Happy New Year!
Before I jumped into a post about writing or the publishing journey, I wanted to tell you all about a book I read over Christmas. I had been saving it on my nightstand for a day when I knew I'd have the whole day to myself. I'm glad I waited.
The book is called I AM APACHE (Candlewick Press, 2008). It was written by Tanya Landman and, oddly, I found it in the young adult section of my bookstore. Since it's rare to find YA books (or any books) with Native American main characters, I immediately plucked it from the shelf and devoured it in one sitting. I was hooked from the first page. Truth be told, I was hooked when I saw the title! I was not disappointed.
The novel is about a 14-year old Apache girl named Siki and her journey across the American Southwest during the nineteenth century. Loosely based on historical accounts, Landman imagines the Black Mountain Apache as a tribe fighting to survive the devastating progress of both the Mexicans and the White Man on the border between Arizona and Mexico.
At 14, Siki watched as Mexican raiders brutally attacked her mother and little brother. Filled with vengeance, Siki turns away from the usual woman's path of basketmaking, cooking, and child-rearing and decides instead to become a warrior of the Apache tribe. Needless to say, it wasn't an easy one.
Most of the book centers around the four gruesome battles where Siki must prove herself worthy before she can officially join the Tribe's council as a full-fledged warrior. Along the way, she discovers disturbing secrets about her father, visions, and unexpected love with her mentor, Golahka, who also happens to be the tribe's greatest warrior. Through Siki's eyes, the reader learns much about Apache culture, their daily lives, and their intricate relationships before they were so brutally driven from their lands. Because of Tanya's exquisite writing, I could smell the desert, taste the gunpowder, and hear the arrows and bullets fly across the sky. I couldn't put the book down.
My only very small quibble is that I wanted to learn more about Golahka and Siki's father as both were such important characters in the book. I couldn't quite completely accept that Siki's father would leave his wife and children when he learned the truth about his background.
This is not your typical YA with happy endings and easy banter. There isn't a lot of dialogue, in fact. I'd recommend it for older teens and adults of all ages. I will give it to my tween niece when she visits next month only because she is consumed by all things American Southwest and loves strong female characters.
Thank you, Tanya Landman, for writing such a beautiful and heart-wrenching book. I AM APACHE definitely gets four out of four lattes.