Sunday, August 02, 2009

What WAS That Book?

I shook the memory tree today and nothing fell out but confetti-sized scraps of literature. I'm trying (and failing) to remember the title of a book I read back in the fall of 1972 or possibly early 1973; it was right around my 11th birthday. What ails me? It's only been 36 or 37 years. -- practically overnight, right?

Rather than grumble all day about my faithless BookMemory, I've decided to give you all the information I remember and ask for help in identifying this young adult novel, published sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

The reason I can pinpoint the time I read this book is because I was going through a phase in which I was obsessed with books about Native Americans or Indians, as we said back then. Someone (Mom? Dad? Aunt?) bought this book for me. The main character was a young Indian male of about 14. He was about to go through some rite of passage (hunting on his own?) to mark his transition from child to young brave. This main character had an animal name like Something Eagle or Wolf or Bear. Or perhaps it was a nature name like Something Leaf or Cloud. (Sorry, that's not very helpful, is it?) He had a BFF who was about his age and his name was something more descriptive.

Main Character got along well with his mother and father. Because of his age, he was getting hairy-faced, and his mother was always running for her clam shell tweezers. He noted that his friends didn't seem to share his hirsuteness. (Foreshadowing.) His dad was always available for a father-son talk, and to show his respect and affection, he would look into Main Character's eyes and stroke his arms from shoulder to elbow and back again.

Something went wrong during the rite of passage stuff. Main Character messed up somehow, I think inadvertently. But ignorance didn't cut any ice with the tribal council. Main Character was sentenced to die by sitting in a circle in the middle of camp and being starved to death. If he tried to leave the circle, he would be taken out with a spear or a bow and arrow. His father and mother were heartbroken, but nothing could be done to reverse his sentence.

After a few days in the circle, Main Character was pretty bad off. He managed to surreptitiously dig some grubs out of the dirt. Then he noticed that it was going to rain and knew that he'd get a drink of water. He hallucinated that he was drinking so much rainwater that he was drowning, but didn't realize that members of the tribe were holding a buffalo hide over him so that he couldn't get any water.

Main Character survived beyond the maximum number of days that anyone had ever lived in the circle (nine or ten?) and the tribal council decided to spare him. Soon after that, some white men attacked the camp and in the chaos and confusion, Main Character found out that he wasn't an Indian, he was white. He was taken back to the white settlement.

Some time went by. As a new section of the book began, 1-3? years had passed and Main Character was still in the settlement and not liking it a bit. He wasn't used to his white name (something Biblical, like Matthew or John or Daniel) and since his Indian mom wasn't plucking his face anymore, he was quite beardly. He thought white people stunk -- as in, they didn't wash themselves enough. They cursed, smoked and spat constantly.

And that's all I can remember! I think Main Character returns to the tribe and strokes his Indian father from shoulder to elbow, but I'm not sure. I am certain that this book isn't Little Big Man or A Light In The Forest, but as you can see, that's all I know for sure.


Sue F. said...

wow, I am really anxious for someone to be able to identify the book...peaked my interest!

BTW-I think that is am amazing memory of the book!

Literary Feline said...

I wish I knew the title, Bybee, but I'm not familiar with this one. I always wish I was though when people ask questions like this. Good luck!

jessi said...

I don't know the title, either. :( You could try asking Sars at Tomato Nation - she does a series called "Ask the Readers" where people send in plots of books they've read and forgotten the titles/authors of and readers on the site help them out. They're usually really good at it!

herschelian said...

When I read this post all I could focus on was that you are so YOUNG (compared to me that is!) I was 22 in 1972...happy days! Can't help you with the book title tho' - sorry.

Charles said...

Glad to read Jessi's comment. There's a book I've been trying to remember for years. I'll try Tomato Nation's "Ask the readers."

One enormous help remembering bookd came to me in 1987 (When I was 37) when i decided to keep a log of all the books I read, listing title, author, publication date, etc. and my thoughts on the book. I'm pushing 1,000 books now. Unfortunately the novel I don't remember was apparently one I read before then.

Jeane said...

I don't know the title, but it sounds like a good book! LibraryThing has a forum called Name That Book where you can ask, too.

Booklogged said...

I'm clueless as well. I hope you discover the title and please, let us know if you do. It was great to learn about Tomato Nation and the feature on Library Thing that helps find titles to these long-ago and forgotten books.

Okibum said...

Have you been to Booksleuth yet?
They can find ANYTHING!!!