A Review of Joseph Bruchac's Geronimo
[This review posted here with permission of its author, Beverly Slapin. It may not be published elsewhere without written permission from the author.]
Bruchac, Joseph (Abenaki), Geronimo. Scholastic Press, 2006; 360 pages, grades 5-up; Ndee (Apache)
It is 1908, more than twenty years after Geronimo’s final surrender to the White Eyes, and the grouchy, once-fearsome old man is looking for his hat. When his adopted grandson, whom he once called “Little Foot,” flicks his eyes up and then respectfully looks away, the old man discovers his hat—on his head.
As narrated by a younger Little Foot coming of age during the captivity years, the life of the man history has come to call “Geronimo” and the lives of the Ndee people who have come to be called “Apache” are rich with cultural and historical markers and a litany of broken promises. As Little Foot observes, “Lies from the mouths of the White Eyes seemed as certain as the sunrise each morning in the east. Even when they wrote their promises down on paper, they still did not keep them. Paper lies are even easier to burn.”
There is great good humor here too, as when Little Foot attempts to describe the thing called “cement” and as Nana opines in the humid
Chronicling the years from 1886 to 1894, each short chapter begins with a historical third-person record that offers a counterpoint to Little Foot’s narrative and grounds it in the history of the times. Through Little Foot’s interpretation, middle readers will come to know the great spiritual leader as a man who loved his wives and many children, had an infectious sense of humor, and was an astute businessman besides.
Geronimo is a story of resistance and survival, courage and sacrifice, and, above all, the fight to maintain land, culture and community. Told from the perspective of the people themselves—with a refreshing absence of words such as “renegades” and “raiders”—Bruchac’s work is an antidote to the many toxic volumes, fiction and so-called non-fiction, that portray Geronimo and his people as savages.—Beverly Slapin