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Dreaming in Indian

Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices, edited by Mary Beth Leatherdale and Lisa Charleyboy
Annick Press, July 2014
Reviewed from final copy

I’m a day late in getting to this one because I just finished it. With no digital copies available, and my usual source without it in stock, I had to wait on a delivery. It was totally worth the wait, and I’m so glad it’s a physical copy (I don’t often say that, to be honest, but this is one gorgeous book; I enjoyed poring over the pages). I’m guessing that this will be a somewhat short review as a result, as I’ll continue to process…in the comments. ūüôā

Grouped into thematic sections, this is an anthology made up of short fiction, essays, poems, photography, and art. It is beautifully packaged, really carefully designed. As a matter of fact, the design is the first thing that catches you as a reader: it’s vibrant, and it’s careful to showcase each voice, each perspective. The text is cradled on each page by vivid colors, energetic art. This is dynamic, thoughtful design and gets my (personal) award for stunning-est book of the year.

The editors reached out to known and established Native artists and writers, and also to Native teen contributors, and the sheer diversity included (of experiences, of perspectives, of types of stories told, of sorts of arts included) is breathtaking. All the contributors are respected, regardless of age.¬†One of the goals the editors set for themselves was to find as many diverse, new voices as possible, and they have unquestionably succeeded in doing so. As a result the reading experience is richly rewarding, and Dreaming functions very well as both a mirror and a window for readers. We can read this book, in part, to learn more about the Native American experience — and we will, in all its complexity and fullness. Readers will come away having been witness to a conversation on the Indigenous experience.

Dreaming is fearless about mixing serious issues, difficult topics, and pop culture, too, and it results in a powerful reading experience.¬†For example, three short essays on Disney’s version of Pocahontas reveal three very different lived experiences with that figure. They are conflicting opinions, which reveal different contexts and different ways of connecting and seeing this fictionalized historical figure. By reaching out to a variety of people (graphic novelist, dancer, athlete, photographer, chef, among others), Leatherdale’s and Charleyboy’s collection actively breaks down the stereotype of Indigenous people who exist only as part of the past. These are current, contemporary voices who have much to say about the world we live in, the world they see, the world they are changing.

The entries tend to be very short; it’s a quick read. I wonder if the conversation at RealCommittee will embrace the magazine-like reading experience, or if they’ll decide it’s too uneven in tone. Anthologies, like short stories, can have difficulty getting a Printzly sticker. Add to that, in the micro-pool that are Printz Contenders, like can sometimes cancel out like, and there’s been some buzz for Beyond Magenta¬†—¬†another anthology. ¬†All of this, of course, is guesswork and supposition, of course. So let’s take it to where supposition reigns supreme: the comments. Do you think this will get a sticker?

About Sarah Couri

Sarah Couri is a librarian at Grace Church School's High School Division, and has served on a number of YALSA committees, including Quick Picks, Great Graphic Novels, and (most pertinently!) the 2011 Printz Committee. Her opinions do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of SLJ, GCS, YALSA, or any other institutions with which she is affiliated. Find her on Twitter @scouri or e-mail her at scouri35 at gmail dot com.

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