Standing in the Light
by Mary Pope Osborne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Standing in the Light (Delaware Valley) / 0-590-13462-0
"Standing in the Light" examines, carefully and accurately, a very real phenomenon in our nation's history, that of American Indian assimilation of European settlers. While many adults actively chose to leave the European settlements and live with the American Indians, it was not unheard of for American Indians to adopt European orphans and even sometimes kidnap children in order to replenish the American Indian children lost to war or disease brought by the stranger settlers.
Quaker Caty Logan is shocked and horrified when "savages" kidnap her and her brother. Certain they will be brutally killed, she is shocked when they are instead taken into the tribe, dressed and groomed as American Indians, and then treated as beloved son and daughter by their adoptive families. Caty progresses through the stages of her grief, while the American Indians treat her with nothing but tenderness through her denial and anger. When she comes to acceptance, she recognizes that her heart will always be torn between her true family, who she loves and misses, and her new family, who she has come to understand and care for. Matters are complicated further when she falls in love with another "adoptee" - a young man who has lived with the American Indians most of his life.
As Caty ponders the choice laid before her, she wrestles with her emotions - guilt, at loving this new family; exhilaration, at the love and freedom she has in this new life; fear, at the choices laid before her. Easily, this is the most emotionally gripping of the Dear America books, and the author has managed to understand human emotion more thoroughly than many "adult" literature authors do.
For parents, this book contains some violence as we see the wars between the European settlers and the American Indians. There are some frightening situations, notably the kidnapping, where Caty fears they will be slaughtered. There is no overt sexuality, as the romance is very chaste, but Caty does note that the American Indian women of her new tribe often marry at age fourteen, which may raise some questions. This novel is incredibly sensitive to the cultures it portrays (on both sides, noting that there are many good Europeans who want the American Indians to be treated fairly) and treats the religions involved with great respect. This book is both highly entertaining and deeply thought-provoking, and I would highly recommend it to children and adults alike.
~ Ana Mardoll
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