Tanya Landman has written many books for children in the UK, and I Am Apache is her US debut, targeted to the young adult market. I was originally intrigued by the cover art and the write up inside the jacket, which promises that Landman: “takes readers on a sweeping journey of the American Southwest in the nineteenth century. Drawing on historical accounts, she poignantly imagines the Black Mountain Apache as a tribe fighting to survive the devestating progress of nations.” I like stories of young women (and men) who step outside traditional roles, rise up, and mature in the face of adversity. This book fulfilled that for me.
After watching helplessly as Mexican raiders brutally murder her little brother, fourteen-year-old Siki is filled with a desire for vengeance and chooses to turn away from a woman’s path to become a warrior of her Apache tribe. Though some in the tribe wish to see Siki fail, she passes test after test, and her skills grow under the guidance of her tribe’s greatest warrior, Golahka. Siki is also blessed with “The Power,” a spiritual insight that gives her visions of the past and portents of the future, which prove invaluable to her tribe in raids and battles. But an enemy in the tribe begins to whisper about Siki’s father’s dishonorable death, and even as Siki earns her place among the warriors, she senses a dark secret in her past — one that will throw into doubt everything she believes.
Traditional young adult themes are explored in this story: a teen who does not fit into the role her culture determines for her; the jealousy and treachery caused by others who are threatned with change; and the impact an absent, enigmatic parent has on a teen’s choices & character as she grows up. I was reminded at various points of other excellent coming-of-age stories I have enjoyed in the past and it was uplifting to watch as Siki rose to meet test after test and hold true to her spirit. At numerous points throughout the novel I was saddened by the impending doom that the Apache face with the onslaught of white settlers, knowing as we all do, of the ultimate defeat and suffering of the Native American peoples.
Little things in the book bothered me (teepees were used and buffalow were hunted by Plains Indians, not Apache); but when I read in Landman’s Historical Note that while some incidents are based on actual events, she “made no attempt to produce an accurate historical novel: this is an imagined evocation of how it may have felt to have lived through events like these”, I decided to just enjoy the story she wrote and the characters she brought to life. And enjoy them I did indeed.
- Posted by Cori