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HIDDEN ROOTS by Joseph Bruchac


by Joseph Bruchac

Age Range: 9 - 12

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-439-35358-0
Publisher: Scholastic

Eleven-year-old Howard’s tiny New York town has 1954’s post-war and Cold War concerns, but Howard’s family has more complex scars. A silence surrounding their ancestry involves parental shame and forced ignorance: Howard has no idea what’s going on, only that most questions are forbidden. Physical abuse from his father enforces the tense silence. Uncle Louis, however, shows Howard another kind of silence: strengthening and centered, built around nature, calmness, and listening. Eventually, Uncle Louis tells the secret: they are Abenaki Indians, not whites, closeted because of sterilization laws enacted against Indians in Vermont during those decades. Parallels with Nazi Germany are on target, but Howard’s new knowledge arrives so late that its integration must be instant; also, despite the author’s note’s claim that an abusive person can be made “straight again,” it’s unclear in the text what will happen about the hitting. Worth it, though, for the important subject and Uncle Louis’s solid, rooted depth. (Historical fiction. 9-12)