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Leah Friedman, a thirteen-year-old ""fat blue-eyed Jewish Indian"" in California, welcomes being sent by her adoptive parents to Camp Winnebago in Wisconsin as a chance to get close to the heritage of her biological Chippewa mother. But on the first night at camp Leah's older cousin Torie, a junior counselor, makes a fool and scapegoat of her and from then on she is the butt of the other girls' teasing and practical jokes. (""No, we're not prejudiced because you're Indian. It's just because you're you."") Torie keeps changing, sometimes gratuitously mean and sometimes friendly and contrite, and Leah keeps falling for her until, when they seem very close, Torie pulls the cruellest joke of all. After a climactic canoe trip, on which the senior counselor falls sick and Leah gets the girls through all the white water perils, she discovers that the bone needle and arrowheads she had found buried by a tree and taken so jubilantly as a ""sign"" from her Indian past were cheap tourist trinkets planted by her cousin. Winnebago we're told means dirty water and that's a fair enough characterization of this heavy-handed adventure that has ""something to do with environment and heredity"" and something to do with finding yourself. Terris, whose execution is rarely up to her ideas, has the summer camp scene down pat but she seems unable to select incidents or images that would sharpen the picture or make it interesting or cohesive to outsiders, and as we never see for ourselves just why Leah makes such a natural target or why she so needs Torie's approval, it is hard to share her ups and downs.

Pub Date: June 14th, 1974
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Doubleday