Book Review of Citizens Creek

Tademy, Lalita. Citizens Creek. New York, NY: Atria Books, 2014.

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Review submitted by Marsha Lytle, Book Review Editor

Lalita Tademy, author of New York Times bestselling novel, Cane River, has captured the spirit and challenges of a family of African-American/Creek Indians in Alabama starting in 1822. Cow Tom is valuable to his master because of his expertise in cattle, translation, and negotiation skills. He hopes to earn enough to buy both his and his wife’s freedom. When he gets a chance to fight the Seminoles in Florida, he has two motives—to find his mother, who was captured by Seminole raiders, and earn more money towards his freedom. He makes a friend for life, Harry, during the war and also rescues his mother.

Years later, Cow Tom has earned his freedom and runs his own farm in Indian Country, but the Civil War comes to Oklahoma. Once more, Cow Tom is forced to move on with his family, now encompassing four generations. With the shelter of a fort to protect them, they are safe from the raids, but starvation is an everyday occurrence in the vast tent city that springs up. Cow Tom is valuable to the leaders and is able to provide for his family better than most.

Rose, his youngest granddaughter, is most like him. She admires her grandfather and the respect he receives. At their new ranch in Oklahoma, they prosper with many cattle, but Cow Tom is getting old and won’t live much longer. Eventually Rose leaves home to work for a family in town, where she meets her future husband. Rose’s growing family prospers, but with the discovery of oil and the impending statehood, new challenges arise when whites arrive to try to trick Indians into selling their land.

This historical fiction novel covers years of events that affected the Native American population in the South and Midwest. A great story.

Book Review of The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band

Washburn, Frances. The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band. No ed. Vol. 77. Tucson: U of Arizona, 2014. 178. Print.


Reviewed by John Baken
Head Librarian IV at Willmar Public Library, which is a part of Pioneerland Library System in Minnesota.

In an entertaining and often engaging narrative, which begins on the Fourth of July in 1969 and ends some four months later, author Frances Washburn allows readers a unique glimpse of contemporary American Indian life on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian Reservations in rural South Dakota. The novel’s protagonist, Sissy Roberts, is a smart, articulate, and attractive young Lakota woman who always finds herself on the receiving end of whatever it is people have on their mind. Normally, being the recipient of the town’s gossip is not a problem, but when local resident Buffalo Ames turns up dead next to the railroad tracks, after a rowdy Fourth of July night of drinking, dancing, and romancing at the Longhorn Bar in Scenic, Sissy Roberts’ life suddenly becomes more complicated than ever.

When she’s not waiting tables at the local greasy spoon cafe, Sissy plays a mean lead guitar and belts out songs for The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band. As the band’s name implies, Sissy and the boys perform at a different venue every weekend. But talented and beautiful young women like Sissy are not always content to bide their time on the reservation. In fact, more often than not, they find themselves pregnant and single with lousy options to choose from, like Sissy’s friend Speedy, who lives with Sissy and her family.

In a novel rich in detail and smart about the lay of the land on and around the rez, Washburn’s novel is both compelling and educational, especially for non-native greenhorns. To find out what happens to Sissy and Speedy and the many other fascinating characters, including an FBI agent with an eye out for Sissy Roberts, you should read this novel! I highly recommend it for inclusion in any tribal or traditional library.

Frances Washburn (Lakota/Anishinabe) was born and raised on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. She is the author of two previous novels, Elsie’s Business and The Sacred White Turkey, and is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the American Indian Studies department at University of Arizona.

Book Review of Hungry Johnny

By Cheryl Minnema. Illustrator Wesley Ballinger. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2014.

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Review submitted by SaraJane Tompkins
Reference Librarian/Pre K-12 Collection, Olson Library, Northern Michigan University

In Hungry Johnny, Minnema presents a believable character throughout the story. Johnny is like many children: a busy, hungry little boy who must learn patience from his family members, but I sensed that the story is both ordinary and special because it includes reminders of the traditions and generosity of Native Americans. Ballinger’s colorful illustrations bring life to each page. The details of Johnny’s moccasins, his little plastic buddy, Grandma’s beaded earrings, and the community that Johnny is part of today reflect Ballinger’s understanding of life from Johnny’s point of view.

I had the pleasure to read this to my 5- and 3-year-old grandchildren. Two things stood out for me. First they enjoyed Johnny’s repetition, “I like to eat eat eat” (a lot). Second was their discovery of Johnny’s Community Centre. “Look, we have a community center, just like Johnny”. I can imagine Johnny sharing other stories with readers.

As the story and illustrations were created by tribal members, I applaud the publisher and hope to see more support for books from and about Ojibwe children. The glossary even includes an invitation to the Anishinaabe language. I would recommend this book as an addition to any collection.

Book review of Xiipúktan (First of All)

Bryant, George and Miller, Amy. Xiipúktan (First of All): Three Views of the Origins of the Quechan People. Cambridge, UK: OpenBook Publishers, 2013. DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0037

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Review submitted by Naomi Caldwell, PhD
Associate Professor and Coordinator, Library Education Media Program, Alabama State University

First of All is a remarkable collaborative work by George Bryant, a fluent native Quechan researcher, and Dr. Amy Miller, linguist, University of California, San Diego. Their combined expertise enables the reader to examine three traditional stories: two previously recorded in English by J.P. Harrington (1908), and one extended recalling by Bryant (1995). Notably, Bryant’s perspective differs from Harrington’s. The Bryant version synthesizes his childhood memories and the results of his research. Bryant tells of the Bering Strait migration of the Quechan people, elaborates on early events of creation, and fully integrates Quechan language rhetorical devices such as repetition, syntactic parallelism, and narrative time. In many ways, Bryant’s recalling completes the Harrington stories by infusing more Quechan cultural perspectives into the narrative. All three views of the origin of the Quechan are printed in parallel Quechan and English formatted text. The meticulous transcript review process is evidenced by notes at the end of each retelling. This single volume is made complete by providing a practical orthography along with pronunciation tips and grammar. The elegance of the three retellings illuminates the copious ingenuity and progression of Quechan literature. First of All is the fifth volume in the World Oral Literature series and is available in print, PDF, and digital eBook and mobi formats. It was made possible by National Science Foundation and Institute of Museum and Library Services Native American/Native Hawaiian Museum Services grants. Highly recommended for Native language and traditional story collections. First of All is freely available to read on-line.

Editor’s Note:

OpenBook Publishers is a non-profit organization committed to providing open access to high-quality research internationally. All manuscripts are peer-reviewed by at least two subject specialists in the relevant field. Published works are available in hardback, paperback, PDF, and ebook editions and are also available to read and download—for free—on their website.