I Am Apache by Tanya Landman 2009
IQ "It was as though I plunged into a mountain pool. I stopped resisting. With a deep, calming breath, I dived into the pain. I found its heart and I saw through it. And came to a place far beyond, where my body ceased to matter." pg. 79
I really like the metaphor used in the above quote to describe tolerating pain being like swimming. That's the only quote that jumped out at me. And unfortunately that's probably one of the few things I liked about the novel.
I didn't like I Am Apache very much. What I love about historical fiction is how it's entertaining while still educating you about a different time period. I'm convinced part of the reason I know so much history is from all the historical fiction reading I did as a child. I didn't get that in this book. I Am Apache is missing that crucial combination of entertainment and education. In fact it's missing both.
The author states in the historical note that "I've made no attempt to produce an accurate historical novel..I've tried to be authentic as far as period details goes, but at times I have had to stretch things in order to make the story work." While I appreciate the author's honesty, that's a problem. I was looking forward to learning about the Apache tribe, but Siki's (the main character) tribe is fictional (the Black Mountain Apache) as are all the names of places and characters. The character of Siki is very loosely based off of the woman who rode with Geronimo (I did reach this conclusion while reading). Also, to give the author credit, she used primary sources for period details and talked to Apache tribal historians (she even dedicated her book to the Apache people), but I don't want complete fiction in historical fiction, I also want some truth, some history (hence the name!). And honestly, some of the parts of the book just seemed like stereotypes. *SPOILER* (highlight the white space to read it) And I was highly annoyed that Siki turned out to not be Apache, but Mexican.
I wasn't a fan of any of the characters, but I was curious as to finding out the truth about Siki's family, that element kept me turning the pages (I also hoped the novel would get better). I didn't see Siki grow or any of the other characters (except a minor one at the very end). I'm also sure that the author's representation of the white Americans and Mexicans treatment of the Apaches is very true or closely represents the truth, it's disturbing and made me angry (actually, what the Americans and Mexicans did was probably a lot worse than what was detailed in the book). I think that the Native American tribes' culture is so beautiful and diverse, I was sorely disappointed that it was all fictional concerning the Apache.
For an excellent review of why I Am Apache should not be read go here (from Oyate, a Native American site that reviews books about Native Americans). The writers express the negative aspects of this novel much more eloquently than I can. This book left me wondering: Should I applaud the author for trying to write about a underrepresented culture? Or is it worse to write about a culture you know little about and get it wrong?
PS For some good recommendations of Native American literature check out my Native American Lit widget in my sidebar and check out Oyate and American Indians in Children's Literature for books to read and avoid. Also check out the comments on my Native American Heritage post.