I searched for a book to read for Indigenous Literature Week celebrated at the ANZ LitLovers blog – I wanted to read another Australian book but I couldn’t find one I haven’t read which is available in the US as well as in ebook format (easier on my eyes).
I did find a book by Louise Erdrich which I hadn’t read and that will have to do – I love Erdrich’s books and have a read a good number of them. Nice to read another one.
The Game of Silence is really a young adult book (junior high/early high school?) describing the life of a family of Ojibwe living at the
edge or on islands of Lake Superior in 1850. Also, sad to say, this is the second book of a trilogy, but I found that out after I started, I did pretty well anyway but the characters would have been more fully developed had I started with The Birchbark House – the first in the trilogy.
The structure is linear with some backstory parts and the chapters are nicely divided into sections based on the seasons of the year. The characters are about as well developed as you would expect in young adult lit.
The patterns of life are familiar and routine for the family of Omakayas, a young teen-age girl with potential healing abilities, until a small band of really strange people, white people, shows up. These folks tell them that they have bought the trees in the whole area where the Ojibwa live and so the tribe will have to leave. But a group of native men must travel to find out what the trouble is – they really don’t want to leave but they fear they have done something wrong. In the meantime the white folks stay in the area and the family learns some of their ways, but the whites seem impervious to the ways of the natives. Omakayas meets a girl named Clarissa but she can’t say the name so Clarissa is called the “fall apart girl.”
The title is from a game the children have to play when the adults are discussing important things. They have to be very silent in order to get the gifts in the middle of the circle they sit in. It’s good practice too.
Erdrich is great on the research – the narrative often feels like a nonfiction with characters and some small dramas while they wait for the men to come back. There are hunts and fishing trips, there’s a dog problem. And then there are the new schools and writing and the church – more coercion. Her mother’s family was Ojibwe and she writes a lot about how the tribe lived along Lake Superior and was moved to the Turtle Mountain Reservation in northern North Dakota.
The book is not quite as biased as Little House on the Prairie is, but it’s not without its own brand of predispositions.
Heck of a good review at the NY Times : http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=980CE4DB1138F93AA25755C0A9639C8B63&pagewanted=all
Very nice teacher guide – complete: