Bob Berkhofer's White Man's Indian is still such an important work, even decades after it was published. This groundbreaking book established the ways in which a dominant culture invented, shaped, and used the image of the Indian in order to define White values and civilization in contrast to Indian "savagery."
"the essence of the White image of the Indian has been the definition of Native Americans in fact and fancy as a separate and single other. Whether evaluated as noble or ignoble, whether seen as exotic or downgraded, the Indian as an image was always alien to the White."
Raising kids with Native American Ancestry, it becomes important to be able to "call out" the false and misleading images they see around them. It's a kind of war for their definition. They grow up asking who they are and what makes them different. Kids on the playground say unintentionally mean things. There are huge and thoughtless assumptions made about them, all because authors and directors take the well-worn route of racial stereotypes. My kids have to struggle with the ignorance propagated by media, every day of their lives.
"Dressing in Feathers" is an admirable tool for taking apart those ignorances, the stereotypes that my kids have to survive. Its collection of essays are thoughtful, difficult, occasionally abstruse, but always zeroed in like lasers upon the target.
The main character is a Daoist priestess named Li-lin in Chinatown at the turn of the century. Li-lin takes her place among Lisbeth, Katniss, and Hermione, unforgettably establishing herself as one of the most nuanced, resilient, BAMF fictional female characters around. That a Woman of Color has been placed at the heart of this visionary Hero's Journey is a fact that should be lost on no one.
From the brilliantly established hook and its crisis, the story rapidly plunges the reader into a highly complex world. Li-lin rapidly develops as a reliable and sensitive interpreter and translator of this culturally-immersive paranormal thriller. The story is loaded with Chinese magical rituals which seem to be extremely accurately depicted. Reading the exquisitely written descriptions of these traditional rituals is a rare joy.
The dialogue is credible, believable, culturally attuned, and engaging for the reader. From its dizzying beginnings grounded solidly in the conflicts suffered by Li-lin, The Girl with Ghost Eyes soars into a fascinating and gripping story that never ceases to engage and surprise, all the way through to the heartbreaking final resolution.
The wonderfully dramatic content is sustained throughout the entire story! The reader never knows who can be trusted or how far, constantly upping the ante of tension and suspense. The predicament grows worse by the minute, the stakes are clear and high, and information is only imparted as it is badly needed. The story is extremely unique and exciting.
The heroine is wonderfully developed, thoroughly complex, and powerfully convincing. Her poignant realism as a deprecated widow cements the wildly surreal adventure she embarks upon firmly in the realms of reality and credibility. One “villain” is conflicted about the evil he is helping to perpetrate and therefore multi-dimensional as a dutiful son and inexcusably cruel cad. Why the other villain has elected to persecute this poor Third Aunt/madwoman/priestess seems hard to understand until
is explained. Then the whole story’s genius absolutely shines!
The writing is luminous and hauntingly evocative. This plot represents an exceptionally moving depiction of a human being discovering, questioning, and reversing her long-held beliefs, one after another, until the very final moment.