Walk Till You Disappear

Kar-Ben. Oct. 2019. 208p. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781541557222; pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781541557239.
Gr 6-8–A religious story set in 1872 Arizona. Just before his 13th birthday, Miguel Abrano discovers his family’s Jewish heritage, which immediately threatens the tenets of his Catholic upbringing. Angry and unsettled, Miguel wanders off into the night and is quickly captured by a group of Apache, or Indé. Miguel survives miles of walking through rough terrain and manages to escape his captors. However, the natural perils of the desert and a poisonous scorpion bite put him in danger. The narrative focuses heavily on Miguel’s thoughts on faith and family dynamics but shifts toward an action-based plot after the first 50 pages. Readers will learn about Southwest culture and appreciate the main character’s growth in empathy for others. Greene poses deep questions about the duality of one’s culture and faith and how one chooses to align them. While this work of historical fiction includes an afterword on the Arizona Territory, mission schools, and groups such as the Tohono O’odham and Papago tribe, the story would have benefitted from additional information on the misconceptions of the Apache and their portrayal in mainstream media. The initial depiction of the Apache as raiders who mistreat Miguel and feed him his own horse reinforces a harmful stereotype of Indigenous North Americans as “savage.” While Greene emphasizes Miguel’s admiration of the Apache’s survival in the desert’s harsh climate and their cunning resourcefulness, little is done to contradict this violent portrayal.
VERDICT A faith-based coming-of-age tale that does little to challenge Native American stereotypes.

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