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My Name Is Not Easy Hardcover – October 1, 2011
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Prior to the Molly Hootch Act of 1976, which required Alaska to build and staff high schools in even the smallest of the rural villages, children who wished to continue their education beyond what was offered in their communities traveled to BIA or church-supported boarding schools in the lower 48 or more populated parts of Alaska. Luke's Inupiaq experience of leaving his home near the Arctic Circle in 1960 to journey with his two younger brothers to the Catholic sponsored Sacred Heart School is based in large part on Edwardson's husband's memories of boarding school. The author unflinchingly explores both the positive and negative aspects of being away from home at such a young age. Nothing is familiar to Luke and his fellow students; the terrain, the food, the language are strange, and their struggle with feelings of homesickness and alienation is heart-wrenching. Edwardson's skillful use of dialogue and her descriptions of rural Alaska as well as boarding-school life invoke a strong sense of empathy and compassion in readers as they experience Luke's emotions along with him. It is rare that an author can write about a controversial subject such as this without prejudice. Edwardson is to be applauded for her depth of research and her ability to portray all sides of the equation in a fair and balanced manner while still creating a very enjoyable read.
--School Library Journal, Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library
Luke Aaluk and his younger brothers Bunna and Isaac are sent by their mother to Sacred Heart, a Catholic boarding school to the south of their Alaskan community, where Eskimo and Indian students are enculturated in white customs and values. Isaac, who is technically too young to be enrolled, is promptly sent off into foster care without the consent, or even notification, of their mother. Luke and Bunna make an attempt at escape, but they are tracked down by one of the more open-minded priests and convinced they should give the school another chance. The boys conflict with the white Catholic authorities is exacerbated by tensions within the school, pitting Indians against Eskimos and the few marginalized white children also in attendance. Moreover, Cold War pressures involve many of the Inupiaq students in a government testing program in which they ingest radioactive iodine to help researchers investigate how they withstand extreme cold. Eventually leaders of the school factions realize that bonding rather than fighting is in their best interest, and they take a bold stand against the school administration by tracking down Isaac and exposing the system of abducting indigenous children to be placed within white families. Edwardson, author of Blessing's Bead (BCCB 2/10), returns to the complex world of Alaskan culture and history here with this dramatic story. Readers who associate draconian Indian schools with an earlier period may be surprised to see the system continuing here well into the 1960s. Middle-schoolers who are studying the African-American civil rights movement playing out in the Lower 48 will find compelling comparisons and contrasts in the struggles of Luke and his classmates to advance into the wider world while retaining their cultural identity.
--Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November Issue
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
ABOUT THE BOOK
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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Debby Dahl Edwardson grew up in Minnesota, where she spent summers at her family cabin on an island in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. She earned a BA from Colorado College, attended Nansenskolen in Norway, and has lived for over thirty years in Barrow, the northernmost community in Alaska. She earned an MFA from Vermont College in 2005. Debby and her husband George have seven children. Her picture book, Whale Snow (Charlesbridge, 2003), was named to the IRA Notable Books for a Global Society and the CBC/NSST lists and was named Best Picture Book by IPPY.Read more ›
The prose is unique, and direct. While reading the story, you are given glimpses into the minds of the characters.
The book may be considered a "young adult" novel by some. Isn't that what you want to be: a young adult?
I was surprised that I - this non-Alaskan 50 year old male - was so drawn into this story. However, I am now in Alaska 15 months, far from Anchorage, and I am beginning to understand the unique story of Alaska. Beautiful Land, echoes of social failures, challenges to manage our resources.
The author was inspired for this story by her husbands life. Dahl-Edwardson married into Inupiaq culture. The historical events referenced in the story were well researched. This book could be used in grades 7-12 classrooms to learn about Alaskan history and culture.
I personally enjoyed reading the book, feeling as though the characters were very much like the some of the people I have met while living in Alaska. It is really easy to see why Dahl-Edwardson is up for some presitgious book awards.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great read about issues that are rarely addressed in fiction. Well done! Looking forward to using it with middle school students.Published 4 months ago by Bookworm
I loved this book. Not my 'normal' genre, but I'm 1/4 Aluet so I have a personal interest in the subject matter. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Stryder D.
It was a story that was based on true facts accruing in Alaska at that time of which it was very appalling and revealing. It was a real good read!Published 14 months ago by Geraldine
It was really good but in some parts made me want to cry. I was not interests at first but read the first chapter and was sucked into the book.Published 19 months ago by Gymnastics_fly
Bought this for my 12 year old granddaughter. She hasn't finished it yet but says it is very good so far.Published 20 months ago by jerrys girl
I thought this was a great book because it's cool to see them come together and to learn about their similarities & differences, and when bad things happen they're there to help... Read morePublished on July 30, 2014 by shannon tornoe