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INDIAN NO MORE, by Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell: a Review by Ashleigh, 13

INDIAN NO MORE, by Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell is one of the best books I've ever read. Thank you to Tu Books and Stacy L. Whitman for sending @ofglades the uncorrected proof to review. At first, I was sorry it wasn't an audio book, because it is sometimes easier for me to listen to books. But just after reading the first chapter, "The Walking Dead"--SNAP!, the voice of ten year-old Regina Petit was in my head. It stayed there till the last page, and it's still talking to me now.

Regina says, "My family was Umpqua. I was Umpqua. That's just how it was." But it gets messy fast. She has always lived on the Grand Ronde reservation, thirty miles from Salem, Oregon, but Congress passes a bill that says that the Umpqua (and other tribes in Oregon) have been terminated. Regina's grandmother Chich tells her, "The President has just signed the bill from Congress saying that we're no longer Indian."

But before that we are treated to an exact, beautiful description of the res and the people there. You write about things this way if you really love them, even if they aren't perfect.

Our house, with chipped white paint and warped boards, was surrounded by acres of tall grasses, plots of fragrant mock orange, and a forest filled with chirping squirrel and robins.
She says, "Getting a toilet inside was one of the happiest days of my life." But then she tells the tales her Daddy shared: "Old Sasquatch won't bother you. First, he's shy. Second, he's over six feet tall and smells like a wet dog.  And third, well, if he does bother you, you must've been misbehaving."

This book contains another good Sasquatch story, "Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains," by Tim Tingle

Not everyone who lives on a reservation is alcoholic and unhappy! That's my experience, but not all young people know that. Ms. Charlene draws such a warm, pretty picture that you feel the loss of this place and fellowship like a stab to your heart. When Chich tells Regina what's happened, Ms. Charlene describes Chich's "scarred breakfast table."

Regina answers Chich saying they're no longer Indians by saying, "But....what if I still want to be one?" In spring 1957, her daddy signs them up for the Indian Relocation Program, they will go to Los Angeles:

The summer morning we left, a misty fog covered the train station so thick that the morning sun struggled to peek through. Chich spoke in Chinuk Wawa to Aunt Rosie...When adults didn't want us kids to know what was going on, they usually spoke it.
The train's wheels pounded the tracks, like beating a log drum. Windows shook like dance rattles. I looked outside. Darkness looked back.

Daddy is optimistic, though Chich tells Regina and her sister Peewee about an earlier time in 1856 when the Umpqua were relocated to the reservation where the girls grew up. Chich tells the girls:

It can be seen as a sad story. It is also a proud story. Many more tribes were removed and brought to Grand Ronde to form our community. The story shows our people survive. Even is the harshest conditions.
Ms. Charlene's descriptions of Los Angeles bring it alive in my mind, the way Regina saw it:

I stared at the surroundings. Busy asphalt streets replaced isolated dirt roads. Concrete replaced glass. In fact, there was a concrete path that stretched from our concrete porch to the concrete sidewalk.

Soon after the move, Regina and Peewee meet a Black sister and brother. "We're Umpqua. What are you?" "We're colored," the boy answered. "We're negroes," the girl added. "Okay. What tribe is that?" The siblings laugh and say: "We're not from an Indian tribe. They're are no tribes in Arkansas, where we moved from, just white folks that don't want us around." The Petit girls make friends with Addie and Keith Bates, even if it's a bumpy start with the neighbors asking about tipis and bows and arrows. There is good criticism of children's games. They bond over the stereotypes of Native and Black people on TV and in the movies.

                                                                       ( I can't even...)

The Bates' introduce the Petit girls to the Hernandez brothers, who also can't go home--to Cuba. Mrs. Hernandez (a doctor in Cuba but a nurse in the US) speaks Spanish to Regina and Peewee. "Do I look like someone who knows Spanish?" "Well, if I didn't know you were Indian, I would say you look Mexican and they speak Spanish." They're mother is not Umpqua, but Portuguese. This diversity is real to me as a Miccosukee girl in Florida today. Addie and Keith's mom is Miss Elsie, not Mrs. Bates. These are still customs today.

School poses new problems and Regina begins to measure her family's possessions and meals against those in her friend's houses--something she never did in Grand Ronde: "I knew we were poor in Grand Ronde, but I didn't feel poor. I felt proud. But I didn't feel that way on 58th Place."

Boy, this is so familiar to me leaving the reservation at age seven and going to "regular" (public) schools and seeing what clothes, food, phones, game consoles and other devices other kids had!!!! I started comparing and feeling bad about myself. I also didn't celebrate Halloween when I was little. I was lucky I had a proud grandma like Chich too. This book teaches important lessons about earlier times but it is relatable too.

This is the Civil Rights era. White men in this book use the n-word and say "Words I'd never heard. Words I knew meant they hated us." Regina also uses the word and asks her mother what it means. "Mama went ballistic... It's a very bad word! A filthy name!"

This book shows that stereotypes exist between marginalized groups but the worst slurs and threats of violence come from White culture and BIPOC come together in times of crisis. It shows how White teachers and schools harm BIPOC children, and most sadly how Native people (like Regina's daddy) can do terrible things to themselves and people they love because they are trying to forget they are Native.

I don't want to give away the whole story. And I want to talk about the author--or authors. Who was Charlene Willing McManis? In the Author's Note, she writes: "Like Regina, I was born on the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Reservation. However, I was one year old when  my Umpqua Tribe was terminated. My family opted for Los Angeles. There is the cutest photo of Ms. Charlene as a little girl with her sister, and her mother standing by a car and her father in the navy. And my favorite photo of Chalrene and her sister with the real life Keith and Addie. This story is very personal--and it sings like a bird and strikes true like a bell! Why did Ms. Charlene need her friend Traci Sorell to finish the manuscript? Because she passed away in 2018. But, before that, on November 22, 1983, another federal law was passed and she writes: "Regina and I became Indian once more."

Here is a beautiful photo of this amazing lady from a tribute by Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Traci Sorell, who is a Cherokee Nation citizen writes in her note: "I accepted Charlene's request [to finish the book] and still feel humbled to have done so. The book is the result of many years of hard work on her part to develop her craft in fiction writing, documenting her Umpqua family's stories, interviewing fellow Grand Ronde tribal members about their experiences, and slogging through the many drafts to hone a story into the finished product you just read." Traci wrote WE ARE GRATEFUL: OTSALIHELIGA, a book we love and did a group review.

The editor, Elise McMullen-Ciotti, who is also a Cherokee citizen, wrote a note too. "I had struggled as a Cherokee within the publishing industry. Why couldn't we move beyond marketing Native American books only in November... Why were the only Native stories given voice frozen within the mid-nineteenth century? The answer I usually received when asking these questions was that there was no market for Native stories."

She also writes this:

We are speaking for a much larger group on some level: our family, our community, our tribal nation, and the greater nations at large. We feel the responsibility to get it right the first time, because we might not get that microphone again for a long time... if ever.

In Vermont... I knew we would have elders coming, so we set up the room with chairs in a circle. We would do this the Native way. For four hours, we went around the circle, sharing all we wanted to share about Charlene and the story she had written. 

There was another Native woman who contributed to the book. Marlena Myles (Spirit Lake Dakota, Mohegan, Muscogee Creek) did the beautiful cover. This essay tells all the meanings she incorporated from Umpqua art and culture. These include: "The Beaver" and "Regina's Hair." [I will have to wait till the book is published to examine all the details on the front and back.]

All these amazing Native women worked together to bring Ms. Charlene's story to readers like me. I am not Umpqua. This is not the story of my family or community. But I feel like it belongs to me. It feels so natural reading it. I read it then went back through and looked and different parts I liked to write this. I studied the cover and looked at the photos in back. I fell under its spell. I felt at home. I felt sadness and pride, and that Regina was my friend. Only after did I remember how few books there are like this, and Ms. Charlene was gone from this world. But her book should touch many lives for a long time to come.

I was Indian even without my braids. I was Indian even if I didn't own a headdress or a pony. I was Indian even if I was Indian no more.

Yes! This book will be released on September 24, 2019. As Ms. Debbie says--RECOMMENDED. V RECOMMENDED!!!!

Speaking of women working together, I want to thank our librarian Ms. Ann for helping me put this together on her days off. And my mom Roberta for giving this the thumbs up, and my sister Violet. This is dedicated to my friends Indigo and Alexis. Indigo gave us the fire and Alexis convinced me that I could be a part of @ofglades and helped me to write my first review and encouraged me to keep going. I wrote this for her so she will get well and come back to us. <3 <3 <3

                   This is my happy face from reading this book and finally finishing the long review!


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