A review by pagesofpins
Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith


Cassidy Rain Berghoff loves Chinese food, Star Trek and X-Files fan fiction, her dog and photography. She's a fully realized character, and it doesn't feel like I'm reading a flat stereotype, or even a "minority issues" book. I think tweens will really enjoy the story. Rain is part Native American on both her mom and dad's side, but her dad is deployed and her mom died six years ago. She was just starting to think about her best friend, Galen Owens, as more than a friend six months ago, when they sneaked out together to hang out the night of the school dance. He got hit by a car and killed that night, and six months later the book opens as Rain is still trying to process grief and guilt.

Rain is dodging friends and holing up in her room, avoiding talking to people about Galen's death, when Galen's mom decides to channel her grief into running for office. She does so by challenging the use of public funds used for Rain's Aunt Georgia's Indian Camp, hoping to make the mayor look stupid and get votes. Her argument? It serves so few kids, and even Rain is blowing it off--why waste our money? Not only is Rain caught in an awkward position, but her brother and his girlfriend are now pregnant and unmarried, and it's about to cause a stir in her small Kansas town.

Rain diplomatically picks up her camera again to cover Indian Camp for the newspaper. There are a lot of misconceptions and microagressions covered here: Rain tries to hand out photo releases, and someone asks if its because Indians believe the camera captures their soul. People often remark that Rain "doesn't look Indian" or ask why her hair and eyes aren't darker, or explain to her what Native Americans prefer. Then the book takes it a step further: Rain starts to see problematic behaviors in herself when she spends time with other minorities, such as her black classmate or Jewish coworker. She discovers prejudice several places in her hometown throughout the book, and not all of these things are perfectly resolved. Rain doesn't change anyone else, but she does change herself, and stand up for herself. She's no longer alone at the end of the book, either--she discovers some things about her friends, too.