Book Review: Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask

Title: Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask

Author: Anton Treuer

Genres:  Non-fiction

Pages: 400

Publisher: Levine Querido

Review Copy: Copy provided by Publisher

Availability: Available now

Summary: From the acclaimed Ojibwe author and professor Anton Treuer comes an essential book of questions and answers for Native and non-Native young readers alike. Ranging from “Why is there such a fuss about nonnative people wearing Indian costumes for Halloween?” to “Why is it called a ‘traditional Indian fry bread taco’?” to “What’s it like for natives who don’t look native?” to “Why are Indians so often imagined rather than understood?”, and beyond, Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask (Young Readers Edition) does exactly what its title says for young readers, in a style consistently thoughtful, personal, and engaging.

Updated and expanded to include:

• Dozens of New Questions and New Sections—including a social activism section that explores the Dakota Access Pipeline, racism, identity, politics, and more!

• Over 50 new Photos

• Adapted text for broad appeal

Review: The ARC for the young reader’s edition of Anton Treuer’s 2012 book that answered questions about Native American Indians happened to fall into my lap so I thought I’d spend some time during my spring break reading the questions that had been asked to Treuer throughout the years and his illuminating responses. I’m glad that I spent some time this week exploring this book because I learned so much from it while enjoying the read at the same time.

Anton Treuer is Ojibwe professor who grew up on the Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota. In the introduction we learn much about his life and what inspired him to write this book, both the adult and young reader version. The book is split into sections such as Terminology, History, Religion Culture & Identity, Politics, Education, Social Activism, and ending with Finding Ways to Make a Difference. Each section has a series of questions that Treuer uses to answer in a conversational manner. He makes sure to stress repeatedly throughout the book that he does not speak for all Native American Indians and uses his own life experiences as examples in the book. Since Treuer has traveled throughout the country speaking with other Native American Indians, he is able to write and share the perspectives from other tribes he has interacted with to give a fuller picture of Native American Indian culture. Some of the questions get right to attacking stereotypes and some of the questions Treuer takes the time to explain why a concept is so hurtful to Native American Indians (such as the mascot issue). Many of the questions explore Native American Indian life and culture in a way that is easy for the non-Native to understand but doesn’t delve too deep into specific customs as I know that some tribes are sensitive to sharing parts of their culture to non-Natives. Using his own experiences, highlighting his family and close friends who definitely gave him permission, is the strength of this book and at times Treuer doesn’t hold back in his criticisms of US policies towards Native American Indians. Since many of these questions are taken from actual questions he’s been asked at his talks, Treuer definitely has a lot of patience, thought sometimes he does hit back in his responses (One example: “Q: Why are Indian politics often such a vipers’ pit? A: Why are American politics such a vipers’ pit?” Reader, I cackled.)

Overall, I enjoyed the book and learned a lot at the same time. The format of the book allows one to read it straight through or bounce around. I started reading it straight through, then bounced around and I enjoyed reading it both ways. To me, I found the History section very illuminating as I learned about specific policies I’d never heard of before. And of course, I really enjoyed the Education section  that went into depth about the residential schools and their disastrous effects that Native American Indians still experience today. The book was also filled with current information such as discussing how the Navajo Nation was effected by COVID-19. This book is a great book to be shared with educators to use in their classes to show that Native American Indians are not a people of the past but are a people of our present and our future.