From goodreads: Luke knows his I’nupiaq name is full of sounds white people can’t say. He knows he’ll have to leave it behind when he and his brothers are sent to boarding school hundreds of miles from their Arctic village. At Sacred Heart School things are different. Instead of family, there are students – Eskimo, Indian, White – who line up on different sides of the cafeteria like there’s some kind of war going on. And instead of comforting words like tutu and maktak, there’s English. Speaking I’nupiaq – or any native language – is forbidden. And Father Mullen, whose fury is like a force of nature, is ready to slap down those who disobey. Luke struggles to survive at Sacred Heart. But he’s not the only one. There’s smart-aleck Amiq, a daring leader – if he doesn’t self destruct; Chickie, blond and freckled, a different kind of outsider; and small quiet Junior, noticing everything and writing it all down. Each has their own story to tell. But once their separate stories come together, things at Sacred Heart School – and in the wider world – will never be the same.
I love the title of this book! I think Luke recognizes that not only is his name hard to pronounce, but that it is hard sometimes to be himself. I was instantly sucked into the world of this book where Luke, Bunna, and Isaac are preparing to leave their home and travel hundreds of miles away to attend school. Set in the 1960’s with only one phone in the village, I can’t imagine the heartache or worry of having to send your children so far away to get an education.
Initially, I was a little confused about the characters. Each chapter is written in a different voice, and several are introduced quickly. But once I got into the pacing of the book, it all made sense. It was very interesting to see the world from the different perspectives of Eskimo, indian, and one white character. This book is incredible at teaching about stereotyping and prejudice. I loved one scene where an eskimo boy and an indian boy pretend to be brothers, and then laugh because a white general can’t tell the difference. I love books that teach the importance of accepting differences in people.
This is a powerfully-written book about a topic I really knew nothing about–Native Alaskans being sent to boarding schools. I liked reading about the adventures the kids had and seeing the lessons they learned. I appreciated reading the afterwords of the book and seeing that many of the kids took the education they’d received and used it as adults to help the towns they grew up in.
I loved what the author said about writing: “Everbody has a vision that is theirs alone. Mine has been molded by living with the Iñupiat, the Real People of the Arctic, from whom I have learned much and am still learning. Theirs is a spirit as strong and beautiful as the Arctic itself and, as a writer, I seek always to share this spirit with my readers.” I felt that connection through this book. It is a beautifully written and heart-felt story.
Award: National Book Award Nominee for Young People’s Literature (2011)