Readers will find a bittersweet dose of 1970s nostalgia as well as a timeless depiction of the intersection of identity and self in This Indian Kid, a candid, clear-eyed memoir from Eddie Chuculate, who is enrolled Muscogee (Creek) and of Cherokee descent.
The loosely connected stories detail a youth spent mainly in smalltown Muskogee, Okla., with his extended family and childhood friends. Young Eddie frequently moved in and out of town as his mother and stepfather's on-again, off-again relationship fluctuated. His memories are largely warm, downhome stories of fishing, playing baseball, and developing his love of writing. The narrative opens with a story from Eddie's sixth-grade Christmas vacation, when he and his best friend Lonnie, a Black boy, go rabbit hunting. The hunt goes awry when Lonnie steps onto a frozen pond and "the ice cracked and spider-webbed in long veins." Eddie saves Lonnie by using his BB gun to help him climb out of the water, setting the tone for a series of memories in which life shifts, but the support of family and friends restores balance.
Chuculate's memoir is notable for portraying an Indigenous childhood rooted in community rather than trauma. Reading the snapshots of his life feels like making a new friend. Although this intimate look at growing up in rural America takes place in a lost, pre-Internet world, Chuculate's spare, graceful prose and the included childhood photos should give teen readers a relatable entry point to this inspiring slice-of-life that gently reckons with race and identity. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth experience manager, Dayton Metro Library