Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Game of Silence

Erdrich, Louise. 2005. THE GAME OF SILENCE. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0060297905 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]

In this sequel to THE BIRCHBARK HOUSE, the young female protagonist, Omakayas, a nine-year-old Ojibwe girl, goes about her life along the banks of Lake Superior. Her destiny as a healer comes into focus as the story unfolds. The rich language and engrossing story about Omakayas, Angeline, Fishtail, Pinch, Bizheens, Yellow Kettle, Deydey, Nokomis, their grandmother, Old Tallow and the other Anishinabe help transport the reader to the 1850s. Through brilliant storytelling, Erdrich tells about the daily and spiritual life of the Native Anishinabe. These stories were inspired when Erdrich and her mother were researching their own family history, and they provide a description of important cultural traditions that have been lost forever. The glossary and pronunciation guide at the end of the book further authenticate the experience of Omakayas and her people. The reader learns that the Anishinabe was the original name for the Ojibwe or Chippewa people.

Nearly any paragraph in the book can be extrapolated to provide the flavor of the story: “Usually the late sunlight, slanting long beneath the clouds, was Omakayas’s favorite time of day. Nokomis had called it the time when the Creator shows us the most beauty in the light, just so we can remember it in our dreams, and believe in it until the next morning,” (Erdrich 2005, 215)

Study Ojibwe legends with books such as SHINGEBISS: AN OJIBWE LEGEND by Nancy VanLaan, THE LEGEND OF THE LADY SLIPPER: AN OJIBWE TALE by Lise Lunge-Larsen, and THE OJIBWA: PEOPLE OF THE GREAT LAKES by Anne M. Todd.

Other books about Native American life or Midwestern life in the 1850s:
Erdrich, Louise. THE BIRCHBARK HOUSE. ISBN 0786803002
Highwater, Jamake. ANPAO: AN AMERICAN INDIAN ODYSSEY. ISBN 0064404374
Thomasma, Kenneth. KUNU: WINNEBAGO BOY ESCAPES. ISBN 0801088925

By Judy Brown McKenna

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