We Still Belong

HarperAudio. Aug. 2023. 353p. $27.99. ISBN 9780063064614.
Gr 5 Up–Twelve-year-old Wesley, descended from the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, starts Indigenous People’s Day with exciting expectations: seeing her commemorative poem published in the school paper; discussing it in English class; and (the main reason for sleep deprivation) asking Ryan to the school dance. By that evening’s celebratory powwow, the day’s events will have veered far and wide from Wesley’s careful planning. Day adds plenty of backstory to ensure Indigenous (Cherokee and Chicasaw) narrator Rich has a memorable cast to channel. Rich is especially empathic voicing Wesley’s quick-changing emotions—nervous, disappointed, bewildered, joyful—and switching effortlessly between middle schoolers and adults; she's incisively affecting as Wesley’s wise Grandpa and her unpredictable biofather. Day’s treatment of Wesley’s “blood quantum,” further explicated in her author’s note, is notably informative.
VERDICT “We Still Belong, ” the title of Wesley’s poem, becomes an essential invitation for children of all backgrounds.

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