Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Review: Urban Tribes

Title: Urban Tribes: Native Americans in the City
Editors: Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
Publisher: Annick Press
Review copy: Digital ARC via Publisher
Availability: On shelves now

Publisher's Summary:  Young, urban Natives powerfully show how their culture and values can survive—and enrich—city life.

Much of the popular discourse on Native Americans and Aboriginals focuses on reservation life. But the majority of Natives in North America live off the rez. How do they stay rooted to their culture? How do they connect with their community?

Urban Tribes offers unique insight into this growing and often misperceived group. Emotionally potent and visually arresting, the anthology profiles young urban Natives from across North America, exploring how they connect with Native culture and values in their contemporary lives. Their stories are as diverse as they are. From a young Dene woman pursuing a MBA at Stanford to a Pima photographer in Phoenix to a Mohawk actress in New York, these urban Natives share their unique perspectives to bridge the divide between their past and their future, their cultural home, and their adopted cities.

Unflinchingly honest and deeply moving, contributors explore a wide-range of topics. From the trials and tribulations of dating in the city to the alienating experience of leaving a remote reserve to attend high school in the city, from the mainstream success of Electric Pow wow music to the humiliation of dealing with racist school mascots, personal perspectives illuminate larger political issues. An innovative and highly visual design offers a dynamic, reading experience.

My thoughts:  Like their earlier collaboration, Dreaming in Indian, this collection allows readers to hear the voices of Natives in North America. We see and hear their stories through essays, poetry, music, and many other art forms. This is an opportunity for young Natives to see others like themselves and for non-Natives to get a broader picture of what it can mean to be Native today.

I read the ARC in digital format and will be excited to see the final copy. Some of the artwork was not yet available for me to see, but what was there was impressive. We talked about the book over at Rich in Color recently and we shared some of the things that stood out to us.

I especially appreciated the photo essay titled 'Perception' by K.C. Adams (Oji-Cree). In it, the participants have photos side-by-side. One has a stereotype and the other has a positive label they have given themselves. Another stand out was the feature about Gabrielle Scrimshaw (Dene) who has a wonderful Tedx Talk about her story. She has become a well-traveled businesswoman and speaker. She co-founded the Aboriginal Professional Association of Canada.

These are only two of the stories, but there are many more in this wonderful collection. To see some samples, stop by our Rich in Color discussion to find links to many of the contributors. In the editor's notes, Lisa Charleyboy (Tsilhqot’in – Raven Clan) explains, "...we are still somehow intangible to many. And in some cosmopolitan cities, we are almost rendered invisible." Mary Beth Leatherdale adds, "In Urban Tribes, we wanted to shine a light on the underreported stories of urban Natives--the artists and the academics, the bankers and the biologists--the growing number of urban Native professionals who are still largely invisible." In this they have succeeded. Here we can read powerful stories that speak strength and hope especially to Native youth. I highly recommend this book for any young adult or adult library collections.

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