Thursday, September 26, 2019

Indian No More

McManis, Charlene Willing and Sorell, Traci.
Indian No More
September 24th 2019 by Tu Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In 1957, Regina, who is Umpqua, lives on the Grand Ronde reservation in Oregon. Life isn't perfect, but her father gets enough work to keep the family afloat, and Regina enjoys being in a close knit community where she can be close to nature. When the Indian Relocation act goes into effect, everyone in her family loses their tribal identification number, and are encouraged to move off the reservation. "Encouraged" means that the government no longer wants to help the people and wants their land, which means that very few Umpqua can afford to buy their land from the government. Regina's father, who has some experience with California after being in the military during World War II, decides to move the family to Los Angeles. The government gives them a tiny bit of help, finding a run down house and helping the father get into a training program, but the new home is not nearly as nice as their one on the reservation, and Regina's mother is upset. Regina herself tries to make new friends, which is hard since the children in the city only know "movie Indians" from the inaccurate depiction in films and television programs. She tries to explain to Keith, a neighbor who is African-American, that this is the same as people thinking he lives in the jungle, and he understands a bit. The family also runs into various forms of racism, such as being thrown out of a restaurant just because they are people of color. Regina struggles with trying to fit in to her new neighborhood while missing her previous way of life. She is comforted by her grandmother (whom she calls Chich), who is more secure about her identity and shows Regina ways to incorporate her Umpqua heritage into her daily life.
Strengths: The details of Regina's daily life both on the reservation and in Los Angeles are well done, and the Indian Relocation program is explained. I can't think of a single other book on this topic, and I didn't know about it myself. Regina's struggles with people's preconceptions about her and her family are brilliantly done, no doubt because this is an #ownvoices narrative. Sadly, Ms. McManis passes away before the book was completed, which is why Ms. Sorrell is also credited as author. Ms. Sorrell is a registered member of the Cherokee Nation, and has been careful to make sure the book stays true to McManis' Umpqua background. This is one of the few books about Native Americans that has gotten approval from American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL).
Weaknesses: It would have been helpful to have a little more detail on Regina's new neighborhood and about racial issues in general; some young readers don't know a lot about racism and civil rights at this time. The book is fine without a deeper discussion and does include some details, but a few more would have made this even better.
What I really think: This would be a good choice for two language arts units for which I always need books; the 1930s to 1970s historical fiction  unit in 7th grade, and the oppressed peoples assignment in the 8th. I love that my teachers make such broad categories so that students can make their own choices, and since I need about 250 books for each assignment, it makes me happy when I can find titles like this one that are also interesting as a general read.

In my mind, this matches. The sweater was my mother's. Considering that one day a few years ago I had my own impromptu Bay City Roller/Roller Disco Day and wore a bright green turtleneck with a magenta t shirt over it, a blue and red plaid skirt and an orange and gray plaid jacket and NO ONE said anything to me (although one student asked a teacher if I had gotten dressed in the dark), I think I'm good.

Moral of the story: No one is looking at YOU.

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