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Rain Is Not My Indian Name (2001)

by Cynthia Leitich Smith

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17710127,358 (3.47)None
Tired of staying in seclusion since the death of her best friend, a fourteen-year-old Native American girl takes on a photographic assignment with her local newspaper to cover events at the Native American summer youth camp.

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After her first kiss with her best friend Galen in the first minutes of the New Year, and her birthday, Cassidy Rain goes home, only to learn the next morning that Galen is dead. Six months later, Rain is still grieving, having shut herself off from former friends. Reluctantly, she agrees to take photos for her soon-to-be sister-in-law's newspaper, teaming up with a college student known as "the Flash" to write and shoot a story on a Native American heritage program for youth. Rain is surprised to see her ex-second-best-friend and only Black girl in their small Kansas town; Queenie has just discovered her own Native American heritage. Rain started out impartial about the summer program, but when Galen's mom wants to cut it (partly to make the current mayor look bad), she comes to its defense.

At home, Rain's older brother Fynn and his white girlfriend Natalie have gotten engaged, and Rain realizes that Natalie is pregnant. Rain's mother was killed by a lightning strike six years ago, her father works on an air force base in Guam, and her grandpa is vacationing in Las Vegas.


Mom had always said to consider new opportunities carefully, even if they might make me uncomfortable at first. (43)

I felt ashamed by how much I didn't know [about my family heritage]. (73)

It was as close as I had come to what everyone said was the right ritual, the right thing to do, but it didn't feel right to me. (85)

When I'd finally picked up my camera again, I'd used it as a wall instead of as a window. (126) ( )
  JennyArch | Apr 16, 2022 |
I love the writing in this book -- Rain's voice is so effortlessly believable and engaging. Her story is a hard one, but she's finding ways past tragedy. She's sophisticated, intriguing, and a talented photographer. She's also eloquent about what life is like in a small town for (in this case) the handful of Native Americans that live there. Packs a lot of punch in a short book. Fine for kids, but probably
more appealing for tweens and teens.

advanced reader's copy for new edition provided by Edelweiss. ( )
  jennybeast | Apr 14, 2022 |
"Being a Native girl is no big deal. Really. It seems weird to have to say this, but after a lifetime of experience, I'm used to being me. Dealing with the rest of the world and its ideas, now that frustrates me sometimes."

Rain is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith was my first read this month and I breezed right through it. It is a short, light hearted read about Cassidy Rain dealing with the death of her best friend and her process of grief. I loved that the story was told with a mix of storytelling and journal entries. The characters really set the tone in this one and the protagonist's growth is the star of the novel. I wish the story was longer because I totally fell in love with Rain and wanted to know more about Indian Camp and the kids. I also loved that she was allowed the space to work out her grief on her own terms and by reconnecting with her passion for photography. It allowed her to see the world through a new lens and change her perspective about certain things.

When it ended I felt like it was a great beginning to bigger journey. I recommend this one if you want to start some conversations with youth about grief and feeling different.

The key themes in this one are:

📷 grief and first love
📷 the ways that society "others" Native children, especially girls
📷 how feeling different affects your ability to be vulnerable and ask for help
📷 the importance of allowing youth space to grieve and work through the process in their own way with support
📷 the importance of reconnecting with ancestral ways and culture
📷 the importance of specific cultural programs
📷 the sexualization of teen girls, especially Native ones
📷 family support is vital
📷 the importance of allowing youth to pursue passions
📷 teaching culture in collaborative ways
📷 assimilation and surviving looks different among members of the same family
📷 positive sibling relationships
📷 xenophobia of small towns
📷 ascribed identities and beliefs ( )
  Booklover217 | Feb 3, 2022 |
Interesting as an art, not so much a story, with a comfortable ending. ( )
  LaPhenix | May 15, 2013 |
The first book that only got three stars from me so first I have to say that its not because I didn't like it as much of several of my four star books. It's more that I want to begin to be a little more specific and critical and I have more to compare to than I did when I began this. So this is supposed to be a point of progression in my ratings. It's also been nearly a month since I read it. I think I'm going to make it a habit of waiting a little while (although hopefully not this long) before writing my reaction to a book to see how I think its going to stick with me.

I did like this. It's closer to a 3-1/2. I think it would have topped a 3-1/2 and received 4 stars if it were longer and there was an opportunity to get more involved with the characters. On the other hand it wasn't a big time investment and was very worthwhile. I had feelings for Rain and an interest in a couple other characters and would liked to have come to know them better. There's an argument for taking the length into account and raising the rating but I'm going to stick with my reaction - how much the book affected me and not try to over think this.

This was a very good if limited look at cultural interaction with realistic characters in realistic circumstances in a real place. I believe that's exactly what it was meant to be rather then an exciting story. There was what I saw as a side theme of Rain's overcoming a traumatic event that immediately preceded the main story and was much less addressed or developed but was nevertheless present throughout the book as a conflict in the process of resolution.

A worthwhile if not totally memorable read. If a sequel came out I would definitely read it but it wouldn't be immediately placed at the top of my list. ( )
  Yona | May 2, 2013 |
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Tired of staying in seclusion since the death of her best friend, a fourteen-year-old Native American girl takes on a photographic assignment with her local newspaper to cover events at the Native American summer youth camp.

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Average: (3.47)
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