Review of Indian No More

Indian No More
by Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell
Intermediate    Tu/Lee & Low    209 pp.    g
9/19    978-1-62014-839-6    $18.95

This novel (based on McManis's childhood) is set against the background of U.S. government actions beginning in the 1940s that terminated the status of many Native Nations and forced relocation of families living on reservations. With a stroke of the pen, in 1954, eight-year-old Regina Petit and her family lose both their identities and their home. Members of the Umpqua tribe in northern Oregon, the Petits relocate to Los Angeles. There, Regina tries to adapt to life in the city, making friends outside her culture and figuring out what it means to be (in the terminology of the times) Indian. The straightforward, easygoing flavor of this narrative is shot through with deadpan, subversive humor. Its many ironies lie not in authorial commentary but in the events themselves. A neighbor kid kindly explains to Regina that "real" Indians live in tipis and hunt with bows and arrows. Regina, seeing TV for the first time, gets a crush on Tonto. The family is refused service in an upscale restaurant because the waitress won't serve "Mexicans." Most poignant of all is Regina's father, who tries to embrace the "opportunities" that their forced relocation offers. Beloved grandmother Chich, the family's repository of cultural knowledge, is less sanguine. This is a book we need — distinctive in voice, accessible in style, and told with an insider's particular power. Back matter includes authors' notes that tell more about the federal termination laws and detail Sorell's role in completing the manuscript after McManis's death.

From the November/December 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Ellis
Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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