Book Discussion – Urban Tribes: Native Americans in the City

Urban-Tribes
Urban Tribes: Native Americans in the City – edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
Published by Annick Press

Publisher’s blurb: Young, urban Natives powerfully show how their culture and values can survive—and enrich—city life.

Much of the popular discourse on Native Americans and Aboriginals focuses on reservation life. But the majority of Natives in North America live off the rez. How do they stay rooted to their culture? How do they connect with their community?

Urban Tribes offers unique insight into this growing and often misperceived group. Emotionally potent and visually arresting, the anthology profiles young urban Natives from across North America, exploring how they connect with Native culture and values in their contemporary lives. Their stories are as diverse as they are. From a young Dene woman pursuing a MBA at Stanford to a Pima photographer in Phoenix to a Mohawk actress in New York, these urban Natives share their unique perspectives to bridge the divide between their past and their future, their cultural home, and their adopted cities.

Unflinchingly honest and deeply moving, contributors explore a wide-range of topics. From the trials and tribulations of dating in the city to the alienating experience of leaving a remote reserve to attend high school in the city, from the mainstream success of Electric Pow wow music to the humiliation of dealing with racist school mascots, personal perspectives illuminate larger political issues. An innovative and highly visual design offers a dynamic, reading experience.


Most of our posts are focused on novels, so for this month we decided to take a little time with a different format for a change. A few of us were able to get review copies via Netgalley and will share some of our thoughts about Urban Tribes here.

Crystal: Lisa Charleyboy (’Tsilhqot’in from Tsi Del Del), one of the editors, explains, “We’re diverse in our opinions, lived experiences and points of cultural connection but similar in our desire for defining our identity and creating culturally safe spaces in our communities and our cities.”

This collection really highlights the diversity of urban Natives. I appreciate the many ways that the contributors used to express themselves. There are essays, but it delivers more than essays. As with Dreaming in Indian, the variety of formats makes this collection stand out. People contributed poetry, artwork, photo essays, interviews and more.

Charleyboy mentions that “desire for defining our identity.” This can clearly be seen in the photo essay by K.C. Adams titled ‘Perception.’ Each person has two photos of themselves featured side by side. One is labeled with a racist remark and one is labeled with terms they’ve used to define themselves. It’s a powerful collection. To see the photo essay, visit K.C. Adams’ website here.

I really appreciated the essay by Neebin Ishkoday (Oji-Cree)  about her time moving from the reserve to Thunder Bay and the racism she faced there. The racism inspired her to become an activist. She closes her essay with this, “We need to learn to speak up for ourselves–especially young people who face racism and discrimination.” Collections like this are one place that these voices can be heard.

Jessica: The thing I find most powerful about the collection is how many perspectives and voices are showcased. The focus is on “telling our stories”, as opposed to other people speaking on their behalf. Like Crystal noted, each piece in the book is different — there are interviews, articles, poetry, art, and even social media.

I liked this quote by Nicholas Galanin in particular: “Our communities change, our relationships to the land change, our local knowledge of the land also adopts and grows in urban space. We are influenced by and are part of a beautiful diversity in these urban communities. Our relationship with the land environment is real and sincere.”

Crystal: Contributor and author Michael Woestehoff (Navajo) said, “First, there needed to be more tribal citizens telling our stories from our perspective and through our eyes.” This work and the previous book, Dreaming in Indian, are perfect opportunities for tribal citizens to tell those stories.

Dr. Adrienne Keene shares her post from earlier in the year, “Dear Native Student, You are Loved.” In addition, the social media tag #DearNativeYouth is highlighted. The hip hop duo, Mob Bounce, explain that they have a responsibility to all youth. This book provided a space for young voices to be heard, but it also speaks directly to youth. It speaks of hope, community and strength.

Also, Debbie Reese’s has an excellent review of Urban Tribes here.

Karimah: What struck me most about Urban Tribes was the fact that so many of the stories shared were by folks who had encountered racism and discrimination, but didn’t let that stop them, and were also devoted to helping future generations succeed. A number of the contributors found themselves the “token” in a variety of spaces, and decided to create their own support systems. I found what the young men of Mob Bounce said, “It’s been prophesied that we are the generation that will make the necessary changes to ensure a better world for our future generations,” pivotal because a number of the stories shared in Urban Tribes were about young people speaking up – about their generation specifically, working to bring about change.

My favorite piece was the spoken word piece “Love You Some Indians” by poet Roanna Shebala. I could imagine the power and strength of her words as she wrote about how American/Canadian culture loves the ideas/stereotypes of Indians, but doesn’t actually love the people. It reminds me of Amandla Stenberg’s YouTube video that pointed out how America loves Black culture, but doesn’t love the people. I feel like if our youth like Roanna and Amandla keep speaking out, change will eventually come.

Links to some of the contributors and their work:
Chantal Rondeau – http://chantalrondeau.com/
Tasha Spillett – https://twitter.com/TashaSpillett
Devery Jacobs – https://www.facebook.com/deveryjacobs
K.C. Adams – http://www.kcadams.net/
Mob Bounce – https://www.facebook.com/mobbounce
Rowie Shebala – https://www.facebook.com/RowieShebalaPoetry/timeline
Video of Shebala performing poem “Love You Some Indians” https://youtu.be/UvvYRhU5hvk
Nicholas Galanin – http://galan.in/
Dr. Adrienne Keene – https://twitter.com/NativeApprops
Dr. Adrienne Keene’s “You Are Loved” post http://nativeappropriations.com/2015/01/dear-native-college-student-you-are-loved.html
Gabrielle Scrimshaw – includes Tedx Talk http://www.gabriellescrimshaw.com/
Virtual tour of Indian Alley – https://round.me/tour/965/view

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Group Discussion of If I Ever Get Out of Here

If I ever get out of here

If I Ever Get Out of Here was a book that caught our attention at Rich in Color, so we decided we should do a group discussion for it. Read on to see what we thought about the book.

Lewis “Shoe” Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he’s not used to is white people being nice to him — people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family’s poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan’s side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis’s home — will he still be his friend?

Acclaimed adult author Eric Gansworth makes his YA debut with this wry and powerful novel about friendship, memory, and the joy of rock ‘n’ roll.

WARNING: SPOILERS THROUGHOUT THE DISCUSSION

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Group Discussion and Giveaway for The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

When Rich in Color first started, the five of us got together on a video chat and talked about what books we were looking forward to reading and reviewing. It turned out that all of us wanted to read The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson, so we decided the only fair thing to do was have a group discussion.

The Summer Prince A heart-stopping story of love, death, technology, and art set amid the tropics of a futuristic Brazil.

The lush city of Palmares Três shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Três will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.

Pulsing with the beat of futuristic Brazil, burning with the passions of its characters, and overflowing with ideas, this fiery novel will leave you eager for more from Alaya Dawn Johnson.

In celebration of this amazing book, we are also having a giveaway! One lucky reader will get to pick between a hardcover or electronic copy of the book. Please note that this giveaway is open to U.S. mailing addresses only.

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WARNING: There are spoilers ahead! Terrible, end-of-the-book spoilers!

Crystal: To start off, what do you all think of the cover image? For me, the design on her skin was stunning and the glow grabbed my attention. I was completely intrigued.

Jessica: It’s definitely eye catching. I liked the green-yellow glow on the cover since it connects to the lush green feeling of Palmares Tres.

Audrey: My first thought upon seeing the cover was “hey, there’s a girl on there that looks like she could be related to me!” That doesn’t happen often, and I was thrilled when I found out that the book was dystopian, too. (People of color are distressingly absent from dystopian/post-apocalyptic tales.)

Crystal: I hadn’t noticed the greens that way Jessica, but it does complement the feeling of the place. The verde. I was more entranced with the light so missed that. Lights seem to be pulsing throughout the story: their first art project with the holograms, those in her arm and the lights of the city that “sparkle on the bay”. It seems that everyone is trying to be in the light — to stand out. I kept wondering if June and her friends were all going to burn out they were shining so brightly and living so much on the edge.

Karimah: Like Crystal, I was intrigued by the lighting on her arms. The design is beautiful. Also, if you have the hardcover, put it under a light. It will actually glow. I think the choice of the sparkling light of her arms, mixed with the green really complements the feel of the novel, the other-worldly aspect of the story.

Jon: Unfortunately I read it on eBook so I missed the cover, except what I saw online. The glowing arm tattoos sold me quick, as I’m a sucker for tattoos, especially nature ones!

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