Rain Is Not My Indian Name

( 2 )


The next day was my fourteenth birthday, and I'd never kissed a boy — domestic style or French. Right then, I decided to get myself a teen life.

Cassidy Rain Berghoff didn't know that the very night she decided to get a life would be the night that Galen would lose his.

It's been six months since her best friend died, and up until now Rain has succeeded in shutting herself off from the world. But when controversy arises around her aunt ...

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The next day was my fourteenth birthday, and I'd never kissed a boy — domestic style or French. Right then, I decided to get myself a teen life.

Cassidy Rain Berghoff didn't know that the very night she decided to get a life would be the night that Galen would lose his.

It's been six months since her best friend died, and up until now Rain has succeeded in shutting herself off from the world. But when controversy arises around her aunt Georgia's Indian Camp in their mostly white midwestern community, Rain decides to face the outside world again — at least through the lens of her canera.

Hired by her town newspaper to photograph the campers, Rain soon finds that she has to decide how involved She wants to become in Indian Camp. Does she want to keep a professional distance from the intertribal community she belongs to? And just how willing is she to connect with the campers after her great loss?

In a voice that resonates with insight and humor, Cynthia Leitich Smith tells of heartbreak, recovery, and reclaiming one's place in the world.

Tired of staying in seclusion since the death of her best friend, a fourteen-year-old Native American girl takes on a photographic assignment with her local newspaper to cover events at the Native American summer youth camp.

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Editorial Reviews

The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
“Rain's observations are appealingly wry, and readers …will find food for thought in this exploration of cultural identity. ”
Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
Rain's observations are appealingly wry, and readers . . . will find food for thought in this exploration of cultural identity.
Publishers Weekly
Multiple plot lines and nonlinear storytelling may make it difficult to enter Smith's (Jingle Dancer) complex novel, but the warmth and texture of the writing eventually serve as ample reward for readers. The sensitive yet witty narrator, 14-year-old Cassidy Rain Berghoff, grows up in a small Kansas town as one of the few people with some Native American heritage. That experience alone might challenge Rain, but Smith creates a welter of conflicts. Rain's mother is dead (she was struck by lightning), and as the novel opens, her best friend is killed in a car accident just after he and Rain realize their friendship has grown into romance. Six months later, her older brother urges her to go to her great-aunt's Indian Camp. At first she shrugs it off, but later volunteers to photograph the camp for the town paper and begins to share her Aunt Georgia's commitment to it. When public funding for the camp becomes a contested issue in the city council, Rain decides to enroll. Some of Smith's devices such as opening each chapter with a snippet from Rain's journal add depth and clarify Rain's relationships for readers, although other elements (the detailing of song lyrics playing in the background, for instance) seem stilted. Even so, readers will feel the affection of Rain's loose-knit family and admire the way that they, like the author with the audience, allow Rain to draw her own conclusions about who she is and what her heritage means to her. Ages 10-14. (July) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Fourteen-year-old Rain decides to get herself a teen life, little knowing that disaster awaits her best friend Galen, about whom she is only just beginning to experience the first tingles of romantic promise. Ridden with guilt and misery, Rain closes her world in upon itself. But then her Aunt Georgia decides to run an Indian Camp, and Rain's reluctant actions on her behalf threaten to drastically backfire. What follows is a summer of turmoil and realization, in which Rain is forced to come to terms with the tragic events she has lived through, the world in which she lives and her sense of self. Smith (author of Jingle Dancer) portrays a protagonist with a genuine voice and an appealing sense of humor. Aunt Georgia's red hair, Grampa's notes from Las Vegas, pasta bridges and all, this rendering of a contemporary family of Native American heritage is wonderfully far from stereotypical "dreamcatchers, the kind with fakelore gift tags." 2001, HarperCollins, $15.95 and $15.89. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
Cassidy Rain Berghoff—Creek-Cherokee, Ojibwa, Scots-Irish, and German—celebrates her fourteenth birthday with her best friend, Galen Owen. Both have sworn always to remember each other's birthday. Running through their small Kansas town, they do not know that their frolics on the playground, where they exchange a single, first kiss, are observed and misinterpreted. When Galen is hit by a car and killed while hurrying home after midnight, Rain barricades herself in grief and is spared the gossip. Still recovering from her mother's death two years earlier, she even avoids Galen's funeral. When her brother, Fynn, and his pregnant girlfriend, Natalie, encourage Rain to join the Indian craft camp run by their Aunt Georgia, Rain is unenthusiastic. A lifelong shutterbug, she agrees to photograph the meetings for the local paper. There Rain meets three other part-Indian teens and starts to recover a lost friendship with Black Queenie, once Galen's girlfriend. Various family and community conflicts impact Rain, but they do not deter her from her journey toward recovery. On Galen's birthday, she visits her mother's grave at the cemetery, not quite ready to visit Galen's, but she is definitely ready for life. A quick and easy read that will appeal to preteen and young teen girls, this novel is especially suited to ethnically mixed, Native American, or reluctant readers. Except for Rain, who deals with racial and emotional issues, character development and plot are superficial. The story's focus on death and grief recovery is a popular subject with young teens, and the open-ended conclusion is well suited for a sequel. Readers might see more of Rain. PLB . VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P J S(Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, HarperCollins, 139p, . Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Laura Woodruff SOURCE: VOYA, June 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 2)
School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-Cassidy Rain Berghoff has sustained some powerful losses in her young life. The tragic accidents that claimed the lives of her mother and, more recently, her best friend, Galen, have made this middle schooler introspective, but she's still got her sense of humor. While her Kansas community discusses the funding for her aunt's Indian Camp, and her older brother faces marriage and parenthood, Rain is trying to sort out who she is in this novel by Cynthia Leitich Smith (HarperCollins, 2001). The author brings many of her own life experiences to this multifaceted, coming-of-age novel. Jenna Lamia's nuanced narration balances the story's comic and serious elements. The sound quality is good, and there is helpful information on the cassettes and case. Though this story may be a bit top heavy on problems, there are enough light-hearted moments to keep readers from getting bogged down. It will fit well in libraries serving multicultural, middle school audiences.-Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
PLB: 0-06-029504-X Tender, funny, and full of sharp wordplay, Smith's first novel deals with a whole host of interconnecting issues, but the center is Rain herself. At just 14, Rain and her best friend Galen promise always to celebrate their birthdays; hers on New Year's Day, his on the Fourth of July. They had just begun to see themselves not just as best friends but as girl and boy that New Year's Eve night, when Galen is killed in a freak accident. Rain has already lost her mother and her Dad's stationed in Guam. She's close to her Grandpa, her older brother, and his girlfriend, who realize her loss and sorrow but have complicated lives of their own. Her response to Galen's death is tied to her tentative explorations of her own mixed Native American and German/Irish heritage, her need and desire to learn photography and to wield it well, and the general stirrings of self and sex common to her age. Rain has to maneuver all of this through local politics involving Galen's mother and the local American Indian Youth Camp (with its handful of local Indian teens, and Rain's erstwhile "second-best friend" who is black). What's amazing here is Rain's insight into her own pain, and how cleanly she uses language to contain it. (Fiction. 11-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688173975
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 664,048
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 860L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Cynthia Leitich Smith has worked in law, public relations, and journalism. She is a mixed-blood member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Ms. Smith lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and a gray tabby. This is her first book.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Tasty Freckles

From My Journal:

On New Year's Eve, I stood waiting my turn in the express aisle of Hein's Grocery Barn, flipping through the December issue of Teen Lifestyles --

The magazine reported: "'76% of 14-year-old girls who responded to our Heating Up Your Holidays' survey indicated that they had French-kissed a boy. "The next day was my fourteenth birthday, and I'd never kissed a boy-domestic-style or French. Right then, looking at that magazine, I decided to get myself a teen life.

Tradition was on my side. Among excuses for kisses, midnight on New Year's Eve outweighs mistletoe all Christmas season long. Kissing Galen would mark my new year, my birthday, my new beginning.

Or I'd chicken out and drown in a pit of humiliation, insecurity, and despair. Cassidy Rain Berghoff, Rest in Peace.

December 31

That night, Galen and I jogged under the ice-trimmed branches of oaks and sugar maples, never guessing that somebody was watching us through ruffled country curtains and hooded miniblinds. We should've known.

Small-town people make the best spies.

As we tore through the parking lot behind Tricia's Barbecue House, my camera thudded against my hip and I breathed in the chill, the mist, and the spicy smell of smoking beef. Galen's cold hand yanked mine past Phillips 66 Car Wash, Sonic Drive-In, and up the tallest hill in town to N. R. Burnham Elementary. Chewie, my black Lab, led us to the playground, and Galen grinned at me like we were getting away with something.

I thought we were.

Of course Grampa Berghoff hadn't given uspermission to prowl like night creatures on New Year's Eve. Earlier that evening, he'd shelled out twenty-five bucks for pizza delivery and movies, handed me the video rental card, and said, "Watch yourself."

But Galen drew his line at chick flicks, and I drew mine at Anime. Since Mercury Videos carried only about forty tides, we'd already seen everything else.

Galen and I had gone out after the third phone call from his mother: the first to ask if he'd gotten to my house okay, a whopping five blocks; the second to ask if my big brother, Fynn, could drive Galen home -- no problem; and finally to ask if Grampa and Fynn would be back from their dates before midnight. As if.

My high-tops smacked the playground asphalt, and I opened my mouth to catch a snowflake or two. Galen let go of my hand, and I dropped into the swing beside him.

We soared.

Below, Christmas lights outlined rooftops, shop windows, and the clock tower on the Historical Society Museum of Hannesburg, Kansas. Cottony smoke puffed out of chimneys and blurred into clouds. Plastic reindeer hauled Santa's sleigh on top of the new McDonald's.

Perfect, I thought.

Besides haunting the streets and swinging to the heavens, I planned to try out the filters Grampa had tucked into my Christmas stocking the week before. I hoped to compose some shots of my hometown in all of its hazy holiday glitter.

But that's not what I was nervous about.

Glancing at Galen, I could still see my field trip buddy, the one who'd tugged me away from Mrs. Bigler's secondgrade class to find turquoise cotton candy at the American Royal Rodeo. I wasn't a hard sell. With my parents' pocket camera ready, Id hoped to shoot whatever wasn't on the guided tour. When we finally got caught, Mrs. Bigler sentenced us both to keep our noses to the brick wall for a month of recesses.

Through lemonade stands, arcade games, spelling bees, and science fairs, we'd been best friends ever since. When Galen's rock busted out the new streetlight, we both got a tour of the city lockup. When Galen climbed the water tower and couldn't get back down, I'm the one who called the volunteer fire department.

But at Mom's funeral, he was the one who answered for me when people said they were sorry and what a shame. "Thank you for coming," he told them, just like a grown-up. And he'd asked Gramma Scott to check on me after I'd gone into the funeral home ladies' room and decided never to come out.

Galen was the one person who always understood me, the one person I always understood.

Over the past couple of years, though, something had happened. Something unexpected. Something that made me feel squishy inside. Galen's bangs had draped to the nub of his nose. His sweeping golden eyelashes made my stubby dark ones look like bug legs. He'd grown so delicious, I longed to bite the freckles off of his pink cheeks.

As Chewie barked at us from the playground below, I shivered on my swing and scolded myself for leaving the house in only my ladybug-patch jeans and the black silk blouse Aunt Louise had sent me for Christmas. But the silk made me feel sexy, more sophisticated somehow, and I'd worn it, figuring I could use all the attitude I could get.

My watch read twelve minutes until midnight. "Almost time," I announced.

"Hey, birthday girl," Galen called, "guess what I got you."

"I told you ten times that I give up," I answered, pumping my legs, trying to outswing him. "Besides, I'll find out tomorrow."

Galen and I had both been holiday babies, with birthdays outside of the school calendar, and so sometimes people forgot about celebrating us. That's why he'd promised to always remember my birthday, New Year's Day, and I'd promised to always remember his, the Fourth of July. We'd spit-shook on it.

Galen's taste in presents, though, was adventurous. Over the past few years, he'd given me a frog skeleton, a bag of rock-hard gum balls, and a midnight-blue Avon...

Rain Is Not My Indian Name. Copyright © by Cynthia Smith. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2005


    It was a good book. It kept me interested most to all of the time. I would recommend it to people who like heart hitting books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2001

    A fresh new voice in YA literature!

    Rain is Not My Indian Name tells the story of a half-Native girl living in small town Kansas. Cassidy Rain Berghoff is, in so many ways, every-teen, except that her mother is dead, her father is stationed overseas, she lives with her older brother--and she's half Indian. The story turns around Rain's search for her true identity in the absence of her mother, her father, and her best friend Galen, who dies in a freak accident on her fourteenth birthday. She comes to value her own gift for seeing through the lens of a camera and uses it to better view her heritage as the official photographer of Indian Youth Camp. As she struggles to find her place in the world amidst the tangle of family, friendship, local politics, and her own blossoming sexuality, Rain is a character kids of all races will identify with.

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