WestSide Books, $16.95, 339 pages
I Am Nuchu is Brenda Stanley’s first novel. Throughout the book, she demonstrates great skill in this genre by incorporating both suspense and believable adolescent dialogue. The story begins as sports star Cal Burton moves from Spokane, Washington to a Ute reservation in eastern Utah. Not only have Cal’s parents just divorced his dreams of earning a basketball scholarship seem to be thwarted, too. “I’d rather die than be trapped in this place,” Cal yells at his mother, hurt about all the secrets surrounding the divorce.
To make matters worse, relations between the white townspeople and the Utes are incredibly strained. The sheriff harasses Cal from day one, and his son delights in tormenting Cal at school, yelling racial slurs and picking fights. Cal just wants to fit in. He’s half white, but to the townspeople, he’s Ute. He’s half Indian, but he wants nothing to do with his heritage: “We may be half Indian,” he tells his brother, “but in my head and my heart, I’m not”. Violence erupts in town, and Cal begins to uncover painful mysteries about his family. His mother is hiding something big, and he will not rest until he finds the truth.
Reviewed by Emily Davis