A few short reviews
My Heroes My People: African Americans and Native Americans in the West by Morgan Monceaux and Ruth Katcher; 1999 Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Growing up in Louisiana, Morgan Monceaux often herad tales of his family’s history about the Maroon people and the Seminole people who made up his heritage. He traveled through the west where he saw Black rodeos and learned about Black cowboys. The pride that his family provided brings together stories and images (which he created) of men and women, Native and Black who should also be in other history books, but aren’t. This is one of the few books for children that speaks of the combined history of these two groups. An annotated bibligraphy is provided. (School library copy.)
Native Women in the Americas by Kenneth McIntosh; 2005 Mason Crest (Part of the Women’s Issues, Global Trends series)
This book provides a wide coverage of the lives of women in traditional native societies throughout the Americas. Some general conclusions are drawn but the authors are quick to point out how unique each native group is. The focus is on traditional practices and values with some attention paid to contemporary issues. The stereotype of ‘native pride’ is a bit over used and a better selection of photos could have been made. Still, the book could be a good starting point for students conducting research because it introduces a variety of individuals and topics. Books and websites are provided for further research. The series also contains books about women in the modern Arab world, Africa, the Hispanic world, the Japanese world, the Mediterranean world, North American religious women and women in China, India, Russia and Southeast Asia, each in separate volumes. No, there isn’t a volume on women in Europe. (School library copy.)
The Gangster We Are All Looking For by lê thi diem thúy; 2003 Anchor Press
This should not have been my purse book. It should not have been the book I read in bits and pieces while waiting in line or getting a pedicure. But, that’s what I did and it ruined a good book. I hate to use this clichéd term but this book truly is lyrical. If I’d been concentrating better, I would have caught the metaphor of ‘hands’ before it slapped me and of ‘water’ before I stepped into it. This one will fool you, you will think it’s a gentle story of growing up as an immigrant in America, but you’d be hijacked into a story of a family trying to find a home and an identity, of a young girl who learns too much from her fathers unspoken language and becomes a ‘gangster’ like him.
He looks at the young woman. She is probably the same age as his wife was when they first met. He wants to tell her there is nothing to do now but bury her son and be patient. A whole country has to be rebuilt. Does she expect everything to stop simply because she hadn’t taken care to keep her own child from wandering too far into the water? He sees the women, the mother standing with her hand on her daughter’s shoulder. How many times has he seen this? He looks away. He doesn’t say anything.
The young woman pushes a strand of hair away from her face and he notices her high cheekbones and the dark beauty of her eyes. Before, he’d seen only her anger and frustration. Now, there was something resolute about her expression, as if she could see exactly what her situation was. She looked him in the face and, with a fury that surprised him, said, “Leave. Leave this house.” (p. 136-7)
(School library copy.)
Rikers High by Paul Volponi; 2002.2010 Viking Press
This is a re-release of Rikers. Volponi is a talented writer and in Rikers, he’s covering a topic he knows all too well and this is evidenced in the emotion this book evokes. Yet I have to say I didn’t like this book. I didn’t like that it reads like a jail manual and I don’t like that too many young men will ‘appropriate’ this book from the school library and use it as a bible on how to survive in the streets. This is the story of a young man who is wrongly accused of a crime, spends too much time in prison because the system… oh! the system! He’s a victim as are the boys he’s locked up with and, and as Volponi points out, too many are Black and Latino. Unfortunately, the characters in the book are victims, caught up in a story where they really aren’t needed. Situations drive the plot and the characters never develop. But, boys will read it. (I bought this one. I like Volponi’s books!)
Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth; 2007 Hyperion Books for Children
Just look at the cover. It’s beautiful! As for the story… even more so! I have to admit I love reading Kashmira Sheth. I enjoy how she is able to maintain the integrity of her stories by using the language, foods and clothes that her characters would have in India. I wonder how hard it was to convince editors to let that remain?
‘Keeping Corner’ is what widows of the Brahman caste must do for a year after their husband dies. Leela was 9 when she married and 12 when her husband died.She’d never spent any time with him. She is caught in a tradition that takes away her future except that she’s living in the era of Ghandi. Not only did Ghandi want to free India from British rule, but he wanted to change and entire society. This is an captivating look from the inside, through Leela’s eyes. (Gift from the author.)