Wendy's Reviews > Waterless Mountain

Waterless Mountain by Laura Adams Armer
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it was ok
bookshelves: newbery

I was prepared to hate this and find it dull, but I didn't really. This story of a Navajo boy learning to become a spiritual leader is fairly engaging, and I enjoyed the boy's character and his interactions with white people, which are usually pretty funny (and sometimes sad). It has the racial and cultural problems you might expect of a Navajo book written by a white person, but they aren't as bad as I anticipated. I can let some of those go as being "it was a different time"ish, but what I can't let go and what drops it down to two stars is the figure of the all-knowing, kind, wise, Great White Trader.

I think this was probably used as source material for my dearly beloved Navajo Sister (which I think is probably a better, more realistic, less problematic book).

One passage made me catch my breath; did the author know what she was saying? It's at the trading post Christmas party:

The white lady at the post was very happy watching the children and had almost forgotten how lonely she was for her own little girl away at school in the city. Suddenly she remembered and before she knew what was happening, a big tear rolled down her cheek.

An old Navaho man noticed that she was crying and said to her:

"Little Sister, you cry because your child is away. We know what that means. When our children go away to school, the mothers cry also."

The white lady listened in wonder as the old man turned to his people in the store and spoke to them.

"My grandchildren, our white sister is sad. She cries for her child. We will all give money to have her child brought back."

Every Navaho gave something and the old man handed the collection to the white lady. (...)

...she said "Didn't I always say the spirit of Christmas would win even a savage?"
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Sandy D. In the next sentence, though, the Big Man rather gently remonstrates with his sister by saying something about the beauty of the Navajo way of life.

You are right about the Great White Trader, though. I couldn't help wondering if this was based on someone Armer was in love with. :-)


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