One of the real difficulties with diverse literature comes from assessing the credibility of the writer. Joseph Marshall III, an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota (Rosebud Sioux) tribe, raised in a traditional Lakota household, brings a sense of authenticity to In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse. I read an advance reading copy furnished by Net Galley of this middle grade novel to be released on November 10. The element of his book with the grandfather telling young Jimmy McClean stories of Tasunke Witko (Crazy Horse) reflects the author’s own rearing by maternal grandparents skilled in oral storytelling, but is easily relatable to a child of any culture where a grandfather and grandson share a strong bond and a love of story.
The basis of the narrative begins when Jimmy McClean is teased and bullied by one white and one Lakota classmate who can only agree with each other when they torture him about his blue eyes and light brown hair. Jimmy’s mother sums up his situation, “The problem is your three Lakota parts are all hidden inside. Your one white part is on the outside.”
Grandfather Nyles, in a unique way, helps Jimmy come to terms with his own feelings about his three quarters Lakota and one quarter white heritage. A camping trip over the surrounding territory serves as a vehicle for Grandpa Nyles to tell the story of Crazy Horse from the Lakota viewpoint. The nonfiction part of the novel shows Jimmy his heritage in a new light.
While I found Grandpa Nyles’s account of Crazy Horse slightly didactic, the book gives a perspective of that era of history through the eyes of the Lakota, a view not often seen in history books. It’s a good read and would be an excellent addition to a classroom studying this era of American history.