Winner of the Social Justice Literature Award
For two years, author and activist Deborah Ellis traveled across the United States and Canada, interviewing more than forty Indigenous kids and inviting them to tell their own stories.
They come from all over the continent — from Iqaluit to Texas, Haida Gwaii to North Carolina. Their stories are sometimes heartbreaking, but more often they are full of pride and hope.
You’ll meet Tingo, who has spent most of his young life living in foster homes and motels, and is now thriving after becoming involved with a Native Friendship Center; Myleka and Tulane, young Navajo artists; Eagleson, who started drinking at age twelve but now continues his family tradition working as a carver in Seattle; Nena, whose Seminole ancestors remained behind in Florida during the Indian Removals, and who is heading to New Mexico as winner of her local science fair; Isabella, who defines herself more as Native than American; Destiny, with a family history of alcoholism and suicide, who is now a writer and pow-wow dancer.
Deborah briefly introduces each child and then steps back, letting the kids speak directly to the reader. The result is a collection of frank and often surprising interviews with kids aged nine to eighteen, as they talk about their daily lives, about the things that interest them, and about how being Indigenous has affected who they are and how they see the world.
Key Text Features
Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:
Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.
Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.
Analyze in detail how a key individual, event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and elaborated in a text (e.g., through examples or anecdotes).
Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.
Compare and contrast one author's presentation of events with that of another (e.g., a memoir written by and a biography on the same person).
[T]hese young people embrace their distinctive cultural practices and almost without exception, express a buoyant attitude. As gay Chippewa 16-year-old Zack puts it, 'They tried really hard to kill us all off, and we’re still here!'—a welcome and necessary reminder to all.
[O]ften simultaneously heartbreaking and hopeful...Unflinching and informative, this volume will appeal to a broad range of readers.
It’s heartening that so many of these young people are positive about their lives, no matter how troubled, and about their futures....Ellis’ book is an excellent opportunity for classroom discussion and individual, empathy-inducing reading.
Ellis’s transcriptions of these interviews allow the authentic voices of the young people to come through...Important and provocative, this is a good choice for libraries wanting to add a contemporary, youthful perspective on issues affecting indigenous people in North America.