Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mini Reviews: The I Live in a Totally Different Culture Than You edition

Island's End
by Padma Venkatraman

Uido is ecstatic about becoming her tribe's spiritual leader, but her new position brings her older brother's jealousy and her best friend's mistrust. And looming above these troubles are the recent visits of strangers from the mainland who have little regard for nature or the spirits, and tempt the tribe members with gifts, making them curious about modern life. When Uido's little brother falls deathly ill, she must cross the ocean and seek their help. Having now seen so many new things, will Uido have the strength to believe in herself and the old ways? And will her people trust her to lead them to safety when a catastrophic tsunami threatens? Uido must overcome everyone's doubts, including her own, if she is to keep her people safe and preserve the spirituality that has defined them. (description from

I thought that this was a really interesting, slightly magical easy read.  I liked how it is based on real natives from real islands off the coast of India. I had no idea they were even there! I thought the culture clash was well depicted and that the spiritual journey Uido faced was intriguing.

My Name is Not Easy
by Debby Dahl Edwardson

My name is not easy. My name is hard like ocean ice grinding the shore . . . Luke knows his Iñupiaq name is full of sounds white people can’t say. So he leaves it behind when he and his brothers are sent to boarding school hundreds of miles away from their Arctic village. At Sacred Heart School, students—Eskimo, Indian, White—line up on different sides of the cafeteria like there’s some kind of war going on. Here, speaking Iñupiaq—or any native language—is forbidden. And Father Mullen, whose fury is like a force of nature, is ready to slap down those who disobey. Luke struggles to survive at Sacred Heart. But he’s not the only one. There’s smart-aleck Amiq, a daring leader— if he doesn’t self-destruct; Chickie, blond and freckled, a different kind of outsider; and small, quiet Junior, noticing everything and writing it all down. They each have their own story to tell. But once their separate stories come together, things at Sacred Heart School—and the wider world—will never be the same. (description from

There were parts of this book I really enjoyed. I thought the characters were well drawn and I learned a lot about Alaskan culture during the Cold War.  I had no idea that Eskimos and other native tribes were all thrown together in schools far from their own homes.  I did feel, though, like this book was disjointed - I had trouble tracking the time passing, etc.

Promise the Night
by Michaela MacColl

Beryl moved with her family to the highlands of Kenya as a toddler. Not long after, her mother and brother returned to England, abandoning her with her rough though loving father. MacColl's account begins when a leopard steals into Beryl's hut and attacks her dog—the child leaping from her bed to give chase. Though she loses the leopard in the night, the next morning, she and her new friend, a Nandi boy, Kibii, find the dog still alive and save it. Later she insists on being part of the hunt for the leopard. Young Beryl wants nothing more than to be a warrior, a murani, and to be able to leap higher than her own head. Her jumping skills progress apace, but young white girls, no matter how determined, cannot become part of the Nandi tribe. Her relationship with Kibii's father, the wise Arap Maina, along with a growing awareness of the consequences of her actions, help lead her into a more mature—though still wildly impulsive and daring—life. (description from author's website)

I *really* liked this one.  It is the story of Beryl Markham's wild childhood in Africa, with the chapters interspersed with actual journal entries and interviews that Beryl did as a grown woman when she became a famous pilot.  Beryl's interaction with the local Nandi tribe were also interesting and funny.  Well written and very engaging!

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