Sunday, March 4, 2012
my name is not easy by debby dahl edwardson
Luke’s Inupiaq name is “hard like ocean ice grinding at the shore or wind pounding the tundra.” But at Alaska’s Sacred Heart boarding school, which Luke attends with his brother, Bunna (a third brother is effectively kidnapped and sent to Texas), his name and the nuances of his culture aren’t treated as being important. It’s the 1960s, though, and the times are a-changing. In lovely, evocative language, Edwardson weaves Luke’s story of displacement, loss, and growth into those of his fellow students’ in a story about the collision of culture and the growing awareness of civil rights. It’s a testament to her skill that even clueless priests and sisters at the school come across as rounded characters; several of them are even aware that military experiments with radioactive drinks, allowed on native students, may be suspect. Some point-of-view changes from first person to third-person omniscient are jarring; nevertheless, this is an illuminating novel of changing perspectives.