Monday, December 12, 2011

Land of the Midnight Dark

We are almost at the winter solstice.  We have about 4 more minutes to lose here in upstate NY.  But thankfully, we have an actual day - a sunrise, sunshine (sometimes) and finally the sun goes down.

I've always wondered what it is like to have no sunlight at all, for perhaps months on end.  I don't think the 24 hour days of late spring and early summer would ever make up for it.

And what about the native people in these areas?  What are their lives like?  What are their hardships, their joys?  How does the long winter, the swing between lots of sun and lots of dark, color their lives?

In August, I got a small glimmer of that life, in a YA book Blessing's Bead by Debbie Dahl Edwards. 

This is where a post that started out talking about the midnight dark turns....much darker.

The author of Blessing's Bead has now written a YA sequel called My Name is Not Easy.  The story, which has some biographical elements from her husband's life, takes place in the early 1960's.  The book shows that coping with the long dark is the least of the worries of a teenaged boy growing up in Alaska torn between two cultures.  Some of his experiences are harrowing and others are hard for us to understand.   But they all happened to natives of Alaska during that time period, a shameful period in our country's history.

The dark of their lives was not caused by the midnight dark.

What happens, for example, when a growing boy is prohibited from speaking his native language during the school year at his boarding school (beaten if he is found speaking his native language) and then goes home for the summer?  What happens when his younger brother is taken from his family by those same school authorities and sent to Texas to live with a white family?  What happens when the boy is the unwitting subject of a medical experiment performed by our government?

The story ends before the boy is grown, but a quick search of the Internet gives a peak into what happened to those men and women as adults.  It isn't pretty.

Once again, a YA book tackles a subject that deserves to be more well-known.

I will never think of the midnight sun in the same way again.

1 comment:

  1. This book is getting lots of press in the librarian community - hopefully, it will get into the hands and hearts of many young adult (and adult) readers so that these experiences are not repeated again. (Did the majority learn nothing from the difficulties brought on by the Bureau of Indian Affairs' policies about Native Americans and boarding schools in the 19th & 20th centuries?!)

    **Katy M
    Recommending YA books beyond the bestsellers at
    Follow me on Twitter @BooksYALove


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