A poignant story of resilience and grit, as well as unnecessary prejudices and unexplainable tragedy…
Set in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth-century in the Northern Plains, Stanion’s debut novel tells the story of a white teacher and his Lakota student’s enduring bond. Twelve-year-old John Iron Horse survived the Wounded Knee massacre and is determined to succeed. But his government-run school motto – “Kill the Indian, save the man” – is a challenge. Can John and his mentor Carter Heath forge a bond in a world that pits the Natives against the White men? Based on Stanion’s great-grandfather’s manuscript, who was an Indigenous educator and advocate for Native Americans, the novel brings the trials and tribulations of the Native Americans of the era to life in a sweeping, moving narrative. Crisp and intelligent, Stanion’s writing is expert, and the well-defined characters populating the story are fully fleshed-out and sympathetic. John is a worthy protagonist; determined, resilient, and smart. Carter’s intelligence, sensitivity, intellect, and warmth makes him easy to like and root for. Stanion interweaves John’s story with that of Carter’s, tracing the winding path the two men took toward their individual journeys. Both John and Carter inflict difficulty after difficulty, which dominates the theme for the middle and later part of the book. They both undergo genuine, evocative evolution as they struggle with the most impossible circumstances. Constantly alternating between different characters’ stories and the third-person omniscient perspective and Carter’s first-person journal entries, Stanion gradually teases out Indigenous culture, myths, and wisdom. The novel is filled with plenty of drama and deep contemplation, as well as hopes and letdowns, all of which grant a sense of realism to this exquisite story. The concluding revelations are satisfactory and poignant. Although the book contains violence, (an initial gripping sequence in the novel portrays the tragedy of Wounded Knee, wherein U.S. soldiers took the lives of 200 Native Americans within a mere sixty minutes without any provocation), the author never makes it irrelevant or graphic. John’s journey from an orphan boy who lost his family and home to a violent tragedy to a successful man is riveting, and readers will appreciate Stanion’s evocation of the landscape and people’s connections to it. Throughout, the novel speaks to the vital importance of the Native populations adapting and changing in order to survive. Historical fiction fans will savor this memorable story of courage in the face of devastation and the importance of perseverance when all feels lost.
My Place Among Them
Pub date August 15, 2023
Price $26.49 (USD) Hardcover, $19.95 Paperback, 7.49 Kindle edition