2015 USA Regional Excellence Book Awards Finalist - How did Blake end up on a Montana Indian Reservation? There's no snowboarding on this flat prairie, all his friends are back in Bozeman for their junior year, and his dad's the school principal. Could it get much worse?
The visit to Little Bighorn Battlefield doesn't help. Custer and his men were killed on these hillsides fighting the Sioux and Cheyenne, tribes who sought to protect their land and lifestyle. How much hatred and anger still remained toward white people like himself?
He'd been stoked to compete in snowboarding, and hang out with friends in the Montana mountains. Now instead, he's thrust into the middle of a culture he doesn't understand, among people he doesn't know.
Who does Larry Big Lip think he is, taunting him at the first Powder River High football practice? Blake's not getting shoved around by anybody.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.56(d)|
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Culture Clash It seems that for a little while anyway, I am destined to read stories that have to do with racism, discrimination, and bigotry. While this isn't the entire thrust of this first novel by Theresa Nichols Schuster, it does weave its way through the story as Blake Newman tries to find his place and his future in his first year living on Sandstone Bluffs Reservation in eastern Montana. I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Blake Newman lives in Bozeman, Montana where he is a serious contender in snowboarding competitions and attends high school with friends he has known since kindergarten. He loves the freedom of flying through the air, hitting the white powder on the slopes, and working at Taco Bell. He is good at sports and has a talent and eye for art. The last thing he wants is for his dad to take a job as principal at rez high school on the "hot, dry, brown, and flat" landscape surrounding the tiny town of Powder River. From the very beginning, we see Blake struggling to understand why his parents would want this move; he can only see his own side of things. It is even more complicated by the facts he learns about the battle of the Little Bighorn -- how the soldiers shot down women and children, and how the Lakota and Cheyenne took scalps, and then the women punctured the eardrums of the dead -- and the way "the dark brown skin of the other patrons [in Pete's Pizza] pressed in on him in a physically tangible way." Moving here is the last thing in the world he wants! Until he meets Nicki! I was caught up in the story right from the beginning. Blake and his family are at the Little Bighorn Memorial site, having arrived a day early for the interviews both his parents have -- his father for the principalship of the high school (PRHS) and his mother with Indian Health Services (IHS). I hadn't read very far before I got on the Internet to learn more about the site and to see photos of the "outlines of Indian warriors stretching up into the sky . . . in a large circular area made of stones". They are stunning. I found it interesting that Blake is a diabetic, and though he had some trouble coming to grips with it in the past, he is quite competent at determining his sugar levels, how much insulin to take, and giving himself shots. The snake with syringe tattooed on his hip, helped him accept his situation. Blake goes out for the football team and right away makes a friend and an enemy. One of the coaches, Coach Walks Alone, is also the art teacher, and Blake likes him right from the start. The title of the book comes from the huge painting on the lobby wall -- "a large orange-and-black drawing of the head of an Indian warrior. Beneath it was "We Are the Warriors". He soon recognizes some of the classic problems among reservation young people -- drugs, and alcohol. He also quickly realizes that some natives don't want him there, and some of the whites are totally intolerant. He found it strange the way there was tribal law and city, state, and federal laws which were different and applied according to whether or not you are registered on the reservation. At first, he just wants to be back in Bozeman, but then he wonders if he and Nicki can overcome cultural differences and have a future together. He's confused. His friend Jordan gets him thinking about a "vision quest" to help him get a balanced outlook on who he is and what he should do. This is a great story to help young people learn more about different cultures and about learning to accept others. The snowboarding, football, and track and field sequences are all exciting and authentic. The various concepts of culture are presented in a meaningful way, along with all the angst of being a teenager anywhere, white or native, coping with the pressures that entails. I loved the art trip to the big city and then to the Pictograph Caves; it's great when you read about teachers (even fictional ones) who put themselves out to enrich the lives of their students. A great "coming of age" story especially for boys. Theresa Nichols Schuster lives in Bozeman, Montana and spent 30 years living, working, and playing on the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Reservation in remote northeast Montana in Wolf Point.
"We Are the Warriors" opens at the Little Big Horn Battlefield in southeastern Montana. Sixteen-year-old Blake, with his parents and older brother, have stopped to sightsee on their way to the small town of Powder River, on an Indian reservation, where Blake's father will be employed as the new high school principal. Blake is alternately bored and horrified at the scene, the graves, the reminders of the famous battle where George Armstrong Custer and his troops were in effect massacred in their ill-fated part of the attempt to end Native Americans' resistance against the encroachment of European-Americans into their lands and their way of life. Mostly, Blake is angry. He's lived all his life in the small, affluent city of Bozeman. Now he's going to be separated from his friends and made to spend his junior year at a new school, among people he knows nothing about, but who he suspects will not be his friends. He'll have to give up – or at least to postpone – his dreams of becoming a world-class snowboarder. He thinks his parents have no right to plunge him helplessly into a situation he knows he'll hate. The battlefield, complete with Blake's mixed reaction to it, is an appropriate setting for the opening scene of this novel, which throughout explores ambiguous conflict – between Blake and some of his schoolmates, between Blake and his parents, and most of all within Blake himself. I'll confess here that I'm seldom a big fan of YA fiction (with the exception of some of the greats – Lois Lowry, Christopher Paul Curtis, etc.). Too often, even when a YA novel is concerned with personal difficulties and dilemmas that concern teenagers themselves, the characters seem to me to be sort of lifelike puppets, moving in the directions that the adult author has decided they ought to move. "We Are the Warriors" DOES NOT strike me this way! The characters are real, and I totally believe in them. The adults make mistakes, but I can see they are struggling to do and say the right things. The kids are real kids, up one day and down the next, fighting to see their way forward into growing up. Blake is sometimes a jerk, sometimes confused, sometimes too sure of himself and sometimes not sure enough, but he has a good heart and he is, finally, a hero worthy of being at the center of this novel. And I loved the way the book ended. Highly recommended, for teen AND adult readers!