Hearts Unbroken

Cynthia Leitich Smith
New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith turns to realistic fiction with the thoughtful story of a Native teen navigating the complicated, confusing waters of high school — and first love.When Louise Wolfe’s first real boyfriend mocks and disrespects Native people in front of her, she breaks things off and dumps him over e-mail. It’s her senior year, anyway, and she’d rather spend her time with her family and friends and working on the school newspaper. The editors pair her up with Joey Kairouz, the ambitious new photojournalist, and in no time the paper’s staff find themselves with a major story to cover: the school musical director’s inclusive approach to casting The Wizard of Oz has been provoking backlash in their mostly white, middle-class Kansas town. From the newly formed Parents Against Revisionist Theater to anonymous threats, long-held prejudices are being laid bare and hostilities are spreading against teachers, parents, and students — especially the cast members at the center of the controversy, including Lou’s little brother, who’s playing the Tin Man. As tensions mount at school, so does a romance between Lou and Joey — but as she’s learned, “dating while Native” can be difficult. In trying to protect her own heart, will Lou break Joey’s?


Reviewed: 2019-02-06

Response: My reaction upon finishing Hearts Unbroken is undefinable. The main character, Louise, is white passing, like me, and that's something new to me. Unlike me, she is a Native girl in a mostly white high school. I went to school with lots of Natives. Lots of people who knew my identity. I never had to argue about who I was, heck a lot of us were family or near enough. She has to choose to fight and that's tough. I was holding back tears finishing the book on my lunch break, not because of a particularly sad moment, though those exist, but just for the sake of this book existing. My heart got fluttery-sad every time characters spoke a few words of Mvskoke, the language of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Okmulgee, Oklahoma. How wonderful for the characters to get to learn their language. I'm jealous of that opportunity. I also felt rushes of anger at every mention and description of "Hollywood Indians" and mascots. Those racist caricatures of mine and other Indigenous cultures have no place in this world and I felt the same hurt as Louise. Cynthia, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation herself, tackles some heavy topics, and she does it with grace. I highly recommend this book for young adult and adult readers. 

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