Saturday, 1 August 2015

I Am Apache: Historical Fiction With A Young Adult Spark

A Review By: Amelia
While writing a story in which I had an Apache character I discovered I knew next to nothing about the Apache people and since I never want to be a writer that includes a culture in a story without knowing anything about them, I decided to do a whole bunch of research. That’s how I came upon the book I Am Apache. It’s a fictional account of a female Apache warrior but the insight and entertainment it gave me was immense!

Put very simply, I Am Apache is a tale about a teenage girl named Siki. When Siki’s brother is viciously killed she shuns the usual life of an Apache woman and trains to become a warrior to avenge him.

The author of I Am Apache is Tanya Landman. She studied English literature and then worked in a bookshop, an arts centre, and a zoo. For over twenty years she’s been a writer, an administrator, and a performer for Storybox Theatre.

So, what’s the story about? After watching helplessly as Mexican raiders brutally murder her little brother, fourteen-year-old Siki is filled with a desire for vengeance and chooses to turn away from a woman’s path to become a warrior of her Apache tribe. Siki describes her nineteenth-century Apache life through the events of her teen years, from her young brother’s death, through her work to become a full-fledged warrior, and to the death of her mentor, Golahka. Interactions among Siki’s own people, including her rogue peer who leaves the tribe rather than submit to its code of honor, and Siki’s own acceptance as a female warrior, and those between the Apache, the Mexicans, and the “White Eyes,” who destroy the old ways of the native peoples, are woven skillfully into the action of traditional Apache sports, spontaneous relationships, and retribution through warfare.

The main protagonist of the piece, as mentioned above, is a teenage girl named Siki, who Landman used the tale of the woman that fought alongside Geronimo as the kernel of inspiration for. She’s an outcast to start with, not really being able to do traditional woman things like weaving and clothes making and it really makes you feel for her as you watch her struggle to find where she belongs within her tribe. When her little brother is heartlessly slaughtered she turns away from a woman’s path completely and trains to become a warrior of her mountain dwelling Apache tribe, which, although uncommon, was acceptable for women to do. Siki struggles all through the novel and ends up coming off a little self-centred and hasty but it makes her a character with depth and you don’t end up holding her bad qualities against her. Aside from Siki, there’s no other big protagonists, the antagonists however are numerous. The Mexican’s that slaughtered her brother are the first but are quickly dealt with and they become replaced with Keste, a jealous male warrior that doesn’t want Siki training with him, and then the white colonialism of the west (more or an abstract concept than a flesh and blood bad guy, but you get the point), and then Siki’s own father and her identity become a major harassing force. It was interesting to get so many threats throughout the story instead of just one, it made it all varied and real feeling, since in the nineteenth century this is what Apache tribes were living and dealing with.

When looking at the story overall, the fact that Landman based Siki on a real woman who lived and fought alongside the mighty warrior Geronimo makes everything feel very authentic. Some of the other characters in the piece are a little lacking or one-dimensional but I didn’t find that it took away from the overall story, especially since Landman has such an eloquent and dignified voice through Siki’s first person and how she manages to raise a lot of psychological and sociopolitical questions that create empathy and will definitely improve your understanding of Apache culture.

My final thoughts on I Am Apache are that it is an engaging book. This well-written novel will appeal to, not only, historical fiction or western readers but all genre readers. The main protagonist is interesting and her story is compelling and will keep you reading until the end!

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