Another book I had to read for the competition, in addition to Gregor the Overlander, was Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell. It surprised me in multiple ways and while it won’t stick out as a favorite, it was an insightful book that I recommend to pretty much anyone.
The book was written by Charlene Willing McManis, but she passed away while almost done with it, leaving the finishing touches in her friend Traci Sorell‘s hands. It was published in 2019.
“[Charlene Willing McManis] was of Umpqua tribal heritage and enrolled in The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. . . . A former federal Indian law attorney and policy advocate, [Traci Sorell] is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation…”“About the Authors” – Indian No More
Note that this book is not about “Indians” from India. To maintain historical accuracy, the term “Indians” is used by all the characters rather than “Native Americans” or “Indigenous peoples.”
Here’s a brief teaser.
Set in the 1950s, ten-year-old Regina Petit’s life turns upside-down when her Umpqua reservation in Oregon is terminated and her family moves to Los Angeles. There, she learns a lot of lessons about friendship, trust, and what it means to be Indian.
1. Short, Sweet & Simple
This book was sweet and, though the characters had their share of conflicts, bad times, and struggles throughout the story, they also experienced many happy and appreciative moments.
It was simple. It was a fairly short story about a girl who overcomes hardships and obstacles, and in the process she learns a lot of valuable lessons and creates special bonds with many people.
Regina’s encounters with different people in L.A. in Indian No More shed some light on how, on TV, Indians are simplified and stereotyped. Regina is appalled when her neighbors make assumptions about where she comes from and what she is like, and won’t believe she’s Indian unless she shoots a bow and arrow and builds tipis.
Also, this book is based on the author, Charlene Willing McManis’, experiences when her Umpqua reservation was terminated, so many of the experiences the characters have are firsthand.
Regina, Peewee, her mother and father, Chich (Regina and Peewee’s grandmother), and their extended all share endless love for each other. Chich tells stories about her mother and grandmother, which her granddaughters always love.
4. What it Means to be Indian
As I said, Regina meets people who think they have an idea of what “Indian” means, but it is a stereotype based on what they see on TV, in books, and at school. She and her family meet people who don’t like or make fun of them.
This question of “Who am I?”/”Am I Indian?” was asked a lot. Being inside Regina’s head, we could see her thought process and development in answering this question throughout the story.
Her father repeatedly joked that they were Americans now, not Indians, but he seemed to believe it. I won’t spoil it in case you want to read it (which I recommend you do), but later in the story, he does something to Regina that may not seem like that big of a deal, but when you have read the story that far and see the importance of the action and what it represents, it has a whole new meaning and definitely affects Regina’s opinion on this question.
5. Told in a Basic, Literal Way
I would have liked to see some more metaphors and similes; different styles and sentence lengths. But the book was still enjoyable, and it may just be the style.
6. Interestingly Told
I know, I sound like a hypocrite for just complaining about how the style was a little too simple. But it was far from boring. Just enough things happened that it was interesting but not too packed. The story flowed in a way that I could list the events that happened in order — it wasn’t too twisty and turny and complex like some other books.
7. Emphasized Personalities
I liked how much the author emphasized each character’s personality and wove it through the story. It added a lot of depth to the book and made me feel a connection to the characters. I can name a trait of each character with ease because the author stayed true to their personalities and highlighted each one.
8. Realistic and Relatable
Partly because of the emphasized personalities, the writing made you connect and feel with the characters. The dialogue is very realistic while staying on topic and to-the-point.
The author also did a good job of writing from the perspective of a ten-year-old and sticking to that. Part of that is what I think made it relatable.
9. Good Pace
The story moves at a pace that is not too fast and not too slow. Like I said, it has a clear order of events that flow from one to another and makes it feel a lot more like “life” than other books.
10. Lots of Takeaways to Think About
Many, many lessons can come from it and the characters developed and changed in ways that teach the readers lessons. There was a very prominent theme in the story — as the title reflects.
I would recommend this book, even if you’re not usually a fan of realistic or historical fiction. It teaches a lot of life lessons and is a sweet book about family, friends, and what makes you, you.