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Who Will Tell My Brother? Hardcover – July 2, 2002
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From School Library Journal
Grade 7-Up Through lyrical free-verse poems that span his senior year, readers come to know Evan Hill, an artistic, articulate student who embarks on a crusade begun by his older brother to remove the Indian as their high school's mascot. He shares a Native American heritage with his father, who embodies patience and quiet strength and who draws the teen into his once estranged Mohawk family circle. Evan encounters a mix of hostility, indifference, and silent support for his cause from his classmates. Intolerance and brutality erupt when long-haired Evan is cornered in the hall by scissors-wielding classmates and when his mother discovers the beloved family dog lying dead atop a paper feather headdress. The young man's repeated visits to the school board generate annoyance, frustration, and intransigence, and it votes to ignore his request and to uphold the status quo. But at graduation, when an Indian mascot banner is displayed, cheers fade as sympathizers join Evan in a silent, seated protest. Carvell's first novel carries a clear, thought-provoking message about both intolerance and cultural pride. The protagonist's first-person experiences and insights are affecting. His objection to the shallow, stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans emerges from a spiritual and cultural need to be understood, recognized, and appreciated. Through his campaign, Evan learns a lesson in integrity, perseverance, and courage. -Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 7-10. A public issue comes close to home in this story of Evan Hill, a part-Mohawk high-school senior, who protests against his school's use of Indian mascots. Drawing on the real-life experience of her own two sons, Carvell lets Evan tell the story, which unfolds in quiet, spare, very readable, free-verse vignettes that express his hurt, anger, and humiliation as he tries to get the school board, the principal, and his classmates to listen to him and get rid of the noble savage caricature of his people. At times the narrative degenerates into sermonizing, with too much reverential talk about "proud solemnity." But Evan's words personalize his search for his Mohawk roots, even as his bullying classmates call him "Injun hippie" and "timber nigger" and then kill his beloved dog. The issues are sure to spark discussion: What about the bystanders who just let it happen? Will Evan change any minds? What's all the fuss about, anyway? Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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I know this to be the case because my wife (who is Oneida) and I have worked almost full time in this civil rights arena since 2002. We have been subjected to this horror in our own school district in Wisconsin and have worked with many others across the nation who had the same experience when asking for an end to the race-based school board sports policy.
As an example, in the Osseo-Fairchild School District in Wisconsin, my wife was told in a message left on our answering machine "Why don't you go back to the reservation where you belong!" A letter to the editor in the local newspaper said we should "pack up and get out of town!" A Caucasian ally's barn was severely vandalized not once but twice with disgusting graffiti. Another American Indian family had their mailbox vandalized when the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council asked our School Board to end their race-based practice targeting American Indians. The list of incidents goes on and on. It was only getting a civil rights state law passed in Wisconsin regarding race-based identities that finally forced Osseo-Fairchild's School Board to stop using race as the basis for their sports policy.
Sadly, what we experienced and what is described in "Who Will Tell My Brother?" is very common and happens in school district after school district across this nation. This book describes the reality that American Indians in these school districts face every day if they speak up against the discriminatory school board policy. After reading this book, anyone with a sense of justice should better understand why this is an unacceptable injustice in our society.
Going to indianmascots (dot) com is an excellent source to access the new research that shows how these race-based sports identities are psychologically harmful to American Indian students. That same website also has the research which determined that exposure to race-based sports identities increases receptivity to negative stereotypes about OTHER minority students. So this is of major importance to ALL minority families. Additionally, it's important to students of ALL races including European Americans because ALL students should be able to experience an educational environment (1) free from racial stereotypes and (2) that doesn't "teach" students that racial stereotyping is acceptable in society.
This book should be required reading for school board members, administrators, teachers and students in every one of these school districts. Instead, too many in these school districts prefer to be "willfully ignorant" of the research and why their school sports policy constitutes harmful discrimination based on race. Please read this book! Then please share it with someone in one of these school districts!
But then, one day at a school pep rally, Evan finds himself really bothered by what he sees. His school's mascot is an Indian, a horrible caricature of Indian traditions. The mascot does clumsy Indian dances, wears a headband with feathers and shrieks out war whoops. The cheerleaders have their faces streaked with color to imitate war paint. Evan grows more and more embarrassed and upset as the pep rally continues, until he thinks he can't stand it anymore. He decides to try to do something about the situation.
Like his older brother did years before Evan when he was in high school, Evan goes to the school board to ask them to consider changing the school's mascot to something less offensive. Although he approaches them time and time again, they state that the members of the school take pride in their mascot and it isn't hurting anyone. Evan continues the fight, although he is harassed at school. Can one student win a battle against an entire town?
I liked that the story was told in poems, but each poem was detailed enough to give me a clear idea of what was going on. I liked the ending of this story, too.
I think this story is already a bit out of date, though. In our current state of political correctness, I don't think a school board would dare to refuse a request such as Evan's anymore.
Evan's older brother, Jacob, was the first student to attempt to change the mascot, but now is away at college. The title of the story is the main plot point as Evan must tell his brother about a terrible and violent act done to scare Evan away from continuing his struggle. The violence changes the opinion of the majority of the student body from supporting the mascot to silently protesting the mascot's presence at graduation.
Carvell's use of verse was very moving in describing Evan's emotions as he stood up for what he believed in. The act of violence is devastating and will stay with the reader long after they've completed the story. Evan's courage and inner strength will also stay with readers who stand up for what is right.