Edie’s father is white, and her mother is Native American. A white couple adopted her mother, making Edie curious about her mother’s mysterious heritage. Edie’s curiosity increases after she founds a box in the attic full of photographs and mementos from a woman named Edith who looks like her. As her mother refuses to explain her family’s secrets and history, Edie embarks on a journey to discover her Native American heritage. Why her mother does not want to speak about their culture? What is the big secret?
Christine Day delves into the practice of separating Native American parents from their children in her thoughtful debut novel I Can Make This Promise. The federal government incurred in this terrible practice during the late 19th century. First, the government started to send the children to boarding schools to change their identity. For example, children had to convert to Christianity and speak English. After that, the government implemented the policy of taking Native American children to foster care. Enacted in 1978, The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) made this practice illegal. It also gave tribal governments jurisdiction over where Native American children live.
I Can Make This Promise is a middle-grade novel about identity, secrets, Native American History, and friendship. What I liked the most about it is that Day introduces middle-graders to a sensitive historical subject with care. I also love the cover of the book, which made me pick it up at the library. But what is even more critical is that Day is Native American herself, and she based the story on her family. She is a member of the Upper Skagit tribe.
The novel received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Publisher’s Weekly. I am sure I Can Make This Promise will keep earning praises, as it is a story that discusses some of the harsh realities Native Americans have faced throughout the history of the United States. I recommended it to all middle-graders, librarians, and educators because it is a must-read.
Publication year: 2019
Publication House: HarperCollins
Ages: 8 to 12
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