Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Kathleen and Michael Lacapa's Less Than Half, More Than Whole

In the first year of my graduate studies, I came across a book that deeply touched me. The illustrations are terrific, but it was the content of the illustrations that meant so much to me. Page after page had something that spoke directly to me, a Pueblo Indian, living in today's society. To some, it may sound odd to say "living in today's society" but that phrase is important. Necessary. Vital. So many books about Pueblo Indians cast us in the past, in romantic contexts, or somber ones, or ignorant and racist ways, or just plain wrong (see my entry on Ten Little Rabbits, which is in my post: Indian Bunny. No! Now it is Brave Bunny).

This book was different. Its pages showed Native teens in t-shirts. One holds a basketball. In another, a man leans against a fence, with a red ball cap on his head. Another depicts the inside of their home; Native art and basketry is shown. As I read the story itself, I came to a page that has this word "Saiya" and another with "TaTda" (I'm unable to place diacritic marks). I KNEW how to say those words. I knew what they meant. One is grandma and the other is grandfather.

My daughter's recent experiences at school made me think of that book. She didn't need it herself. Her identity as a young Pueblo Indian woman is strong. It speaks to us, though, because of what it can offer to others who know so little about American Indians of today. People see skin color and make a lot of assumptions. Being Native, being Pueblo... it is more than how you look. Less Than Half, More Than Whole is a gentle book that helps its readers think about the complexities of culture, of skin color, of identity. I highly recommend it.

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