Published: 12 September 2017
Genres: Young Adult Nonfiction, Biography
Available as: Hardcover, Paperback, E-book
#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale is an anthology with four themes that centres the voices of 58 female Native American contributors located in North America. These four themes are the ties that bind us, it could have been me, I am not your princess, and pathfinders. The various forms of the texts illustrate the many ways in which culture manifests itself – through art, photography, interviews, poems, essays, letters, clothing design, and social media posts. It is the 2018 winner of the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Nonfiction.
“[W]hen the government gives you something, they take all you have in return – your pride, your dignity, all the things that make you a living soul” – Maria Campbell
I would recommend this book to young adults who are interested in deconstructing their biases and learning about Native American culture from the source. The quote above is from the passage, Blankets of Shame, under the theme, the ties that bind us. This quote encapsulates the experience of having to dissect one’s identity and compartmentalize various social identities to attempt to find a place to belong.
There are three passages that speak to me the most.
- The first is The Things We Taught Our Daughters by Helen Knott under the theme, it could have been me. As I was reading, it reminded me of A Letter to My Son: The Perils of Raising a Black Man in America or Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Letter to My Son. These texts channel parents’ desire to protect their children. However, they recognize that by not preparing their children for how others may view them, they can contribute to harming their children. Therefore, this text emphasizes that daughters need to know they are human beings worthy of dignity and respect even when others may not agree.
- The second is A Conversation with a Massage Therapist by Francine Cunningham. Although short, the conversation is one that happens in real life. When meeting someone new, people feel the need to ask others about their background and continue to pry until they receive the answers they want to hear. When they continue to ask “what are you”, they refuse to acknowledge that there are several layers to a person’s identity.
- In the pathfinders section of the text, there are profiles of Native American women who are following their dreams. By having these profiles, the text provides role models for people to look to as examples of hope and encouragement to dream beyond the stereotypes.
By having multiple contributors, readers can find texts that speak to them and help them on their learning journey.