Friday, January 11, 2013

ReviewMeTwice: My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson

This week, we did My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson.  It was a very depressing, but at the same time touching, book.

Though the first character we see is Luke (and, generally, I would consider him the main character.  After all, the book is named for him) the point of view shifts all over the place.  We go from first, to third limited, to third omnicient, sometimes in the same chapter.  Really, I don't think that this did much to add to the book.  If anything, it was incredibly confusing because one second, you were hearing Luke's inner montage and then the next you were hearing Sonny.  It got really confusing sometimes.

I really like how she portrayed the power dynamics.  It was interesting that both Indians and Eskimos are an underdog, races of people that hasn't been treated very well.  Yet, instead of banding together, then tended to fight, to have these deep seeded rivalries. 

This book also does very well with the whole language/power thing.  The kids at Sacred Heart are not allowed to speak anything but English, taking away their control.  In the very beginning, Issac is taken away from his brothers and family, shipped off to a "Christian" family, never to be seen again.  The idea that Eskimo children could just be taken is an unfathomable one.  But part of the reason it happens is because that Luke doesn't have any power.  He's too afraid to communicate or, just doesn't know how.  We see a lot of him not being able to vocalize what's happening around him TO the people around him.

The power shifts later to the kids at Sacred Heart, however.  And, interestingly enough, it's through language that it's done.  They write an editorial about the tests that are being done on Indians and Eskimo alike.  Amiq writes a missing person ad for Issac and Luke then sends it to a Texas newspaper.  It's through this act of mere language, they seem to take back their school and, inevitably, their lives.

While there are some great aspects to this book, the writing just wasn't that strong.  It didn't really grab me.  Edwardson has some really interesting and impressive themes in her book, but her writing style just wasn't quite up to the task of the topics she was writing.

My Bottom Line 3 out of 5

One of my favorite things about doing this blog with Cassy is that she sometimes picks a book I would never pick up and read on my own. This is one of those books.

I didn't love it. But I didn't dislike it. I enjoyed reading it while I was reading it, and then I was done reading it and I probably won't read it again.

The point of view really threw me off. Let's have a little lesson about narration. First-person narration is when the character tells you what's happening. "And then I ate an apple." Third-person narration is when some disembodied voice tells you what's happening to the characters. "And then Alex ate an apple." Third-person omniscient means that the narrator knows about everything that's going on, not just what's happening to one character. "And then Alex ate an apple, not knowing that Cassy had poisoned it."

So you can probably see why it would be confusing to bounce around between narration styles and points of view. My Name Is Not Easy has this problem. I think I understand the choices Debby Dahl Edwardson made in this regard (I'm fairly certain all the out-of-the-blue third-person narration is about the same character, making him seem more distant to the reader) but it was difficult to get used to.

Other than that, there was nothing particularly wrong with the book. It told a solid story with developed characters and real events. (By "real" I mean that they carry weight, not that they're necessarily non-fiction.) It feels important, and I'm glad I read it, but it is not quite my type of book, so I didn't rabidly devour it like I do with some books.

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