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Why Native American Representation in “Elatsoe” Is So Important

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Susqu chapter.

Let’s be honest, 2020 hasn’t been that great. However, one of the few positive changes has been the insurgence of diverse young adult novels by various authors. I’ve been trying to read books outside of my comfort zone; books with characters that have different experiences than me. While on my search to find these books, I came across a Buzzfeed article recommending Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger. After reading Elatsoe, it quickly became one of my favorite reads of 2020, and now, I’m recommending it to everyone!

There are unlimited reasons to love this book: the Native American representation, LGBTQ+ representation, heartwarming storyline, intriguing paranormal mystery, and the author, Darcie Little Badger, is a badass scientist! It’s one of those books where there’s something in it for everyone. I originally picked up this book because I was excited about a Native American girl being the main character of a novel. The maternal side of my family is Chippewa Indian, and since my grandparents are no longer around for me to ask them questions, I search for novels that feature characters that remind me of them. I don’t talk about this a lot because I’m white, and I don’t want anyone questioning my identity. However, I love reading about Native history and recently, Native American characters in YA novels. I loved everything about Ellie’s character. She’s so relatable! Like me, she has a close relationship with her parents and family. Plus, I love my dog Lulu as much as Ellie loves Kirby. Kirby is Ellie’s ghost dog companion, and he’s the most entertaining character in the novel.

I didn’t know going into this book that there was asexual representation. It was such a wonderful surprise! I identify as asexual, and there needs to be more representation out there, not only in novels like this but in tv shows, movies, etc. It’s so comforting to relate to a character who shares your same identity. There’s this one moment in the book that really resonated with me. Ellie is invited to a wedding as a bridesmaid. When the issue of bringing a date is brought up, instead of making Ellie uncomfortable, her friend makes an adorable joke about it. It’s a great moment where we see Ellie’s friends accepting Ellie’s identity with such grace and poise. 

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Toni Reed / Unsplash

A pet peeve of mine is when a novel is publicized as being “about an asexual character…” Sure, Ellie is asexual, but there is more to her personality! She is a complex woman and that is so realistic. She also has a strong sense of justice, she’s curious, and she’s loyal to her best friend. Ellie is such an empowering character; she deals with racism and sexism like a pro. When her family experiences a major loss near the beginning of the book, Ellie takes time to grieve, and she allows herself to be emotional. However, she chooses to be strong and seek justice for her family.

Original Illustration Created in Canva for Her Campus Media

Some other important and impressive aspects of this novel are the gorgeous worldbuilding and important emotional themes. I love the worldbuilding in this novel. The concept is so unique: a world similar to ours but fully integrated with magical creatures. It’s fascinating to have characters so casually mention running into vampires and ghosts. Specifically, ghosts are so intricately incorporated into this book. There are rules to their presence and how they interact with people, and this makes Ellie’s supernatural abilities all the more crucial. I can’t give more away about the ghost without giving away plot spoilers, but trust me, it’s good. I also admire that this novel isn’t afraid to confront tough topics such as violence, family deaths, racism, sexism, and grief.

You can find Elatsoe wherever books are sold. Make sure to check out the author‘s amazing social media presence too!

I'm part time yoga teacher and a full time reader. I never miss an opportunity to listen to audiobooks on a car ride, or to read ebooks during breaks in my classes. I'm a senior at Susquehanna University where my major is creative writing with a minor in women and gender studies.
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