Thank you to Candlewick Press for my free review copy of Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith. This book released on October 9th.
Hearts Unbroken is the story of Louise Wolfe, a Native teenager, Muscogee Nation. She deals with all of the normal teenage angsts-boys, friends, hormones, etc., but she also wrestles with what it is to be a Native person, the “Hollywood Indian” that is commonly used in the narrative of Thanksgiving and other historic events and on sports teams, what it means to be a Native person in America. She is navigating how to deal with the misappropriation of her culture and how to reconcile what she knows with what she sees in her world.
I really enjoyed this YA novel. It is fiction, but loosely based on real accounts from the author’s own experience. I really loved Louise and her family, and I enjoyed the narrative as a whole. I especially found the relationship between Louise and her Lebanese-American boyfriend compelling in that within the context of Louise’s relationship with him, she must confront her own biases and stereotyping.
I liked this book and thought it was a fast read. I did think it times it seemed a little over-simplified and predictable–in terms of how conflicts were resolved. However, it gave me a whole lot to think about, and overall, I think it is a great place for young people to start in understanding the Native experience in America. I think what stood out to me most is my own participation in the misappropriation of Native culture. This book made me realize how important it is to fight the stereotypes of the “Hollywood Indian” portrayed in American culture and to refuse to accept this misappropriation.
Don’t miss this: There is a great author’s notes section where Smith explains how the book came about and how she researched and included some of her own story into the book. I found this portion of the book especially enlightening.
Bottom Line: 3/5 I like this book for its accessibility and approachability for teenagers to a subject that is presently underrepresented in YA literature.
A Note from Ashley, Jen, and Sara
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