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The Insufficiency of Maps

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2010

    A Native American Girl Navigating Between Two Worlds

    Narrated in first person, this is the story of a 5 or 6 year old Native American girl who is living with her mentally unstable mother as they bounce around between relatives and friends. Because of her mother's state of mind, it seems that whenever the child begins to put down roots and feel somewhat comfortable, her mother picks up again and flees with her to somewhere new. Eventually, the child is taken into state custody and is placed in a foster home with a white middle class family. While they are well-meaning and do their best to provide her with a sense of stability, they also decide that she needs to keep some exposure to her Native American roots, which in this particular case, might not have been the best choice. (I kept asking myself why the foster parents didn't treat both girls the same and enroll their foster child in the same activities as their natural child.) The story follows the girl's life into her teen years, where her conflicted feelings and sense of not really belonging anywhere begin to impact her behaviors. At least half of the story is supposedly narrated when the child is five, but the language used, though spare, suggests someone much older. However, I felt the story did a good job overall of showing the difficulties for children trying to assimilate into a different culture, and the difficulties well-meaning adults have in trying to do what's best for them. I think the story's ending was written with an intention to be hopeful, with the girl reaching some closure with regard to her mother who she learns has died. However, I couldn't help but feel she would remain a lost and troubled child.

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