We connect with books in all kinds of ways.
You might think that today high schools would be less outwardly racist and more open to diversity, even in smaller towns, even in flyover country, where I have lived much of my life. You might think that people would get that having the Indian or a brave be your mascot would finally be passé. But I’m here to tell you, it’s still out there. The high school I graduated from still has that mascot, even after multiple attempts to get it changed by groups which include the people it’s somehow now supposed to honor. It periodically comes up in a Facebook alumni group I follow, mostly by people who are trying to deny that it could ever be taken as offensive or racist, because, you know, that would mean they are racist or offensive and didn’t realize it. Which is really what this book highlights perfectly.
But — SURPRISE! — this book is not about me. It’s about witnessing the daily stupidity, offensive behavior, and tiny reminders of other-ness thrown at Louise, as well as the love and support she gets from her family and her culture. It’s a perfect book, really, because its story is one that’s familiar to everyone – a coming-of-age, trying-to-figure-out-where-you-fit kind of thing. Because it’s about Louise, however, we see a character we need to see more of – a Native young person in today’s world.
Take a walk in her shoes. You’ll be glad you did.
Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith