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RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME by Cynthia Leitich Smith


by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Pub Date: July 31st, 2001
ISBN: 0-688-17397-7
Publisher: HarperCollins

Tender, funny, and full of sharp wordplay, Smith’s first novel deals with a whole host of interconnecting issues, but the center is Rain herself. At just 14, Rain and her best friend Galen promise always to celebrate their birthdays; hers on New Year’s Day, his on the Fourth of July. They had just begun to see themselves not just as best friends but as girl and boy that New Year’s Eve night, when Galen is killed in a freak accident. Rain has already lost her mother and her Dad’s stationed in Guam. She’s close to her Grandpa, her older brother, and his girlfriend, who realize her loss and sorrow but have complicated lives of their own. Her response to Galen’s death is tied to her tentative explorations of her own mixed Native American and German/Irish heritage, her need and desire to learn photography and to wield it well, and the general stirrings of self and sex common to her age. Rain has to maneuver all of this through local politics involving Galen’s mother and the local American Indian Youth Camp (with its handful of local Indian teens, and Rain’s erstwhile “second-best friend” who is black). What’s amazing here is Rain’s insight into her own pain, and how cleanly she uses language to contain it. (Fiction. 11-14)