People of the Whale

Nov 15th, 2008 | By | Category: 20-2: Native Green, Media Reviews

W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. (2008)

Review by Tina Deschenie

This book brings you deep into the realm of a people who have ancient, complex ties to the natural world – land, ocean, forest, whale, and octopus – through a compelling and insistent narrative.

The central characters are all survivors. Thomas Just survives the Vietnam War but must then survive the rest of his life as well. Ruth, a woman who loves him throughout his lifetime, is resolute and true to the teachings of her people, no matter how that isolates her.

Lin, Thomas’s half-Vietnamese daughter, lives a tragic life, clinging to the memory of her American father. For me, hers was the most wrenching of the book’s narratives.

Hogan writes about people who honor relations with one another from within their truest selves. They understand beings and elements of the natural world as essential parts of themselves: who they originated from and the holders of real power and relevance.

This book questions war, presenting a Native war hero who spends years silenced and tormented by what he has been forced to do. In the end, the songs and the ways of his people are the truths that restore him.

As she usually does, Hogan presents women who overcome extreme adversity even as they continue to love and nurture others.

I highly recommend this book for the tribal college libraries.

Tina Deschenie (Diné/Hopi) is editor of the Tribal College Journal.

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