Publishers WeeklyAmong the debut titles in the Girls of Many Lands series (see Spring Pearl, reviewed below), Hill's (The Year of Miss Agnes) finely detailed novel set in a Yup'ik Eskimo village in the 1890s feels mesmerizingly authentic. Minuk, the narrator, is 12 the spring that the missionary family arrives, and like the other children she is fascinated by the sight of her first kass'aq (white) woman and child. She can't imagine what the "sort of pink butterfly" hanging from the clothesline is (a corset, which astonishes her still further), and when Mrs. Hoff invites her inside for a cup of tea, she sits on a chair for the first time (and tips hers over) and slurps loudly, "to be polite." These initial misunderstandings may be comic, but the encounters between the Hoffs and the Yup'ik have grave consequences. Mr. and Mrs. Hoff condemn the villagers' rituals and practices. Yet, as seen through Minuk's eyes, the customs make sense, and Hill demonstrates that the Yup'ik belief systems are at least as coherent as Hoffs' version of Christianity ("If your god is love," Minuk asks Mr. Hoff, "why does he make people burn in hell?"). The author penetrates Yup'ik culture to such an extent that readers are likely to find the Hoffs more foreign than Minuk and her family. At the same time, the author doesn't glamorize the villagers, in particular exposing the severe conditions facing women. Not only the heroine but the vanished society here feel alive in their complexities. Ages 9-12. (Oct.) FYI: Other titles in this season's launch of the Girls of Many Lands series: Neela: Victory Song by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (HC -597-5; PB -521-5); Isabel: Taking Wing by Annie Dalton (HC -593-2; PB -517-7); Cecile: Gates of Gold by Mary Casanova (HC -594-0; PB -518-5). Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
VOYATwelve-year-old Minuk is a member of the Yup'ik, Inuit people living in the inland forests of western Alaska. Their traditional way of life is disturbed, only slightly at first, by the arrival of the first American missionary family, the Hoffs from Maryland. In 1890, the United States has only recently purchased Alaska from Russia. Minuk's story describes the Yup'ik's reaction to the strangers from the south. Initial fear gives way to curiosity and eventually a measure of acceptance. Minuk, quick and eager to learn, becomes a household helper in the Hoffs' home and is a gentle but perceptive observer of the differences between the two cultures. The Yup'ik are tolerant of the Hoffs and their unusual ways, but they soon realize that the missionaries do not give Inuit culture the same respect. When Mr. Hoff breaks a taboo and insults the village shaman, the Yup'ik decide to have nothing more to do with the outsiders. Ironically, at this moment a flu epidemic strikes the isolated community. With the village in crisis, will the surviving Yup'ik be acculturated into mainstream America or will they struggle to rebuild their traditional way of life? This is Minuk's choice as she faces life as an orphan. Author Hill was born in Fairbanks and has lived most of her life in Alaska. This novel is filled with realistic details and would be of interest to anyone with an interest in multiculturalism, cultural conflict, or, more specifically, life in the far North. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2002, Pleasant Company, 198p,
School Library JournalGr 5-9-A remarkably honest picture of life in a Yup'ik Eskimo village in 1890 that pulls no punches. Minuk, 12, is coming of age at a time when the first American missionaries are appearing in the upper reaches of the Kuskokwim River in western Alaska. Readers witness her first encounter with everything from chairs to written language and Christianity, and observe the friendly and respectful initial reception of the Yup'ik villagers to the outlanders. There are moments of humor as when she observes the newcomers' laundry line and sees something that turns out to be a corset. When Minuk's cousin begins her menstrual cycles, readers learn how the Yup'ik welcomed girls to womanhood. The eventual culture clash is portrayed in an honest way, and readers will mourn with Minuk the devastating effects of western diseases on the Native Alaskan population. Hill bows to the first-person series convention, but manages to create a clear and believable voice for her protagonist. This provocative book will prompt thought and reflection, and is particularly revealing and honest in its portrayal of the village's introduction to a proselytizing belief system that conflicts with their own values. The afterword will help readers learn more, including what life may be like for contemporary Yup'ik girls. Historical photos add to the textual explanations, although the inclusion of a picture of the Russian Orthodox church in Sitka is about a thousand miles off course. Nonetheless, a fine achievement.-Sue Sherif, Alaska State Library, Anchorage Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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