Review: Paiute Princess by Deborah Kogan Ray

 

 

  Title: Paiute Princess

  Author: Deborah Kogan Ray

  Publisher:  Farrar Straus Giroux

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Born into the Northern Paiute tribe of Nevada in 1844, Sarah Winnemucca straddled two cultures: the traditional life of her people, and the modern ways of her grandfather’s white friends. Sarah was smart and good at languages, so she was able to link the worlds. As she became older, this made her a great leader. Sarah used condemning letters, fiery speeches, and her autobiography, Life Among the Piutes, to provide detailed accounts of her people’s turmoil through years of starvation, unjust relocations, and violent attacks. With sweeping illustrations and extensive backmatter, including hand-drawn maps, a chronology, archival photographs, an author’s notes, and additional resource information, Deborah Kogan Ray offers a remarkable look at an underrepresented historical figure.

Review:

I have had Paiute Princess on my TBR for a while now, and after reading Black Elk’s Vision, I was inspired to pick it up.  Sarah Winnemucca’s life is told through vivid, lush illustrations that accompany the moving prose of her life.  From her early childhood gathering food with the women of her tribe to her struggles to keep her traditional way of life from being erased by the encroaching white settlers, all Sarah wanted was the peaceful life her tribe had enjoyed for generations.  This was not be to, however, and she was forced to watch as her people were moved from their tribal homelands to reservations.  Once on the barren lands allotted to the Paiute tribes, they suffered from the corruption of the men running the Indian Agency.  Hardship and hunger became her new way of life, and Sarah used every scrap of cleverness she could muster to lobby for aid for her people. 

I am not sure how to rate this book, because it made me feel many, many emotions, mostly sadness and despair.  Once again, I wonder how I would have handled the cruel fate handed out to Sarah Winnemucca and her people.  They were stolen from, lied to, and left without the resources to provide for themselves after their land was taken away, often after the murder of women, children, and the elderly.  This chapter in the story of this nation makes me angry and upset because I know that we are better than that; we are supposed to be the good guys.  After learning about the struggles Sarah faced, and the courage she displayed, I doubt that I would  have been as clever and resourceful as she was.  Could I have been an Army scout, riding into danger and helping the people who were responsible for stealing my way of life away from me?  Could I have left my family for extended periods to study with people who viewed me with suspicion and dislike? I don’t think so.

The story ends on a hopeful note, but after reading the included information at the back of the book, it was clear that Sarah was not accepted in either the world of the Paiute or the world of the white settlers.  She walked firmly between the two, searching for a place where she belonged.  Her grandfather was a wise man, but not even his initial acceptance of the settlers and his letter of friendship from explorer John Charles Fremont could save the tribal lands of his people.  I think what bothered me the most about this picture book was learning that, after fighting for the rights of her people, Sarah died in 1891.  She was 47.  The government was still enacting legislation to liberate the traditional homelands of native peoples and forcibly stamp out their cultures.  This continued until 1934.  This bothered me.  A. Lot.

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

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Cover Shot! Buffalo Bird Girl by S D Nelson

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

I seem to be on a Native American reading kick.  The last three picture books I read were biographies of prominent Native Americans, and even though I find  them heartbreaking, I can’t stop reading them.  I am drawn to the strength of character that each possessed, and wonder how I would have carried on if I were in their shoes.  Not nearly as well, I am sure.  I don’t know much about the Hidatsa, so I am looking forward to reading Buffalo Bird Girl by S D Nelson.

This fascinating picture book biography tells the childhood story of Buffalo Bird Woman, a Hidatsa Indian born around 1839. Through her true story, readers will learn what it was like to be part of this Native American community that lived along the Missouri River in the Dakotas, a society that depended more on agriculture for food and survival than on hunting. Children will relate to Buffalo Bird Girl’s routine of chores and playing with friends, and they will also be captivated by her lifestyle and the dangers that came with it.

Using as a resource the works of Gilbert L. Wilson, who met Buffalo Bird Woman and transcribed her life’s story in the early 20th century, award-winning author-illustrator S. D. Nelson has captured the spirit of Buffalo Bird Girl and her lost way of life. The book includes a historical timeline.

In stores October 2012

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Review: Black Elk’s Vision: A Lakota Story by S D Nelson

  

   Title: Black Elk’s Vision: A Lakota Story

   Author: S D Nelson

   Publisher: Abrams

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Told from the Native American point of view, Black Elk’s Vision provides a unique perspective on American history.

From recounting the visions Black Elk had as a young boy, to his involvement in the battles of Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee, as well as his journeys to New York City and Europe with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, this biographical account of Black Elk—an Oglala-Lakota medicine man (1863–1950)—follows him from childhood through adulthood.

S. D. Nelson tells the story of Black Elk through the medicine man’s voice, bringing to life what it was like to be Native American in the mid-to-late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. The Native people found their land overrun by the Wha-shi-choos, or White Man, the buffalo slaughtered for sport and to purposely eliminate their main food source, and their people gathered onto reservations. Through it all, Black Elk clung to his childhood visions that planted the seeds to help his people—and all people—understand their place in the circle of life.

The book includes archival images, a timeline, a bibliography, an index, and Nelson’s signature art.

Review:

I read two books recently about young children victimized by war, and they both broke my heart.  In Black Elk’s Vision, a picture book based on Black Elk Speaks by John Neihardt, warfare destroys not only Black Elk’s home, but also his people’s entire way of life.  From the cover to the last page, this colorful book is striking and thought provoking.  It doesn’t pull any punches, either.  From Little Big Horn to the massacre at Wounded Knee, Black Elk’s story is compelling and unforgettable.  From the vast plains, hunting buffalo, to the hardship of a walled reservation, his words remain steady and engrossing.  I am not sure that I would be as forgiving as Black Elk, Great Vision or not.  Manifest Destiny is such an ugly chapter in the history of this country, and I find it painful to read many accounts of settlers as they steamrolled over everything in their path to conquering the West. 

There are several parts of this book that I found disturbing, and I am sure that I will find them hard to forget.  Before the white settlers flooded like a tsunami over the Great Plains, there were an estimated 30 million bison.  Thirty million.  By 1889, there were about a thousand.  The numbers are mind-numbing.  Worse, diseases brought by Europeans wiped out hundreds of thousands of Native Americans. And that was before the settlers began to intentionally drive them off of their ancestral homelands.   Thinking about the massive loss of life is nauseating.   Thinking about a twelve year old boy forced to defend his life, as well as the lives of his family, is also upsetting.  Thinking about having everything you owned, every belief and physical possession, even your way of life, torn away  also merits deep contemplation.  I would not have survived nearly as well, or lived nearly as gracefully, as Black Elk. 

I found Black Elk’s Vision a compelling read.  Interspersing colorful acrylics with vintage photos of the events described in Black Elk’s narrative, I found this book hard to put down.  I also found myself going back to key passages, illustrations, and photos to ensure that I absorbed everything.   From the photograph of Black Elk on the cover to the portrait of his family near the end, this is a haunting book.  Black Elk believed that all of us have a part in the circle of life.  We can all hold weapons of destruction or the sacred water of life.  Each of us carries the power to nurture or destroy.  Black Elk choose the cup of life, and he wished that all of us would choose it as well.    

Grade:  B+

Review obtained from my local library

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Picture Book Review: Domo in the World


Title: Domo in the World

Photographs by Iain Browne

Text by Kate T. Williamson

Publisher: Abrams Image

ISBN:978-0810998155

Board book

All ages

For some weird reason that I can’t quite decipher, I have become alarmingly fond of Domo-kun.  I don’t know what Domo is, I don’t know if anyone does, and yet I can’t help but laugh every time I see the odd, sponge shape that is Domo.  Perhaps this haiku will help find some reason for my Domo affection:

Those glossy black eyes? 

Delightfully full of play.

Maybe you should floss?

Or as I am confused by Domo’s gender:

Is Domo a boy?

Or could  Domo be a girl? 

Does it matter which?

This board book follows Domo through the seasons, with adorable photos featuring the fuzzy creature.  The haiku is occasionally silly and made me laugh aloud, but the humor will go over the heads of most younger readers.  The colorful images should delight, though, and if you have a small child you want to brainwash with Japanese pop culture, this is a good choice to begin the subtle encouragement towards an appreciation for all things anime- and manga-inspired. 

Did I like this book?

Photos made me smile a lot

Haiku made me laugh

Review copy provided by publisher