Title: Give Me Some Truth
Author: Eric Gansworth
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Review copy: Borrowed final copy from library
Availability: On shelves now
Summary: Carson Mastick is entering his senior year of high school and desperate to make his mark, on the reservation and off. A rock band — and winning the local Battle of the Bands, with its first prize of a trip to New York City — is his best shot. But things keep getting in the way. Small matters like the lack of an actual band, or the fact that his brother just got shot confronting the racist owner of a local restaurant.
Maggi Bokoni has just moved back to the reservation from the city with her family. She’s dying to stop making the same traditional artwork her family sells to tourists (conceptual stuff is cooler), stop feeling out of place in her new (old) home, and stop being treated like a child. She might like to fall in love for the first time too.
Carson and Maggi — along with their friend Lewis — will navigate loud protests, even louder music, and first love in this stirring novel about coming together in a world defined by difference.
Review: In this time where we seem to be inundated with half-truths and outright lies, Give Me Some Truth speaks truth. There are hard truths shared within this compelling story of teens taking a long look at themselves and their community.
If I Ever Get Out of Here, the first novel in this set, followed a young man named Lewis who is also in this book. It would definitely make this story easier to understand if one has read the first story so I strongly recommend reading them in order, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. Both books have a heavy emphasis on the music of The Beatles. Gansworth uses Beatles references throughout the book and since there is an emphasis on John Lennon, he also included quite a bit about Yoko Ono. This worked really well since Maggi shared some similar artistic leanings with Ono. Maggi is a musician and an artist. I really appreciated her need to blend traditional Native art and music with her modern art leanings. She loves and respects the traditional music and art, but wants to be able to speak her personal truths with her own voice and this means stepping out from what her community would expect. Gansworth shares visions of this artwork at the beginning of the book and in between some of the chapters. It’s an awesome addition to the story.
The story has so much happening. Maggi has spent a lot of time as an urban Native and her family returns to the reservation. Carson notes that she is from the reservation, but she is not of it. Maggi doesn’t feel quite like she belongs and has become used to moving around in White spaces. Her family sells crafts among Native people so it’s not like she isn’t around other Indians, but the spaces are distinct. Carson notices this when he steps into several spaces with a majority of White people. He sees Maggi navigating such spaces and sees that they don’t have the same experiences and references. Maggi slowly becomes more and more a part of the reservation and readers come to know this place too. There is a strong sense of place within the story.
There is also a tremendous amount of racism to discover within the pages of this book. It’s often quite overt like the ‘No Indians’ sign in a local spot called Custard’s Last Stand (a restaurant with all kinds of problematic issues). There is a also a lot of covert racism and ignorance happening too. Many people are completely clueless about treaties, sovereignty, and simply what it means to be Indian. One White farmer questions Carson about what kind of Indian he is, “He grabbed my arm, and held ours side by side. ‘My arms are tanner than yours.’ ” As if skin color is the primary marker of what it means to be Indian.
Gansworth is an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation. He is writing from his own truth. Through Carson, Maggi, Lewis, and the many other characters, readers hear voices from the reservation. These are teens figuring out who they are in the world. They are working out how they will express themselves and what they want to say when they do share with the world. These characters ultimately find their own unique ways to express their truths.
Recommendation: Get it now especially if you enjoyed If I Ever Get Out of Here. Gansworth created a multi-layered story with characters who feel amazingly real.
The author speaks about the book: