Zitkala-Ša, whose name means Red Bird, also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, was Yankton Sioux, a musician, writer, composer and activist who was born in the year of Little Bighorn.
Capaldi and Pearce have taken three of the stories Zitkala-Ša wrote for the Atlantic Monthly, presumed to be autobiographical, and retold them with additional material. While the language has been somewhat modernized, it still sounds quite stilted and overwrought to contemporary ears, although it is very much in the heightened style of the time. The stories are powerful: having her long, thick hair cut short at White’s Manual Labor Institute in Wabash, Ind.; winning oratory contests at Earlham College while facing a huge banner with the word “Squaw” on it; teaching at Carlisle Indian School and playing the violin before President McKinley; writing the Sun Dance opera (the first Native American to write an opera and have it staged); working in Washington D.C. for the National Council of American Indians. The illustrations use collages of newspaper clippings, railroad tickets, Atlantic Monthly logos and other archival materials over the loosely drawn, textured images. An afterword, source note and selected bibliographies are included, but the use of the first person may give scholarly pause, especially for young readers, who may not wish to pursue the various bibliographical sources.
An important figure of myriad talents, Zitkala-Ša and her life and works are brought to needed attention here, but it's too bad the treatment isn't a bit clearer. (Fictionalized biography. 8-12)