Two Books: An Introduction Part VII
In honor of Indigenous People's Day, I encourage you to learn more about and read books considered by the American Indian Youth Literature Awards.
Book One: My words came together because a group of kids enrolled in the same English class. One the first page, they introduced themselves. No waiting. My name is Mascot. No need to wait for the question. What is yours?
Book Two: I am more hesitant to share my name, but it’s better I say it than anyone else does. Felt like Life had slapped (her) hard hand over my mouth and tried to shut me up, tried to keep me from being me, keep me from even my song, even my name (1). My name is Warrior Girl. Nice to meet you.
Book One: Where are you from?
Book Two: More than one place without the freedom to do so. Move and move and move. Oranges. Chickens. Concrete sidewalks. Funny how papers can be so right and so wrong and can even mean more than people in some folks’ eyes (3). And you?
Book One: The same. The intersections bring me here, but this is also a crossing. I hope it widens beyond the circle of the sports stadium. A connection of all the layers underneath instead of logos, bricks, colors, chants, assumptions. The place I can center myself and the place they won’t. America.
Book Two: My gramma says her family comes from right here. . . Her people called it Yanaguana. Gramma says, “When the Europeans came, they changed our city’s name. Changed OUR names. Tried to change our language and religion too.” My gramma corrects anyone who says the Indians disappeared. “‘Cause we’re not gone. We’re still right here. Named García and Martínez, De León and Sánchez.” (72) I’m happy to meet you. What brings you here?
Book One: “The Pros and Cons of Indigenous Peoples as Mascots” with partners who don’t share our opinions, because to overcome those who claim to know you, “or honor you,” you need to know yourself and know them. (53)
Book Two: And you begin with your family. Their dreams. Then, finally, last year I got a teacher who was so cool he told us WE were cool! He told us our voices mattered. “Don’t let them silence you,” he said. He told us our families’ stories were a part of history too. He said we could write our history in a book and put it in a library for all to see. He told us we came from a long line of strong people with powerful stories (18).
Book One: Wow, we have a lot in common. Pain. Strength. Pride. Paths. Impact. Frustration. Feelings. Weakness. Wins. Losses. Tradition. Truth. Histories. Hidden. Dignity. Languages. Unspoken. Fear. Beauty. Stress. Joy. Pessimism. Optimism. Discrimination. Disrespect. Anger. Logic. Complaints. Opinions. Facts. Disappointment. Race. Racism. Harm. Heart. Something bubbling up. (103) Not enough time.
Book Two: I built my shield. . . And now my shield is unbreakable. (21) Writing comforts me because sometimes when I write I feel like I’m talking to someone. (30) I talk to my dog and my cat and I listen to the trees rustle their leaves. But still, it would be nice to speak to someone who speaks English or Spanish or any human language back to me. (32)
What languages do you speak?
Book One: More than I’m allowed to use. Fewer than I understand. I see your mind and spirit fighting each other. You’re searching for something you don’t have the answer to yet, and that’s good! Keep reading, keep thinking, keep watching, keep going. (82-83)
Book Two: I don’t get angry. I don’t like angry. Angry people are the kind that blow up. I don’t blow up. Ever! So I don’t get angry. . . I just get. . . down. And I don’t like being down. (39)
Book One: . . .sometimes you can catch more stars by guiding them to land in your hands rather than snatching at the sky. (84) But how can your argument reach deep and make others care about what you are sharing? (87)
Book Two: And, I feel like I’m losing.
Book One: Remember who your ancestors are. Always draw strength from them. (101)
Book Two: I feel that love. All around. I surround myself with that love when I write. I love writing so much that I’m scared. . . Scared that I’ll run out of things to say. Or that I’ll write something I really feel that is too dangerous to say. (53)
Book One: Remember, you’re a warrior. We can’t unsee things. We shouldn’t not feel them. The mascot began as a homework assignment but once it became a conversation it became another kind of brave. Like yours.
Book Two: Ms. Yáñez says that it takes courage to write but that it takes more courage to share that writing. (55)
Book One: Agreed.
Book Two: Ms. Yáñez also says it takes courage to dream big. That you have to be brave to become yourself. (55)
Book One: Once it’s in plain sight, I can’t hide from it. Once it’s visible, I can’t make it invisible ever again. (91)
Book Two: Sometimes life surprises you. (78)
Book One: We all have something called cognitive dissonance. The dictionary says it’s having conflicting beliefs in concert with the decisions we make in our lives. (91)
Book Two: Gramma reminds me, “Some of them are just repeating things they’ve heard. And just ‘cause someone SAYS something doesn’t mean it’s true.” (79) I’m always in awe of my gramma. (84). She protested you know. She was part of the Chicano movement.
Book One: Teens take action and do the right thing more easily than some adults. Especially adults in power positions. (129)
Book Two: . . . I decided I really do want to be a historian so I can tell more of the stories that need telling. I just have one question. How do I start? (103)
Book One: Here’s what I know for sure: I have a lot to learn about other people. (130)
Book Two: And I realize how much more I need to learn to notice OTHERS’ needs and also, maybe, how much I’ve grown. (199)
Book One Waters, Charles and Traci Sorell. (2023). Mascot. Charlesbridge: Watertown.
Book Two Tafolla, Carmen. (2023). Warrior Girl. Nancy Paulsen Books: New York.
All direct quotes are written in italics and identified by page number.