junior losing his dog because his family is too poor to take it to the vet. His father's alcoholism, his mother's crushed potential, his sister's depression. The fact that the books used to teach Junior in the reservation high school are the same ones his mother used thirty years earlier. The systematic abuse his friend Rowdy is victim to. The fact that most of the people in Junior's life are helpless and hopeless and their children will be as poor and as hopeless as them. So much grief, misery and death, caused by the continued oppression of the Native Americans. 

 

This is such an important book and it's so well written. It frequently appears on the banned books list in the US, probably because of the honest and open way it deals with teenage sexuality, poverty, alcoholism and drug abuse, bullying, inappropriate language relating to race, physical appearance, disability and sexual orientation. I think every teenager should be made to read this book and told how much truth there is behind the apparent fiction, so they realise just how privileged and lucky they are and can see just how it's possibly to remain strong and resilient in the face of so much adversity. 

 

Because I got this as an audio book, I was not able to look at all the illustrations that accompany the paperback version of the book. I plan to buy the paperback for just this reason, and I am seriously considering making this required reading for the 10th graders in my English class next year. It's certainly a much more important, interesting and engaging book than snooze-fest waste of space The Catcher in the Rye

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/04/cbr8-book-36-absolutely-true-diary-of.html
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review 2016-03-10 09:20
"The only way to counter the invisibility we often feel is to truly see others, and let them see us."
Urban Tribes: Native Americans in the City - Lisa Charleyboy,Ross Kinnaird

(Quote from Dr. Adrienne Keene)

 

Urban Tribes: Native Americans in the City

ed. by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

 

Indigenous peoples in contemporary culture tend to be exoticized, marginalized, or both. There's a pervasive sense that to "really" be Native American, you have to forswear all modern culture. As Lisa Charleyboy, one of the editors of Urban Tribes puts it:

"[We've] grown up being told that we can't really be Native if we are living a "modern" life in the city. There's this deeply held notion that in order to be authentically Indigenous, one must live on a reservation, or one's traditional territory, and have a deep connection to one's land."

This book provides a different perspective. Through interviews, art, poems, and more, Urban Tribes provides a portrait of what one interviewee, Jessica Bolduc, terms Edgewalkers: Native Americans who live in an urban environment while still embracing their cultural heritage.

 

Urban Tribes is a gorgeous book, chock full of art, images, and portraits of the interviewees. One of my favourite sections was a series of photos of LA's Indian Alley. The book also confronts many of the issues plaguing the community: the violence perpetrated on Indigenous women and students, the struggle to have art inspired by ethnicity viewed as relevant rather than, to quote Nicholas Galanin, "belonging in a natural history museum with dinosaur bones", and the burden of acting as an exemplar in universities and the workplace. As Dr. Adrienne Keene puts it:

"We are not just in college for ourselves. We are there for our communities and our people, and there is an expectation that we will use our degree to help make change. But this is an enormous pressure. Especially when the paths to giving back aren't clear and instead are paved with resistance from our own communities."

 

The part that affected me the most was a lyrical, passionate poem by Roanna Shebala. In part:

Throw on a war bonnet
Tell me it's fashion
Tell me how imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Go to your local truck stop.
Buy some dream catchers made from China.
Hang them on your rearview mirror of
Your Jeep Grand Cherokees,
Your Pontiacs,
Your Winnebagos
As you drive down I-40 your vehicles catch the dreams
Road killed by Manifest Destiny."


The only thing lacking for me was context. While each speaker's tribe (or tribes) are identified, I don't have the contextual information of what this means, particularly since most of the interviewees are Canadian and my knowledge of native Canadian history is particularly deplorable. The book creates a portrait of a more unified experience, without exploring cultural differences between tribes. All the same, it's a thoughtful, interesting, beautifully constructed and artistic book, and some of the works have continued to haunt me, particularly Roanna Shebala's poem:

Applaud the Cleveland Indians'
Chief Wahoo's bright white choppers
Casting reflections
On how to
Love you some Indians.

Go paint the town!
Double coat over history.
Whitewash the red bricks of the reservations.
Let's have Indian Day at our schools
Use November to teach students
the Turkey dance with color construction paper headdresses and teepees.

Now go home
Wash off the paint."


~~I received an advanced reader copy of this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Annick Press Ltd, in exchange for my honest review.~~

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