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WILMA'S WAY HOME: The Life of Wilma Mankiller
Review by Dr Dawn Karima
As conversations about Cherokee culture and identity swirl throughout social media and news headlines, WILMA'S WAY HOME describes the life of a notable Cherokee political leader. A book intended for young people recounts the origins of Wilma Mankiller, the first female Chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Reading about this strong Native leader may inspire audiences of all ages, especially young girls, to aspire to lives of service and success.
Author Doreen Rappaport discusses the Relocation Era, the rise of AIM and events at Alcatraz, the Cherokee Nation's self-determination and Chief Mankiller's moves into sovereignty. Her style of writing is accessible for younger readers, yet engaging enough to interest older members of her audience. Wilma Mankiller's rise from humble, rural life to the political scene is detailed in colorful illustrations by Linda Kukuk, whose Choctaw heritage informs her empathy for the story and its subject.
An especially compelling component of any biography is the lesson that the readers learn from the subject's life. "Gadugi" is a Cherokee concept that centers on communities working together and helping one another. Chief Mankiller came of age believing in this idea and implemented it into her activism, early community organizing and as a tribal leader.
Generosity, Teamwork and Unity each blend into the belief that families, tribes, nations and communities are stronger when everyone serves and encourages each other. This powerful principle, "Gadugi," provides a perspective that readers of various backgrounds, ages, stages of life and ethnicities can understand and apply to their own situations.
"Gadugi" infuses Wilma Mankiller's style of leadership and opens doors to her at the grassroots level and beyond. This impressive leader builds coalitions, respects the environment, and moves from being an activist to earning the highest office in Oklahoma's Cherokee Nation.
WILMA'S WAY HOME represents a well written way to educate readers about a remarkable leader. Schools, story time and even some news stories are spaces that could benefit from studying this biography. Cherokee lives are part of the national news cycle nowadays and this book records a life worth living.
WILMA'S WAY HOME: The Life of Wilma Mankiller by Doreen Rappaport; illustrated by Linda Kukuk
Los Angeles: Disney Hyperion, 2019, 48 pages,
ISBN 978 148 4747186, $17.99, Children's Book.