I CAN MAKE THIS PROMISE
by Christine Day
“It would be easy to feel discouraged… to let the sadness win… But I try to stay positive. I try to focus on the people I have, rather than those who are missing. I try to focus on the future ahead of us, rather than the past.”
All her life, Edie has known that her mom was adopted by a white couple. So, no matter how curious she might be about her Native American heritage, Edie is sure her family doesn’t have any answers. Until the day when she and her friends discover a box hidden in the attic—a box full of letters signed “Love, Edith,” and photos of a woman who looks just like her. Suddenly, Edie has a flurry of new questions about this woman who shares her name. Could she belong to the Native family that Edie never knew about? And if her mom and dad kept this secret from her all her life, how can she trust them to tell her the truth now?
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About CHRISTINE DAY
Christine Day (Upper Skagit) grew up in Seattle, nestled between the sea, the mountains, and the pages of her favorite books. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Washington, where she created a thesis on Coast Salish weaving traditions. I Can Make This Promise is her first novel. Christine lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband.
(Long post ahead. This was a good one!)
I don’t like reading “real” books. They make me cry. This one was no exception to that, and probably made me cry the most. But it was a beautiful book! Moving and funny and bitter-sweet all at the same time. The author showed you how each character felt and let you feel sympathetic or empathetic depending on your level of emotion. I was so pleased with how well written this was. And I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t know as much about this part of my country’s history as I should have.
My parents were great at making sure we had many experiences in diverse cultures. We lived in the western states (mostly Arizona and Utah) where there were quite a few cultural events going on throughout the year. We would go to Pow wow’s, friendship festivals and International Peace gardens. Each of these experiences brought something new to learn and enjoy. When I read the bit in the book about the fry bread I was taken back to my first memory of eating it (LOVED it and my very white brother actually learned how to make it so we could have it at home). My grandparents were even a part of a placement program that offered host families in Phoenix for children living on the reservations in Arizona so they could go to school in the city and return home in the summer. I never met the woman they hosted but she was in family pictures and returned with her own children to visit my grandparents from time to time.
While all these experiences have been eye-opening and crucial to developing my own ethical belief system, over my later teen and young adult years I’ve read/seen more of the struggle and hardships that people have had to go through in order to reach this point in our history where people are (semi)considerate to people’s cultural background. This book really helped open my eyes a little more to what continued on in our country until the 1970s, not just what happened in the 1800s.
I was grateful that this book didn’t feel like it had a political agenda. So many authors out there now are trying to convince readers about how their own opinions and agendas about government, race, sexual orientation, etc. are the right ones. They don’t just tell the story as it is. This book had none of that. She told the story. The funny parts, the sad parts, the hard parts all at the same level of trust in the reader to sort out their own feelings about what they were being told. Facts were stated and imagery was used but there was no convincing or coercing you into her beliefs. Even the girl’s video project at the end was telling a story, it was told in a way to let the viewer decide what the message was about (though all would most likely come to the same conclusion).
Yes, what these people went through was horrific and the people who put them in that situation were grossly out of line ethically. But just as the author talked about in the book, you could dwell on the sadness and anger about it, or you can focus on the happiness we feel in this moment. No we don’t and should NEVER forget what happened. But we can’t let hate and anger guide our actions. We are in the midst of creating a much brighter future for the next generation that the ones before us ever had, one that is peaceable and kind.
Thank you Christine Day for writing this books and for the folks at Wunderkind-PR for giving me a chance to read and review it! I loved every moment (yes, even when I was bawling my eyes out)! This is definitely one I would recommend to any reader!
To the Reader:
This book is a great story based on true events that have happened in United States History. As such, it can be a little intense in moments and some of it is a little heartbreaking. I cried a lot while reading it (mainly because I’m an emotional basket case this week, but still). It’s a good idea to take it slow, and talk with your teachers/parents/grandparents/guardians or other adults about it. I talked to my mother about it and I’m over 25.
Some of the adults in your life may have been alive and aware in the 1970s while the things in the book were going on so they may have some more insight to share. It’s always good to talk about the books we read because how else do we learn from them if we don’t share!
To the parent/teacher/guardian/family member of a younger reader
This book deals with some very heavy real life subject matter that will most likely upset your reader. While this is something to keep an eye on, it’s a very good teaching opportunity about what happened to Native American families before the Indian Child Welfare Act was initiated.
As a side note, this is also a good book for teaching about adoption and children growing up not knowing their biological family. It talks about the same issues any child would face growing up not knowing about their background or heritage. It does so constructively and in a way that is not upsetting but encouraging.
Age Group: 12+ The main character is 12 years old, and while the subject matter is heavy, I believe that this is the right age for both reading and maturity, so long as an adult is actively involved.
Content Concerns: Adoption, unethical treatment of Native American individuals, bullying, friendship troubles
Language: 1/10 No swearing. There is mention of some people using colorful language and one character uses a phrase that could have had a swear word, but changes it to make others laugh.
Characters are bullied for their racial differences but the descriptions are mild.
A character gets mad at a parent and says things that are unkind
A character gets upset at a friend and ends their friendship.
Violence/Gore: 2/10 There’s not gore or physical violence, but there is quite a bit of emotional trauma that is talked about, more particularly 3/4 into the book.
Sexual Content: 0/10 There’s a boy that makes the girls blush but that’s it.