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A Cherokee Boy

by Joseph Bruchac

Age Range: 9 - 14

Pub Date: June 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0439121973
Publisher: Scholastic

Sixteen-year-old Jesse narrates in journal form the events leading up to the forced relocation of the Cherokee Nation from its ancestral (and treaty-granted) territory to Indian Country in 1838. Jesse is a thoughtful boy who has had to give up his mission schooling in order to take care of the family farm after the murder of his father at the hands of white thugs three years earlier. Earnestly he informs his journal of the internal politics of the Cherokee Republic, the cultural history of his people, the economics of ethnic cleansing, and the appalling conditions of the forced march of 17,000 men, women, and children across 800 to 1,200 miles of unforgiving terrain. As with all of the My Name Is America entries, the need to tell a story vies with the imperative to educate, all within a patently artificial format. The text here becomes acutely self-conscious: when asked for whom he is writing the journal, Jesse stumbles for a moment and then says, “Anyone”—which excuses a lot of the exposition that would not likely occur in an actual journal. The writing is mostly formal, but by and large a real and likable character emerges, and Bruchac (How the Chipmunk Got His Stripes, 2000, etc.) packs in an extraordinary amount of information about a painful (and shameful) chapter of American history that rarely rates more than a paragraph in history books. Lengthy notes at the end describe the author’s research methods and his approach to writing the book. The requisite appendices include a historical note, archival photographs, and a tear-stained pullout map of the Trail of Tears. (Fiction. 9-14)