Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book Review: My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson

My Name Is Not Easy
Author: Debby Dahl Edwardson
Publication: Marshall Cavendish Childrens Books (October 1, 2011)

Description: From the 2011 National Book Award Finalist Debby Dahl Edwardson, My Name is Not Easy. (Check the National Book Award link for an interview and a video of a reading.)

My name is not easy. My name is hard like ocean ice grinding the shore . . . Luke knows his Iñupiaq name is full of sounds white people can’t say. So he leaves it behind when he and his brothers are sent to boarding school hundreds of miles away from their Arctic village. At Sacred Heart School, students—Eskimo, Indian, White—line up on different sides of the cafeteria like there’s some kind of war going on. Here, speaking Iñupiaq—or any native language—is forbidden. And Father Mullen, whose fury is like a force of nature, is ready to slap down those who disobey. Luke struggles to survive at Sacred Heart. But he’s not the only one. There’s smart-aleck Amiq, a daring leader— if he doesn’t self-destruct; Chickie, blond and freckled, a different kind of outsider; and small, quiet Junior, noticing everything and writing it all down. They each have their own story to tell. But once their separate stories come together, things at Sacred Heart School—and the wider world—will never be the same.

My Thoughts: This historical fiction story tells about a Inupiaq boy named Luke who was sent with his brothers to a Catholic boarding school from his home in the north of Alaska. It records the things that happened to these Native kids when they were forced to leave home for their educations. Almost immediately the youngest brother Isaac who is only six is taken from the others and sent away to be adopted by a family in Texas. Luke and Bunna, and even their families, have nothing to say about it. 

This story talks about the mostly well-meaning volunteers who educated the kids and tried to make them into good Christians. It talks about the rivalry between the Eskimos and the Indians that exists in the school and the white staff who can't tell the Indians and the Eskimos apart.

The story also tells about a white girl named Chickie who was at the school too. Her father was a storekeeper in a remote village. Chickie identifies with the Eskimo kids she grew up with. The story is filled with kids like her and with orphans. They all band together and form friendships.

I loved the language of this story told from a variety of viewpoints - Luke's, Chickie's, Sonny's who is the Indian son of a fatherless family who has lots of responsibility for his younger siblings, Amiq's who is the Eskimo son of a father who drinks, Donna who is an Indian girl who was orphaned and raised until boarding school by another missionary nun. 

We see a number of events through their eyes. We see the army testing the kids with a radioactive drink to see why they are able to survive above the arctic circle. We see the reaction to the assassination of the first Roman Catholic president. We see the protests about proposed nuclear explosions above the Arctic Circle and we see protests about hunting laws.

This would be a good story to read with kids to talk about history. The author tells us that most of the events really happened to various Native kids at government and private boarding schools. Luke is based on her own husband's story.

Favorite Quote:
I have never in my whole life been spanked, and I'm wondering what's so bad about Inupiaq that they have to make your hand sting for speaking it. I can still feel those Inupiaq words, warming the back of my throat, only now it feels like the sounds got twisted around somehow. Like if I try to say a word, it's gonna come out bent.
I bought this one. You can get your copy here

1 comment:

  1. I'd never heard of this one, it sounds really interesting. That cover definitely intrigued me. May have to check it out. Thanks for the review!


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