Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dreaming in Indian: Comtemporary Native American Voices, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Dreaming in Indian is a unique anthology of work by young Native Americans from Canada and the United States intended to "give people a fresh perspective on what it means to be Native in North America."  Native youths were invited to submit their work for a chance to tell the world their stories their way.  The results, the editors write, was a brilliant collection of artwork in various media by some incredibly talented people.

The job of putting this book together must have been daunting, given the high quality works of art that are included in Dreaming in Indian.  But what does all this tell us about being a young Native American?  What does it tell us about how Native youth go forward in the world, while maintaining their connection to their past?  Or how do Native youth deal with things like stereotyping, bullying, and issues of self-esteem?  The answers to these questions and more can be found throughout the book.

Dreaming in Indian is divided into four sections.  In the first section, Roots, ideas about connectedness to the past are addressed, beginning with two poems by Nicola Campbell in which she recalls memories of her grandmother and her aunt.  Others explore ideas about what home means to them, about confronting bullies and even living in residential schools, all creatively done using different media - poetry, photographs, collage.

Battles, the next section, looks at racism and stereotyping, as well as sexual abuse, poverty, gender identity, and addiction among Native youth.  Poetry, prose, even comic book art and stand up comedy are used for addressing these gritty, hardcore issues.  I was particularly taken with Reappropriation by Ashley Callingbull and Anthony "Thosh" Collins in which they reclaim the fashion of wearing "Native" and return it to its true cultural nature, using artifacts that were handed down to Ashley by her ancestors.

The third section, called Medicines, shows the different, productive ways Indigenous youth restore themselves not through addiction or medications, but by finding healing in music, art, sports, and traditions like dancing and hunting.  Finding the strength to give up her addiction and find spirituality in the Sun Dance changed the life of Chayla Delorme Maracle.  Louie Gong uses pop culture objects to express his mixed-race heritage, resulting in bold, colorful designs on things like sneakers, shoes, even phone cases.

Lastly, in Dreamcatcher, we see the many different ways Native youth are turning their dreams into reality.  Artists, educators, activists, even an Indigenous chef are opening the future up for Native youth so that their dreams can come true.

Writing a review of Dreaming in Indian is difficult because there are so many diverse aspects to the book and descriptions pale in comparison to what you will find throughout.  The editors said what they received was mind blowing, and indeed it is, in the best possible way.  And thankfully, Annick Press had the good sense to publish the book using high quality, high density photographs giving it a wonderful vibrancy.

In a world that is finally recognizing that We Need Diverse BooksDreaming in Indian one of the most welcomed additions.  There are so few good nonfiction books about Native Indians, and especially Native youth, that this is a breath of fresh air, not only because it fills that gap but because the incredibly talented Indigenous youth who contributed to the book show us what amazing talent there is out there that is so often overlooked or ignored.

Be sure to watch the trailer to get a really good idea of what Dreaming in Indian is all about:

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was an E-ARC from NetGalley and then I went out and bought my own personal copy (it is that good)

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