cover image We Still Belong

We Still Belong

Christine Day. Heartdrum, $18.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-306456-0

During a “rough patch,” 12-year-old Wesley Wilder and her mother move into her maternal grandfather’s house in an Indigenous community outside of Seattle, which he shares with Wesley’s aunt, uncle, and baby cousin. Seeking a place to fit in at her new school, Wesley joins the Native/Indigenous Student Union and the Gamer’s Club, where she meets and crushes hard on white classmate Ryan. But when a teacher harshly criticizes a poem she writes celebrating Indigenous People’s Day, and she discovers that Ryan is attending an upcoming school dance with another girl, Wesley struggles with feelings of inadequacy. These emotions amplify when she learns that she can never formally belong to the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe; because her verbally and physically abusive father, who left her mother before she was born, is white, Wesley’s “blood quantum is too low to gain citizenship.” Upper Skagit author Day (The Sea in Winter) presents Wesley’s multilayered emotions, as well as myriad facets of Native life (including citizenship parameters), with crystal-clear prose. Via Wesley’s self-aware and astoundingly perceptive first-person voice, Day highlights everyday tween conflicts about fitting in alongside experiential concerns surrounding identifying with one’s heritage in this warmhearted approach to searching for—and finding—community and inclusion. Ages 8–12. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary. (Aug.)