Written by: Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell
Cover Art by: Marlena Myles
For ages: Middle Grades
Language: English & some Chinuk Wawa
Topics Covered: Indigenous Voices, Historical Fiction, Historical Events, Umpqua Tribe, Own Voices, Relocation, Dissolution, Racism, Oppression.
This book’s main character Regina might be historical fiction, but the events are real. Regina is 12 when her Umpqua tribe and reservation lands are dissolved, leaving the family to be relocated to Los Angeles. The book follows Regina and her family as they adjust to city life and all that comes with it. Regina deals with the racism that affects her Black friend Keith and the assumptions about her as Native American.
This book is beautiful. Regina as a character captures the simultaneous desire to fit-in and remain connected to her Indigenous heritage. She doesn’t understand the stereotypes that people put on her, but at the same time recognizes that yes it would be really cool to own a horse like Tonto. When Thanksgiving comes around, things get worse.
No one will stop calling regalia a “costume” and Regina is forced to wear paper bag buckskin. This book beautifully highlights the whitewashed and sanitized messaging that Americans are fed about Indigenous people, particularly in the way that the diverse tribal nations are often viewed as a monolith. This book is wonderfully done, and contains a lengthy author’s note from Umpqua author Charlene Willing McManis.
This same dissolution of land is also threatening the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe in Massachusetts, (read a WBUR article about it here) and you can sign the petition to stop it from happening here. Here is the main website for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. This is an absolute abomination, and must be stopped. Please spread the petition to others!
I got this ARC from a free book bin on campus, thanks Children’s Lit Dept!
About the Authors & Cover Artist:
The late Charlene Willing McManis (1953-2018) was born in Portland, Oregon and grew up in Los Angeles. She was of Umpqua tribal heritage and enrolled in the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. Charlene served in the U.S. Navy and later received her Bachelor’s degree in Native American Education. She lived with her family in Vermont and served on that state’s Commission on Native American Affairs. In 2016, Charlene received a mentorship with award-winning poet and author Margarita Engle through We Need Diverse Books. That manuscript became the novel Indian No More, which is based on her family’s experiences after their tribe was terminated in 1954. She passed away in 2018, knowing that her friend Traci Sorell would complete the revisions Charlene was unable to finish.
Traci Sorell lives with her family in the Cherokee Nation, out in the country like she did as a child. Back then, she had geese, chickens, horses, dogs and cats. Her mother’s Cherokee family has been in the area since the removal of most Cherokee people from their southeastern homelands in 1838. Traci grew up hearing stories about her ancestors and looking at their photographs with her elisi (eh-lee-see), grandma. Now her son does that with his elisi in addition to fishing in the nearby lake and learning about Cherokee culture.
As a child, Traci spent a lot of time reading as well as singing and acting in musical theater productions. She also loved playing cars and school with her younger sister and brother. They spent hours driving little toy cars all over the towns they drew on large pieces of cardboard. They quizzed each other on state capitals and used old textbooks to teach each other new lessons. Away from home, they spent lots of time visiting family across the Cherokee Nation, elsewhere in Oklahoma and places farther west. Traci still loves to read, play, learn, and travel.
When Traci was a teenager, her family moved to Southern California. She did less acting and more writing, both in class and on the high school yearbook staff. She was the first in her family to graduate from college. Later, her mom, sister and brother got their degrees too.
Before she began writing for children, Traci’s work focused on helping Native American tribes and their citizens. She wrote legal codes, testimony for Congressional hearings, federal budget requests, grants and reports. She continues that work by writing stories for young people and encouraging other Native writers and illustrators to share theirs. When Traci was a child, she never read culturally accurate books about the Cherokee or any other Indigenous people. The stories and poems she writes now reflect her mission to add to the canon of literature showing that Native Nations and their citizens still exist and thrive today.
Marlena Myles is a self-taught Native American (Spirit Lake Dakota, Mohegan, Muscogee) artist located in St Paul, Minnesota. She has gained recognition as being one of the few Dakota women creating digital art including fabric patterns, animations and illustrations to bring modernity to indigenous history, languages and oral traditions. Growing up on her traditional Dakota homelands here in the Twin Cities, she enjoys using her artwork to teach Minnesotans of all backgrounds the indigenous history of this place we call home.