Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today
Grade7th and up
With ten well known authors: Joy Harjo, Sherman Alexie, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Richard Van Camp, Linda Hogan, Joseph Bruchac, Louise Erdrich, Greg Sarris, Lee Francis, and Susan Powers, a reader could not go wrong when choosing this wonderful book! Each author offers an experience seemingly from their childhood that resonates within Native readers. The reader may not have experienced the exact experience but will nod their head knowingly and in agreement with each piece they read. The stories are not of forced assimilation, but of escape from the realities of a complicated life that stems from genocide, stereotypes, assimilation, annihilation, alcoholism, poverty and the resilience of Native peoples.
Joy Harjo writes about a boarding school experience of a young woman. She was shipped to boarding school as to not be a bother to her step-father, while there she made friends, and was able to establish herself as respectable and reliable; even if she drank on occasion.
Sherman Alexie writes of the slow painful separation and divorce of parents, and the needs of a young boy to be seen/heard/taught by his father. A teenage boy finds that his dad remembers only the good things from a bad marriage and his mom tries to forget and each deals with the loneliness that follows.
Cynthia Leitich Smith shows an example of everyday struggles Native people have with stereotypes, and the pain it causes on all sides. The young man in the story deals with his issues of not looking like the stereotypical Indian and yet at the same time knows the drudgery of being a “real live Indian” which makes you an automatic expert for students and their papers.
Richard Van Camp gives us a glimpse into the life of addiction, loss, and the struggle to overcome poverty by showing us Kevin Garner’s dreams of being a teacher and his struggle to overcome choices available to him as he was becoming an adult.
Linda Hogan demonstrates the pride, generosity and determination of our elders through her tale of Grandma. An elder living on the reservation selling eggs and grain to make ends meat, when two of her grandchildren come for a visit. Upon their arrival they witness the strength and wisdom of grandma as she refuses the hand outs from a limo riding high heel clad woman and offers her a fuzz covered peppermint candy from her apron pocket.
Joseph Bruchac tells of mentorship’s and family ties that strengthen and build self esteem. Uncle Tommy a, seventy year old, Swenoga Indian that is an uncle by marriage tutors a young Abenaki in costumes of the tribe and edits his stories on trips to places like Lake George where he was hired to bring the ice and he did.
Louise Erdrich shocks us with a touch of adolescent racism, anger, and lust as a young man heads to town to sell his kill. He thinks of the girl he wants and looses himself in thought, and doesn’t notice the youngest daughter of the horse thieving drunken Lazarree’s, Marie running toward him. He assumes she has stolen the Nun’s linen and tries to make her return it and in the struggle realizes that she is a woman. In embarrassment he offers her his kill and in pity.
Greg Sarris lets us see into the urban Indian family, some of the individual ways that people cope with one another, themselves and other abuses. Jasmine decides to live with her cousin Ruby and crazy Auntie Faye rather than live with her own mother and grandmother. Everything seems to be okay until Jasmine’s mom steals Auntie Faye’s new boyfriend, but that’s when the real trouble begins.
Lee Francis shares a story of realization, oral tradition, and ways things are passed from one generation to the next. A young adult sits and listens to a storyteller weave a tale of creation, through the story the child learns about patience, biting off more than one can chew, risk taking, and the power of storytelling.
Susan Powers speaks to the importance of community and family with her tale of the Urban Indian Center. Living with Grandma Lizzie on the income from sales of her bead work has not been easy. Having to go to the 2nd hand store for clothes, picking the bruised fruit for the bargains and living in cockroach infested apartments has taught Fawn the importance of imagination. She checks Grandma’s closet every night to see if she can find that magical world that C.S. Lewis described as Narnia. Fawn also ignores the name calling from the kids at school by keeping her nose in her books. Her imagination and gift for storytelling finally pays off… she has friends that know what it’s like to be Native.
Before you start
Marlette Grant-Jackson – ITEPP-CRC