Publisher’s summary: Margaritte is a sharp-tongued, drug-dealing, sixteen-year-old Native American floundering in a Colorado town crippled by poverty, unemployment, and drug abuse. She hates the burnout, futureless kids surrounding her and dreams that she and her unreliable new boyfriend can move far beyond the bright lights of Denver that float on the horizon before the daily suffocation of teen pregnancy eats her alive.
Filled with complex characters overcoming and being overcome by circumstances of their surroundings, Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend thoroughly shakes up cultural preconceptions of what it means to be Native American today.
Review: Margaritte pulled me into the book almost immediately. Her voice is raw and honest as she shares her life and opinions in this excellent coming-of-age novel. Margaritte makes no attempt to hide as a narrator. She shows her vulnerability in the midst of her strength. She struggles through difficult situations and decisions and along the way, she drew me into her life completely. It reminded me a lot of Gabi, A Girl in Pieces and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kiss Your Ass in that these three young women have voices that will ring in my head for a long time to come. They also share realities that perhaps some people want to ignore. They are realities though, that many young adults may be experiencing.
Reading the summary, it is clear that poverty, drugs, and the many difficulties that surround those things permeate this story. It’s also a book that takes on identity, class, addictions, violence, stereotypes and more, but this is not all readers see here. I also found hope, beauty, family ties, friendship, and strength. One aspect that stood out was Margaritte’s relationship with her cousin Jake. Some of their shared activities do lead to trouble, but they have each other’s back – always. Even after Margaritte’s mother was furious with Jake after a dangerous encounter she said, “He loves her, even if they are both screwing up their lives together.” There is no doubt that they make some poor choices, but they also hold each other up through the rough patches of life.
Beyond Jake, she has younger twin sisters that she loves and cares for, her mother and father and a small circle of friends. Within her group of friends, many have experienced or are in desperate situations and are looking for any way out through drugs, money, education or other dreams both realistic or fantastical. Loneliness, desperation and addictions lead to many poor decisions, but again, I saw that friendship, love, hope and inner strength also led to positive choices too.
Without totally spoiling things, I would say that not everyone that Margaritte loves is helpful or even safe to be around. She has so many things to navigate and she does this with her dry sense of humor. After someone asks about the black eye she is sporting, he says, “No one should hit someone with a face like yours.” Her instant response is, “No one should hit someone with a face.”
In the publishers summary, the final sentence addresses another big plus for this book. It, “…shakes up cultural preconceptions of what it means to be Native American today.” There are so many ideas about what it means to be Native American and many of them are not even close to reality. In Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend, there are characters that show many faces of Native America and the majority do not live on a reservation. Margaritte’s family is Apache, Chickasaw, Cherokee and white. Her cousin Jake was adopted and is Nez Perce, Arapahoe, Cheyenne and Black. Megan and Will are from the Oglala reservation. There were characters involved that were from other Nations too. Not only are characters from different Nations, but there are other distinctions like religion, language, beliefs and priorities. It would be difficult to finish reading this book and have a single picture of Native Americans.
Recommendation: Buy it now for many reasons that I am not even sure I can communicate. Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend shares a deep look into life. There are no easy fixes or answers, but the people in this story are striving and enduring. Most are working towards a positive future even when things may look futile. This is certainly not a Disney movie, but it’s a story of strength and beauty.