Monday, October 21, 2019

I Can Make This Promise

I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day. Grades 4-7. HarperCollins, October 2019. 264 pages. Reviewed from galley provided by publisher.


Edie is dealing with a lot of the typical middle school stuff this summer - her trio of friends is changing, she's getting braces for the first time, and she's working on her art. But everything changes when Edie discovers a box in the attic that contains letters, journals, and photos of a woman named Edith Graham. Edith Graham looks just like Edie and suddenly she's certain that she's found a key to the past she's always wondered about.

Edie has always known that she was half Native American, but she's never known any more than that because her mother was adopted by a white couple and has no link to her heritage... or so Edie thought. What can Edith Graham's memorabilia tell Edie about her ancestry? And why has her mother been keeping this information secret?

My thoughts:

This is an amazing novel about the power of heritage and the strong bonds that make families in a middle school story that has wide appeal. While Edie's dealing with a lot of the typical issues that middle schoolers face, she's also facing microaggressions and learning about cultural appropriation. That common microaggression "Where are you from?" takes on even deeper meaning for Edie since she's clueless about her heritage and thinks she has no way of finding out. When her best friends find out about the box Edie's found, one friend wants to take Edith Graham's story and use it for the short film contest they're working on. This makes Edie uncomfortable and sheds light on issues of cultural appropriation that are all too common.

In the moving climax of the story, Edie learns the tragic history of her family and how the actions of the American government in the 1970s have ripple effects that have shaped her own young life. She also learns why her mother has hidden the truth, avoiding discussion until she thought Edie was old enough to understand. That is probably the element that has hurt Edie the most throughout the story - the fact that her mother obviously has information about their heritage but has purposefully hidden it. Once the truth is revealed, it makes sense why this has been the case.

While the book is ultimately hopeful, it doesn't shy away from the terrible things that have happened to Native families in our history, making this an important addition to our middle grade shelves. Author Christine Day is Upper Skagit and parts of this book are inspired by her own family history. There are not too many #ownvoices middle grade books by and about Native Americans - this is a much-needed addition and I hope to read more from Christine Day!


  • Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson - Both of these #ownvoices stories feature middle school girls who are searching for information about their family history.