Rattlesnake Mesa

By School Library Journal

Weber’s memoir of growing up in the early 1900s brings readers into the thoughts and surroundings of her eight-year-old self with humor and sincerity. When her grandmother died, her father took her to live with him at Crown Point Indian Agency on the Eastern Navajo Reservation. At the school there, she witnessed boys being beaten with a horsewhip, which haunted her. ‘I carried a mortal shame, fear, and hurt away with me.’ Just as she started to feel at home at Crown Point, she was sent to the faraway Phoenix Indian School, where her father was educated. However, she and her new friends became survivors (‘we learned early– laughing was best.’) Her memories of the ridiculous teachers and underground games are expressed in a conversational voice that begs to be read aloud. Readers will identify with her predicaments, whether they are learning about a different culture or recognizing their own… The recollections are illustrated with black-and-white photos of unidentified contemporary children posed in the New Mexico landscape as if they were part of the story, which… are beautiful. For its unique voice, consider this collection as supplementary material on the Indian boarding school experience, or as a captivating read-aloud.
Weber recalls changes in her childhood after the death of her beloved grandmother when she moves to a Navajo reservation, and then to an Indian School. Billed as autobiographical vignettes but with a dream-like, almost folkloric air to them, this unconventional collection of anecdotes is paired to abstract, atmospheric photographs and will take readers deep into a distinctive way of life and thought enriched by complex personal and family ties – as well as tears, laughter, and a history of deep, deep injustice.