FICTION

Runs with Courage

232p. ebook available. Sleeping Bear. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781585369843.
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Gr 4–6—Set in the Dakota Territory in 1880, this historical novel follows a 10-year-old Lakota girl, Four Winds, of the Great Sioux Reservation. She is taken from her tribe to live in a U.S. government residential boarding school for girls. The boarding school program was designed to force American Indians to assimilate while newcomers took possession of their homelands. This fictional account is a sincere attempt to depict this tragic federal policy of assimilation and make it accessible to children. As the story unfolds, Wolf portrays several realistic situations and historical facts about residential school life (the destruction of all indigenous items, cutting of children's hair, prohibition of Native language, and verbal and physical abuse). The adults at the school are Christians who view the girls as "uncivilized savages." The only exception is Miss Beatrice, who notices Four Winds as a leader. The universal emotions of anger, frustration, loneliness, and resentment of unfair treatment are realistically conveyed. By the end of the book, Four Winds is given a new name, "Runs with Courage," as she decides to become a teacher and help her people. Unfortunately, some of the dialogue and descriptions do not authentically reflect indigenous ways of being. For example, scenes of the children discussing how "warrior-like" fellow classmates will be reveal a stereotypical and incorrect understanding of status in Native communities.
VERDICT As a first impression of the American Indian residential boarding school experience, this lacks authenticity and reinforces some stereotypes. Readers would do better by picking up Shirley Sterling's My Name Is Seepeetza.

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