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"Welcome to the Middle-Aged Orphans Club," writes Sherman Alexie, and as a middle-aged orphan myself, I did feel welcome, and seen, and understood. In July, Alexie cancelled part of his book tour because of complicated grief and being haunted by his late mother: "I don’t believe in ghosts," he writes. "But I see them all the time." Me too, brother.

Like Bad Indians, this is an intricate quilt of a book, part memoir, part poem, part dream. It's hard to imagine how it could be otherwise. The loss of a parent is a loss of meaning. For indigenous people, this is doubly true. Lillian Alexie was one of the last fluent speakers of Salish. Her death robs her son, and the world, of an entire universe.

This book, like Hawking radiation, is an almost-undetectable glow of meaning escaping from a black hole. If you haven't lost a parent yet it might be too much to bear, but if you have, it might feel like joining a group of survivors around a campfire after a catastrophe.

IN AUGUST 2015, as a huge forest fire burned on my reservation, as it burned within feet of the abandoned uranium mine, the United States government sent a representative to conduct a town hall to address the growing concerns and fears. My sister texted me the play-by-play of the meeting. “OMG!” she texted. “The government guy just said the USA doesn’t believe the forest fire presents a serious danger to the Spokane Indian community, even if the fire burns right through the uranium mine.”

...“Is the air okay?” I texted. “It hurts a little to breathe,” my sister texted back. “But we’re okay.” Jesus, I thought, is there a better and more succinct definition of grief than It hurts a little to breathe, but we’re okay?
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Bad Indians opens with a line so good I'm angry I didn't write it myself: "CALIFORNIA IS A STORY. California is many stories." Deborah Miranda is a member of the Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen Nation, and this angry, loving book takes a knife to all the lazy and superficial versions of the California story. Of the history unit all Californian fourth graders (including my own two daughters) are required to take, Miranda writes: "[T]he Mission Unit is all too often a lesson in imperialism, racism, and Manifest Destiny."

A nonlinear collage of prose, poetry, pictures, transcriptions of interviews and more, Bad Indians can be hard to follow, but the effort pays off when the events of Miranda's life take their place in a precisely drawn and nuanced historical context. "The original acts of colonization and violence broke the world, broke our hearts, broke the connection between soul and flesh. For many of us, this trauma happens again in each generation," she writes. And: "I love my father. I hate my father. He died alone, in a hospice facility."

This book is essential reading for anyone who cares about the indigenous peoples of California, their present and their possible futures. Strong content warning for descriptions physical and sexual abuse of children, among many other horrors.
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[identity profile] sumofparts.livejournal.com
Haven't posted in a while. Here's a series of mini-reviews with some spoilers. Also, some of the books contain potentially triggering content.

6. Un-Nappily in Love by Trisha R. Thomas
7. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
8. Tracks by Louise Erdrich
9. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
10. Umbrella by Taro Yashima
11. Little Joy by Ruowen Wang
12. Why War is Never a Good Idea by Alice Walker
13. Erika-san by Allen Say
14. Dahanu Road by Anosh Irani
15. What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
16. The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez
17. In the Company of Ogres by A. Lee Martinez
18. Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez
19. Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez
20. Monster by A. Lee  Martinez
21. Certainty by Madeleine Thien
22. So Long Been Dreaming edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan
23. A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo
24. Too Many Curses by A. Lee Martinez
25. A Nameless Witch by A. Lee Martinez
26. A Person of Interest by Susan Choi
27. Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead

Mention (not counted)
Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren (white); illustrated by Nicole Tadgell (person of colour)

Read more... )
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[personal profile] sanguinity
24. Cynthia Leitich Smith, Blessed.

I liked Eternal. I did. But I was still stuck on the cliffhanger ending of Tantalize, and getting a prequel with an independent cast for the second volume was... well, a prequel with an independent cast. I wanted Quincie and Kiernan back, damnit. And I needed to know if (rot13) Dhvapvr jnf qnzarq be abg. Yes, I wanted to trust Smith. But there's trust, and then there's trust. You know how it is.

So when I finally, finally, got my hands on a copy of Blessed, I inhaled it. I had a stupid-ass work schedule with exactly one full day off in a five week period, and I spent that whole day on the couch with Blessed. (Don't bug me, I'm reading.)

Blessed begins mere minutes after the end of Tantalize (yay!), which means that enjoying the one is fully dependent on having read and enjoyed the other. Some of the cast/events/society of Eternal shows up, but you could probably get by okay without having read Eternal, if you wanted to.

You could also probably get by okay without having read Stoker's Dracula, but there's a lot more to enjoy here if you have. As Smith says in her author's note
Blessed and my two novels that preceded it -- Tantalize and Eternal -- are a conversation of sorts between me and Stoker about several of his themes, including the "other," the "dark" foreigner, invasion, plague, the lore of religion, and gender-power dynamics.
The conversation-with-Stoker elements were not particularly prominent in the other two novels, but the plot of Blessed hinges on the plot of Dracula. Smith tells you what you need to know as she goes, but I'm guessing it goes a lot more smoothly if you've read the scenes the characters are discussing.

...and it's hard to find anything to say about it that doesn't reek of spoilers, but which I didn't already say about the first two books.

So, spoilers. )

23. Cynthia Leitich Smith, "Haunted Love" (collected in Immortal: Love Stories with Bite).

(different count, because I'm keeping track of isolated short stories and essays separately from full books)

I was jonesing for more Smith, and even though I'm not a fan of the vampire genre in general, individual stories and novels can work for me, especially if it's by an author I otherwise like. (Oddly, the Tantalize/Eternal/Blessed series doesn't ping "vampire" for me, despite being about vampires. Go figure.)

"Haunted Love" is about a teenage boy in a small South Texas town who unwittingly became a vampire via a mail order pyramid scheme in a desperate bid to defend himself against his abusive uncle.

And right there, I'm sold. But that's all backstory.

Cody doesn't regret becoming a vampire, not much, but he's now trying to figure out how to make a go of it in a town small enough that everyone knows everyone else's business (awkward, when one is a vampire and a murderer), and small enough that there's not much of an economy anymore. He's got his hopes pinned on reopening the town's movie house: maybe, by the time people notice he doesn't age anymore, he'll have become such a fixture of the town's life that they don't mind. (Ah, classic cinemas. Again, I'm sold.)

By the time we're done, the story has gone off toward mystery and romance, as well as vampires, but y'know, I enjoyed it. I'd definitely check out more of her short stories, vampire fic or not.

(Additional tags: creek/muscogee author, vampires)
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[personal profile] sanguinity
21. Linda Yamane (Ohlone), The Snake That Lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Other Ohlone Stories.

Sometimes I run across written collections of traditional stories and they seem out-of-context and subsequently flat, as this one does -- I presume that if I were Ohlone, or were reading it in an Ohlone context, it would have more power for me. Consequently, I'm gonna file this one under "not written for me".

Two things yet of note:
  • one of the stories is told twice, in English and Spanish;
  • The book begins with profiles of the original storytellers, including photos and short biographies of each. I too often see genero-attributions for traditional stories, as if "Native informant" is a generic category of non-person, and it was lovely to see this level of attention given to the elders who had put in the work toward making sure that these stories would be preserved.
Stories retold from Isabelle Meadows, Manuel Onesimo, and Ascencion Solorsano Cevantes.

22. Lee Ann Smith-Trafzer (Maidu) and Clifford E. Trafzer (Maidu), Creation of a California Tribe.

A contemporary Maidu elder, his two grandchildren, and the traditional stories he tells to his grandchildren, that they then tell their classrooms, and that, finally, he tells their classrooms.

The framing story about the grandfather, his grandchildren, and their classrooms is a touch stiff and idealized. There's a bit where Travis, the grandson, is answering the ill-informed questions of his fourth-grade classmates with a grace, composure, and fluency that I could only hope for. (In truth, I cringed all through that early scene with the teacher reading Travis's essay aloud to the class and then inviting the other students to ask questions of Travis about his being Maidu. My own experiences in classroom settings were not good, and I kept expecting that scene to go south fast. Surprisingly, it never did -- what is this mysterious fantasy world Travis lives in? However, even though I think Travis did extraordinarily well, I still would have liked it if he had sidestepped the trap of speaking of Maidu people in past tense.)

The traditional stories told within the frame, however -- a story about Coyote and the creation, a story about Bat and Lizard and fire, a story about Salt Man and what he does for the taste of roasted salmon, and a story about Thunder Boy -- were all lovely. I loved in particular how strongly rooted in place they were: grass fires and earthquakes and salmon and particular northern Californian towns and cities.

I'll wait another year or two before sending this to my nephew, I think -- he's a bit young for it yet -- but I do hope he gets some pleasure from it.

Stories retold from Dalbert Castro and Tom Young.

23. Chiori Santiago, illus Judith Lowry (Maidu), Home to Medicine Mountain.

Story of the time the artist's father and uncle decided that they weren't going to stay at the residential school in Riverside for the summer (the schools would pay railroad fare to school, but not home again to the children's families), and hopped a freight train back to Susanville.

I thought this one would be a hard read -- Shi-shi-etko and Shin-chi's Canoe both tore me up -- but the homesickness here was much easier for me to take, somehow. Most of the story is Benny Len's first year at school, and his thoughts about how strange, cold, and alienating it is, plus the various things he misses about being back home, most especially spending time with his grandmother. Finally the school year ends and Benny Len discovers he doesn't get to go home -- their family can afford the train ticket only every other year. His big brother Stanley, however, promises Benny Len that he'll fix it, somehow.

And the very next night, Stanley wakes up his little brother, the two of them make themselves blanket rolls, and with the older brother's instruction, they hop a boxcar back home. The two days that they spend riding the top of the boxcar are marvelous: beautiful scenery, a loving brother, and the sure knowledge that one is going home and will soon see one's family... (Aw, drat, I did tear up after all!)

(Additional tags: traditional stories, residential schools, Ohlone author, Maidu author, Maidu illustrator, Japanese-American / Native American author [no tribe given])
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[personal profile] sanguinity
19. Eddie Chuculate, Cheyenne Madonna.

A novel-in-stories about Jordan Coolwater, a Cherokee and Creek artist, and his Cheyenne wife, Lisa Old Bull. (Mostly Jordan, though.)

Two particular stand-outs are "A Famous Indian Artist" and "Dear Shorty". "A Famous Indian Artist" is about teenage Jordan's relationship with his uncle Johnson L. Freebird ("the famous Indian artist!" as Freebird would absolutely make sure you knew). The reader understands fairly quickly that Freebird is insecure, self-centered, possibly fronting about his success, and deliberately trashing his nephew's art and ambitions in an effort to build up his own self-image. Coolwater takes much, much longer to understand what his uncle is doing, but this is not a simple story of a boy's transition from lionization to disillusionment: there is also comprehension and compassion for his uncle, and trepidation for Coolwater's own, hoped-for future as a Famous Indian Artist himself. "Dear Shorty" is about Coolwater's relationship (or attempted relationship) with his alcoholic father, walking the line between non-judgment and ennabling, trying to single-handedly carry a relationship with a man who is not sober enough to remember who Jordan even is.

Of the seven stories, only one was weak: "Under the Red Star of Mars," which is from the POV of Lisa, and is about her leaving her abuser boyfriend and eventually meeting Jordan. Given how nuanced the other stories were, this one felt stiff, distant, and shallow. I've also got some language nitpicks with the first story, "Galveston Bay, 1826" -- I'm not a fan of using distinctively European plant names in a story set pre-colonization, and there's a bit about the protagonist meeting "another Indian" that seems similarly norm-flipped for the setting -- but minor language-picks are minor.

Overall: beautiful, nuanced, with lots of emotional depth. I'm definitely keeping an eye out for his next book.

20. Louise Erdrich, Shadow Tag.

Irene America is Ojibwe; a Ph.D. candidate; her Famous Indian Artist husband's primary, career-spanning and -defining model; mother of three; and a woman who keeps two diaries: one "private" diary, which she hides in the back of the filing cabinet knowing full well that her husband is reading it behind her back, and the truly-private diary, which she keeps in a safe-deposit box.

Her husband knows that she is keeping secrets from him, but assumes that the long, unexplained outings are visits to a secret lover. In actuality, Irene is making her long unexplained outings to the bank vault, to write in her diary.

Irene did have a lover once, and he remains a secret from Gil. In the story in her head, however, she is, and always has been, faithful to Gil. One afternoon with one of Gil's friends is an inconsequential blip and nothing more. I am more likely to consider the "private" diary, the one with lies fabricated for her husband's eyes, an act of failthlessness.

However, given the crap going on in their marriage, that they should end up here, with one spying on the other via a diary deliberately full of lies, does not surprise me at all.

This is a messy story about representations, stories, and how those representations are used to capture and control people, both intentionally and inadvertently. Gil's paintings of Irene; the public's ideas of Irene as read from Gil's paintings; the children's ideas of Irene as read from the paintings; the children's stories about their parents; the parents' stories about their children; George Catlin's paintings of Native people; "real" Indians and old-time Indians and unenrolled Indians and identity construction; the two diaries; even the novel itself.

I've been turning over the novel a fair bit since I finished reading it, but am hard-pressed to verbalize much. Especially since there's a major twist at the end that all but requires re-evaluation of most of what went before. (I'm still not sure what I make of that twist other than to say that I agree with Erdrich: omniscient objective narrators are a lie, and should always be questioned.) But for someone like myself who's been chewing on issues of stories and representations and the paradoxes therein, Shadow Tag was worth chewing on.

Trigger warning for familial and domestic abuse. For myself, I particularly liked this portrayal of familial abuse and dysfunction -- neither adult's hands are particularly clean, and Gil is that kind of befuddled, earnest, well-intentioned abuser who does not recognize that he is emotionally and physically abusive. "Sheer walking evil" abusers don't ping recognition for me; abusers who understand themselves to be loving family members -- and who often are loving, conscientious family members -- do ping for me.

(Additional tags: creek author, cherokee author, cherokee character, creek character, short stories; ojibwe author, ojibwe character; lit fic; native american)
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[personal profile] pauraque
(Full book title doesn't fit in the subject; it is The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male.)

Note: Max Valerio is the same person as Anita Valerio, as published in This Bridge Called My Back, which I know has been reviewed here. It would be nice if we could easily find all his works together through the tagging system, but I can't think of a way to do that without misgendering him. Any thoughts?

Max Valerio is a trans man (like me) who spent many years living in San Francisco (where I'm from). You might think there'd be a lot in his memoir that I could relate to, but for the most part you'd be wrong.

Oh, there is some. His portrait of the life and atmosphere of San Francisco in the 90s is pitch-perfect and often quite funny. (He should write a novel about the lesbian punk scene then.) I was nodding along to his struggles with deciding to transition and sifting out the right from the wrong information about trans people, and his worries about whether he would lose all his gay and lesbian friends if he became "straight". (He lost some -- so did I.)

What I did not nod along to (warning: discusses problematic views of rape) )

Anyway, goes without saying I can't recommend the book. I did enjoy the parts of the memoir that weren't bogged down in sexist and transphobic nonsense, but that's about all I can say. It's a damn shame.

a: Valerio Max Wolf, genre: memoir, subject: transgender, au ethnicity: Native American (Blackfoot), Latino
[identity profile] veleda-k.livejournal.com
The Way to Rainy Mountain by N. Scott Momaday (Illustrated by Al Momaday)

The Way to Rainy Mountain )

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Illustrated by Ellen Forney)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian )
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[personal profile] sanguinity
10. Matt Dembicki (ed.), Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection.

Diverse collection of trickster tales from people indigenous to various territories of the U.S. (including Alaska and Hawaii, which is why I'm using that phraseology instead of "Native American"). All story texts are from indigenous storytellers, while most of the illustrators are non-Native; the collection editor is white. (I haven't checked to see how many of the non-Native illustrators are POC.)

Full list of contributors )

I'm including the editor's note in full, because I think it highlights both some of the problems and strengths of the collection.

'I was casually thumbing through books at our local library...' )

On the one hand, that editor's note contains a good chunk of earnest cluelessness and several things that make my face go squinchy, up to and including speaking of Native cultures as one homogenous, long-ago thing, and framing the reader as part of a non-Native "us". On the other hand, Dembicki made sure to find Native storytellers, and likewise understood that there have been issues in the putting together of these kinds of collections, and that the editorial process should thus give the Native writers as much power as possible during illustration and editing.

The collection's strengths center on its nice range of stories: trickster as hero, antihero, and villain; stories with humor and without; stories with morals and without; use of formal English to colloquial English to song to Englishes strongly influenced by Native languages (or so I presume). Overall, this collection is a nice sampler of the kinds of things that a "trickster story" can be, and it demonstrates that the practice of "trickster story" is much wider than the smattering of prettified Coyote stories that have entered mainstream children's books. (Speaking of which, I did notice there were no raunchy trickster stories here -- no one should trust me to vet books for age-appropriateness, but this appears to be a deliberately "child-safe" collection.) Happily, there was no editorial smoothing in this collection: language, purpose, and even the idea of "trickster" vary wildly from one story to the next. Not all of these stories even fit smoothly into mainstream expectations of how a story should progress or be told. Speaking personally, it is very nice to see that.

However, the collection's weaknesses trace back to some of the things that bothered me in the editor's note. Almost every story appears without context: no strong sense of who it would be told to, nor when, nor why, nor what body of stories it is a part of. I had to keep flipping to the contributor list in the back to find out which people the storyteller was a member of, or where a story likely took place. That each of these stories belonged somewhere was largely missing: most of these stories drift unattached, as if they were not part of the coherent specificities that are called Ojibwe, Choctaw, or Diné.

Also, I am not entirely sure that the writer <-> illustrator process worked as well as it might. Elaine Grinnell's "The Wolf and The Mink," which is told in a hyperbolic style ("The hair on the top of [Mink's] hair parted, he was running so fast!") is illustrated with all the realist earnestness of a Mark Trail strip. (And why, why, is Mink waiting on the outside of a stream bend to try to catch a fish cutting the corner??) Jerry Carr's cartoonish style make the story-appropriate Plains dress in "Trickster and the Great Chief" read like a retread of the Looney Tunes Indian stereotype. The history of the use of Plains imagery in cartooning is nasty and vicious, and in a collection like this, it requires some careful thought to sidestep: in my opinion, "The Bear Who Stole Chinook" succeeded, while "When Coyote Decided to Get Married" and "Trickster and the Great Chief" did not.

However, there are yet storyteller and illustrator pairings that worked very well. Micah Farritor did a beautiful job communicating the peoplehood of animals in "Coyote and the Pebbles", while Rabbit's audacious smooth-talking charm sang out in Mike Short's illustrations for "Giddy Up, Wolfie". The contributions of Roy Doney Jr., one of the two Native illustrators in the collection, stood out even before I went back to the contributor list -- his Horned Toad Lady has a centeredness to her demeanor that not even Coyote can disrupt. Dimi Micheras, the other Native illustrator, has Ishjinki, in his moment of triumph, wearing Buzzard like a fancy dancer's bustle! (Oh, poor Buzzard!)

On a purely personal level (as if the reactions above were objective!), it was nice to see such a strong inclusion of Northwest stories, yay! And I had long heard that B'rer Rabbit stories share heritage with Rabbit stories from the Southeast, but it was a pleasure to finally get to read some Creek and Choctaw Rabbit stories, and to find B'rer Rabbit's shenanigans so instantly recognizable.

11. Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Red: A Haida Manga.

A Haida epic about a leader, and his quest for revenge on the raiders who stole his sister -- his only family -- when they were children. I've seen comparisons to King Lear or Oedipus Rex: Red is a grand, careening-toward-doom tragedy, in the classical sense of the word. But neither of those two other stories contain a submarine fashioned in the shape of an orca, which makes Red clearly superior to both. ;-)

I could talk more about the story, but I must discuss the art. I'm not familiar enough with manga to know why this is being called a manga -- others can likely speak better to that than I. (And from interviews I've read, I suspect there are some political aspects to that, on the artist's part, rather than straight-up genre delineations?) All I can say on the genre matter is that the art style is distinctly Haida, with the story itself laid out in a sequential-art format.

What is striking about that sequential artwork, however, is the story's interactions with the panel borders. Characters and action are squeezed, stretched, and distorted by the swooping panel lines. On some pages, the characters in turn seize the panel boundaries to fight or distort them. There is some seriously cool shit going on with the panel boundaries -- and I say that even though I sometimes struggled to discover how a page should be read. This is no mere gimmick: there is a grander, sweeping shape to this story, one that the characters strive within and against even as they strive against each other.

And of course, if you've read any of the press for the book, then you know that the book is designed to be dismantled and reassembled into a mural (you'll need two copies of the book to do so, because the pages are printed on both sides). The grand, sweeping shape to this story is literal, not metaphorical. For those who can't abide destroying their copies (although from what I hear, we all are great disappointments to the artist! ) the inside of the dust jacket shows the final composite image. However, even blown up as large as the dust jacket can accommodate, it is still very small -- that mural should really be seen at proper size, I suspect.

For more about the art -- plus sample shots of it -- this is one of the better reviews and discussions that I've seen.

I strongly recommend this to people who are interested in the boundaries and possibilities of sequential art, or to people who are interested in Native artists stretching, and ultimately inviting you to destroy, the notion of a book. Or, yanno, I also recommend it to people who simply want to read an epic Haida tragedy. Although I do warn those of you who just want to read a nice story: the art is not a tame and well-behaved illustration of the story -- as a reader, I don't think it's possible to simply read this, and not engage with the art, for good or for ill.

...and did I mention the orca submarine? There is an orca submarine. :-D

(Additional tags: nationality: canadian, nationality: united states, graphic novels, indigenous peoples, Haida)
[identity profile] livii.livejournal.com
13/50: Chicken With Plums by Marjane Satrapi
Well, it was beautifully drawn as always - I love the style - and witty and funny and sharp. But the story was just completely uninteresting to me. Nasser Ali was a giant asshole, it seems, and I just couldn't care about his plight with music, and women, and blah, when he had a family to take care of, and his suicide seemed so empty and pointless. Sometimes it's interesting to read about a very unlikeable protagonist; this was not one of those times. On the plus side, it was short.

14/50: Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama
Finally read this one, and mostly really enjoyed it. Obama has a great many interesting and insightful stories to tell; he has led a fascinating life. His observations on race and culture are meaningful, and thought-provoking. I especially enjoyed reading about his trip to Kenya, meeting his family and seeing the land and people there. I do think it was too long, however - easily could have been cut down and made more powerful by not meandering. It took me a while to get through some parts, as they were quite slow. Overall, though, it was awesome to read such a personal, honest, emotional work by the current sitting president of the United States!

15/50: Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
FANTASTIC. Ceremony is the story of Tayo, a half-white, half-Native American young man who has just returned to his reservation from WWII. The novel is perhaps more like a dream; there are myths, chants, side-stories, and diversions scattered throughout, and the story is not strictly linear. Tayo struggles with his identity, with his family's tragedies, with the effects of being a prisoner of war, and with his relationship with the land and the loss of that land. He also learns how to heal himself, about the importance of tradition but also change, and most importantly about the lie that everyone, aboriginal and white, is living (while white colonization and theft is rightly called out in this book, there is a greater theme of witchery causing the whole world to lose its way, and the book does not so much blame as expose). There are fabulous recurring motifs, exceptional descriptive passages, and a variety of interesting, sympathetic characters. This review doesn't really do it justice, honestly. It is a very dense read, however; there are no chapters, and the spacing and such is done deliberately. It took me a while to read this, but in part, that was because I felt I had to really consider and absorb each piece of it. I was taken aback, somewhat, by the brutal violence at the end, but really, that was my own fault - I forgot that the book was, inherently, centered around the history of violence and loss. Two thumbs up, three if I had another one.
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[identity profile] kyuuketsukirui.livejournal.com
Title: Skeleton Man
Author: Joseph Bruchac
Number of Pages: 114 pages
My Rating: 5/5

Summary: When Molly's parents don't return after a trip, she is placed in the care of a mysterious "great uncle" who's appeared out of nowhere. Everyone else believes his story, but Molly knows something isn't right. Soon she becomes convinced that he is the Skeleton Man, a monster from one of the old Mohawk stories her dad used to tell her. With the help of a rabbit who guides her in her dreams, she begins to make plans to escape and rescue her parents.

Review: This is a super short book, but I really enjoyed it. The story is pretty creepy (both the retold tale of the Skeleton Man that Molly relates as well as what happens to her in the present) and I really liked Molly. I also liked how matter-of-factly Mohawk culture was treated.

Title: Shizuko's Daughter
Author: Kyoko Mori
Number of Pages: 214 pages
My Rating: 5/5

Jacket Summary: "Your mother would be very proud..." Yuki Okuda heard these words when she was achieving in school, excelling in sports, even when she became president of the student council. And she could always imagine the unexpressed thought that followed: "...if your mother hadn't killed herself." But Shizuko Okuda did commit suicide, and Yuki had to learn how to live with a father who didn't seem to love her and a stepmother who treated her badly. Most important, she had to learn how to live with herself: a twelve-year-old girl growing up alone, trying to make sense of a tragedy that made no sense at all...

Review: I liked this a lot. I kept feeling surprised at it for some reason and finally I realised why. It felt very normal in a way I am not sure I've ever seen in a book about Japan written in English (as in, not translated from Japanese). Even when the author isn't white, if they're writing for an English-speaking audience, there's often a tinge of exoticism (sometimes more than a tinge), but there wasn't any of that here at all. Sadly, the cover illustration tries to make up for that by showing a girl in kimono, despite the fact that the book is set in the '70s and the only people ever mentioned wearing kimono are Yuki's grandparents, and her father and stepmother at their wedding ceremony.

One thing that bugged me was that there was this chapter where she seems to totally have a crush on this girl and I thought that's where the story was going, especially since later she still has no interest in guys and this is pointed out several times. But then later it turns out that she was just ~damaged~ from her father's betrayal and didn't want to fall in love, and then she does and is happily heterosexual.
[identity profile] tala-tale.livejournal.com
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

I feel like there's already so much out there about Alexie's work that I probably don't have much that's new to add -- his stories made me laugh while they broke my heart. I had to read this book interspersed with other things, because I just couldn't take too much of it at once, but I'm glad I've finally read it after years of thinking I'd get around to it one day.

If I'm not the last person out there who hadn't already read this, I can only say: this is one of those books you should read before you die.

(Tags: a: alexie, sherman, native american: spokane/coeur d'alene, short stories)


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