Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lonely White Girl: Something To Hold

Something to Hold Cover

I picked up Katherine Schlick Noe's Something To Hold from the library's children's section of new books mainly because it takes place in Oregon, although in the time between check out and actually opening the book I read a different book set in Portland. Oh well, I still enjoyed this one.

Noe's book recalls her childhood spent on various Indian reservations in the early 1960's. Her father worked as a forester for the Bureau of Indian Management, just as main character Kitty's father does, and the author's note explains how much of the book was based on her own experiences. The past setting is specified by both details of their shopping and by society's expectations -- only boys play baseball or ride in the parade, for example. Kitty and her family are among the few white children at the local school, and they face uncomfortable times and find outsiders even more clueless about the lives of their friends.

Kitty makes a credible journey from the basic assumptions of her time ("everyone's family comes from somewhere) to an understanding that her classmates did indeed come from here and to notice some of the prejudice and misunderstandings faced by her friends. But she also struggles with making friends, worrying about the dangers faced by both her father and her friends, and has adventures ranging from sneaking into a work site to facing down a forest fire.

I've read a bit about how American Indians feel about literature about their lives (see Oyate.com) and Noe does a lot of things right -- she's not writing about Native Americans, she's writing about kids who are Wasco, Paiutes, or Warm Springs tribe members. I think they'd wish for more books that placed the tribe member at the center, but this story is clearly the one that Noe had to tell. She even gives Kitty her own name (Schlick) to underline how personal this novel is.

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