Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Rain is Not My Indian Name and Ancestor Approved

Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Rain is Not My Indian Name
February 9th 2021 by Heartdrum (first published 2001)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus
Rain and Galen have been friends for a long time, but on New Year's Eve (also Rain's birthday), the two are celebrating, and share a kiss, reinforcing Rain's thoughts that their friendship might be changing into something more. When Galen is killed on his way home that evening, Rain is completely lost and doesn't even attend his funeral. Instead, she stays home, watching television and cleaning the house, especially in the summer. Her mother passed away several years ago, and her father is currently stationed in Guam, so she and her brother Fynn live with their grandfather, who is traveling. Fynn's girlfriend, Natalie, has also moved in.
Since she is the news editor of the local paper, she asks Rain to do an article on a Native American camp that Rain's Aunt Georgia is running. There is some controversy because the town, which is mainly white with the smallest smattering of other ethnic groups, has provided money for the camp even though there are only about four teens in it. Rain hadn't wanted to do the camp and was surprised when her friend Queenie, who is Black but has some Native heritage, is attending the camp. TO make matters even more complicated, Galen's mother is running for public office and is not happy with the money being spent, so she also reaches out to Rain to ask about it. Rain and a young reported get involved in the camp, which addresses some Native topics but is also very tech centered, and work on a feature article for the paper. Rain has to come to terms with Galen's loss, Natalie's pregnancy, and the trajectory of her own life. 
Strengths: This novel covered a lot of interesting topics, and holds up fairly well. There were not a lot of books with cultural connections when this was published, which makes this even more interesting. Rain is a resilient character, and shows a lot of strength in going forward with her life. Her town is not diverse, and her struggles with this even though she doesn't "look native" are informative to read. She is in high school, but this is written in a way that is very accessible to middle school students as well. It moves quickly, and was an enjoyable read, even though I strongly suspect I've read it before. (It was Natalie who seemed very familiar, in her flannel and overalls-- very grunge!)
Weaknesses: There were some things that seemed dated that I might have changed, unless this is now meant to be historical fiction now. Small things, like reading X Files fan fiction, using a computer to input a purchase into Quicken, and the brother with his pinstripes and fancy neckties all scream turn of the century to me, but younger readers might not notice. Serious photographers even today use traditional cameras like the one on the original cover (above). 
What I Really Think: This is being reprinted in paperback, so if prebinds are available, I might purchase it. Don't think I had this in the collection at any point, but I did have this author's vampire/angel series, Tantalize!

Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids
February 9th 2021 by Heartdrum
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

It is so helpful to have publishing imprints run by people who share the cultural background of the authors they publish! Native American books have been particularly hard to find and it's even harder to know if they accurately reflect the background, since there are many different tribal enrollments. Levine Querido, Tu Books from Lee and Low, Rick Riordan Presents, Kokila, Salaam Reads, and Versify all provide books by #OwnVoices writers. It's great to see Heartdrum join this growing list. 

This reminded me a bit of Once Upon an Eid, because while it deals with one event (a PowWow at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor), it has story about attendees from many different tribal backgrounds and places. This is a great way for readers to find themselves in the pages of the book, but also points out that Native Americans are not all part of a monolithic culture. There are stories by a variety of authors, and the list of authors is itself a great resource. Smith, Tim Tingle, Rebecca Roanhorse and Joseph Bruchac, Christine Day, Eric Gansworth, and Traci Sorell were authors whom I have read, but Dawn Quigley, Carole Lindstrom, David A. Robertson, Andrea L. Rogers, Kim Rogers, Monique Gray Smith, and Art Coulson were all new to me.

Reviewing short stories collections is not something I do well, but Ancestor Approved was a great collection that should be on the radar of every middle school and high school librarian. My only complaint is that I wish the subtitle hadn't been Intertribal Stories for KIDS (emphasis mine) because I think these stories would work well for older teens as well. 

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