cover image Bowman's Store: A Journey to Myself

Bowman's Store: A Journey to Myself

Joseph Bruchac. Dial Books, $17.99 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1997-2

In this poignant memoir, author and storyteller Bruchac (Eagle Song) lays bare the often painful circumstances of his youth and describes the gradual embracing of his Native American heritage. Bruchac is widely known as an expert in Native American culture and lore, especially in the ways of the Abenaki and other woodland peoples. But growing up, his dark-skinned maternal grandfather denied his Indian blood, calling himself ""French-Canadian,"" and told young Joseph that he was a ""mongrel."" In a strained family situation that is never made completely clear (though descriptions of his father's short-fused temper and brusque manner strongly hint at potential physical violence), Bruchac describes life with his loving Grama and Grampa Bowman. They praised his academic accomplishments and nurtured his strong affinity for the natural world. Although Bruchac's account unfolds choppily at first (each is introduced by a seemingly unrelated memory, dream sequence or Indian story), he interlaces some especially moving passages in which the other students mercilessly taunt him and beat him up because of his dark skin, glasses and his bookish behavior (the school bus was a terrifying gauntlet). The narrative soon gathers the emotional momentum that will compel readers to the satisfying final chapters where a confident Bruchac shines in his success at Cornell, reflects on a less tense, respectful relationship with his father and discusses the beginnings of his writing career. A smattering of b&w photos provide a visual family history and highlight Bruchac's relationship with his beloved Grampa Jesse. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)