Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Highly Recommended! Christine Day's "Unexpected Pursuits: Embracing My Indigeneity & Creativity" in OUR STORIES, OUR VOICES

Our Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA Authors Get Real About Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing up Female in America came out in 2018. Published by Simon and Schuster, the editor--Amy Reed--describes it as a love letter from the authors to young people who, after the 2016 election, were hurting or afraid for the future.

It includes Christine Day's "Unexpected Pursuits: Embracing My Indigeneity & Creativity." As I read her essay, I highlighted one passage after another. It reminded me of Cynthia Leitich Smith's Hearts Unbroken. In both, I found truths about life for a Native teen in the US.

Day's essay ranges from her experiences in high school and in college in Washington. In high school, she was uneasy. She gives us a snapshot of her experiences in history, science, and English courses. When Day recounts a teacher who didn't pronounce the name of her grandmother's tribal nation right, she describes a physical reaction. Her cheeks burned and her bones turned to ice. "He wasn't saying it [Nez Perce] right." She knew something that her teacher did not. What to do with that knowledge?

That 'what to do' moment is something Native children and teens have to deal with all the time.

There are exceptions. Day had a high school teacher who taught them about bias. She had a college program that centered Native experiences. Like Day, our daughter had a teacher that stood out for the right reasons. Like Day, our daughter found affirmation in a programs designed to see Native people, as we are.

There's so much in her essay that I want to note! The way she refers to places. The way she reflects on appropriation. The words she uses! The light she sheds on things like the Indian Child Welfare Act!

I highly recommend her essay--not just for young adults--but for everyone. It will affirm the experiences of Native teens, and their parents, too. As I read it, I highlighted parts of it but there were times when I was blinking back tears, too. This is powerfully written.

Here's how she ends:
My name is Christine Day. I’m descendant from four Indigenous nations and an enrolled member of the Upper Skagit. I’m a graduate student, working toward my master’s degree in Indigenous Research and Documentary Film Production. I’m currently filming interviews to accompany my film, my future thesis. And I’m also working on projects in prose. I still haven’t given up on those. 
I’m a work in progress. I’m young, and I’m growing; I always have been. And it’s taken me a long time to understand this. But listen: You are never alone in these in-between places. Your thoughts, your complex feelings, your unknowable questions—they mean something, and they’re important.

Day has a book coming out in 2019: I Can Make This Promise. It will be published by HarperCollins. I'm watching for it and hope you do, too.

1 comment:

Ava Jarvis said...

I hope I can start parsing long text again soon, because I want to read Day's essay and her upcoming book! It's something to strive for in 2019 for me.