Who Will Tell My Brother? by Marlene Carvell

Bibliographic Information: Carvell, M. (2002). Who Will Tell My Brother? New York, NY: Hyperion.  ISBN: 0786808276.  160 pages.

Plot Summary: Evan Hill was born to a white mother and Mohawk father.  Unlike his brother, Evan looks more like his mother than his father, so has to claim his Mohawk identity more explicitly.  His concept of his identity is confusing and complex, particularly because Evan is an artistic, sensitive, and thoughtful teen.  He is a senior in high school and decides to stand up and speak out against the racist and stereotypical Indian school mascot.  His brother, before him, tried to get the Indian mascot removed, but did not prevail, and Evan has taken up the torch.  Evan talks to teachers and students and attends school board meeting after school board meeting to express his point of view.  Those who want things to stay just the way they are are far less civilized in expressing their dissent.  Evan is harassed and even physically threatened by students, and then his family’s beloved dog is killed by people trying to send a message.  Evan wonders who will tell his brother about the dog’s untimely and undeserved death.

Critical Evaluation: Who Will Tell My Brother?, beautifully written in free verse from Evan’s point of view, is touching and inspiring.  It is accessible, even for reluctant readers, because, being in free verse, it makes its point eloquently, but with fewer words than many novels.  Addressing issues of anti-American Indian racism, stereotyping, bullying, and bystanders this book has a lot going on in it.  But, life has a lot going on in it, and this book makes these complex topics accessible through poetic free verse and deeply expressed emotions.  American Indian students who have felt this very injustice or other students who have experienced similar injustices will likely find strength and inspiration in Evan.  Students who have not been exposed to these issues will gain insight and empathy due to Evan clearly articulated outrage at an American Indian being used as a school mascot.  This book provides a great opening for discussion on racism, bullying as well as the roles and responsibilities of bystanders to bullying.

Reader’s Annotation: Evan Hill must face strong opposition from bullies and an unsympathetic school board when he fights to have his high school’s Indian mascot removed.

Information about the Author: Carvell says that Who Will Tell My Brother? was, “inspired by the experiences of my two sons.”  Carvell’s sons, like Evan and his brother in the book, have a white mother and their father is a member of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe. Carvell’s books are well regarded by American Indian reviewers for their authentic portrayals of Indians.

Genre: Issues, Multicultural Fiction, Realistic Fiction

Subgenre/Theme: Issues: Social Concerns: Activism; Multicultural Fiction: Native Americans

Format: Free Verse Novel

Topics Covered: Racism, Violence, Bullying, Bystanderism, American Indian, Stereotypes, Family, Identity, Social Justice

Curriculum Ties: English, Social Studies, History

Booktalking Ideas:

  • What would YOU do?  If you saw bullying…
  • What would YOU do?  If your ethnic group was being used as a mascot…

Reading Level/Interest Age: 14-18 years

Challenge Issues: There are those who believe that Indian mascots should be allowed, but I doubt that would make them challenge this book.  There are no obvious challenge issues associated with this book.  Preparation for any challenge can include the librarian’s: reading of the book, adhering to the library’s collection development department, and possessing reviews of the book from well-regarded sources

Why is this book included?  This book is a high quality book in a unique format, that might have particular appeal for some teens.  It was well received by reviewers and covers an important topic not often addressed in literature.

References:

Slapin, B. (2003). Who will tell my brother?. Multicultural Review, 12(2), 98.


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