2023 Reading Program
Nurturing for Community Category – Suitable for Youth*
Book Review by Bonita Miller
Best-selling author Angeline Boulley is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. She is Bear Clan, and from Sugar Island, which is between Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Canada. She writes from life experience, and we are provided a rich background for the Anishinaabe traditions, words, and sacred prayers.
After hearing the United Women in Faith introduction to this book in early 2022, I was intrigued and immediately ordered a Kindle version. Once I began to read, I had a difficult time putting the book down. It is a page-turner!
The main character in the book is teen Daunis, the daughter of a French American mother and Anishinaabe father. She has a brother from another mother. Recently graduated from High School, she has friends through school and her involvement in the local hockey world.
This book is about family, relationships, romance, death and hope. I especially appreciate gaining insight into the regard for and wisdom of some of Daunis’ elders and her connection with them.
Firekeeper’s Daughter does more than explain the hardships and trials of the Native American community, namely drug issues, failures of the justice system, and the widespread abuse and lack of concern for women. The trauma we read about is generational, hereditary, and cyclical. I would classify this book as a mystery, and it is filled with suspense, intrigue, laughter, love, happiness and sadness.
*United Women in Faith classify this book as suitable for Youth and I was surprised by that. Due to the drug issues and violence, I would say this book is for Young Adult on up.
Maria Hase is the Social Action Coordinator for Desert Southwest Conference. After participating in a Jurisdiction-Wide "Conversation about Racial Justice" August 1, she was prompted to share her recent experience.
Have you ever had one of those weeks where it seemed everything went wrong, but at the end you realized that the important things went very right – that God was in control? I woke up in tears when it hit me how God worked in my life this week and continues to do so.
Last week I started working for a new school district. I am a Speech-Language Pathologist. One of my obvious roles is to get students to talk and communicate. During orientation I transferred my membership to the local education association, and I was invited to do a “kraftivity” at the Arizona Education Association on Saturday. The “kraftivity” was making a sign for our classrooms. I love rainbows, so I made my sign a rainbow sign.
Proudly, I texted it to one of my best friends, and her response shocked me. “Remind me again what age group you will be working with? Are u intending to put your name behind the pride flag – is your intention to start a conversation with your staff and students?”
My response was, “I’m working with 5th-8th graders. My sign’s intention is inclusivity. All are welcome. My church is a reconciling congregation and I voted to be one, but rainbows mean far more to me than the Pride flag. Last year I was asked to write an inclusive prayer for the legislative session and I wrote it about rainbows. They are a symbol of the Navajo nation’s sovereignty, for example. In my area and in windows around the world, rainbows were posted as a sign of hope during the pandemic. When I see a rainbow, it is a sign to me that God is pleased.
There’s more behind the reason for the rainbow but you get the idea….if it starts a conversation, I welcome it. Rainbows are symbolic and meaningful to many peoples and religions.”
My friend texted back, “Maria, in my opinion your job is to teach kids and increase their speech and language! Not preach! You are not their parent. I would be livid if my kid was getting a “woke” conversation without my consent. With the attempt of inclusion remember there’s another group that you’re disregarding! Why not be a friendly teacher who loves all her students and teaches them to the best of her ability! That’s all the kids need!”
My response, “That’s what a rainbow symbolizes to me. A friendly teacher who welcomes ALL students and teaches them to the best of her ability. I’m not preaching or giving a woke conversation. It’s a rainbow.” Her response, “I hear what u are saying but you know what it symbolizes and so does everyone else! Your 5th to 8th graders are well aware!!” I texted back, “Look up rainbows. They have many many meanings to various groups. It’s not just the symbol of the Pride flag. To me rainbows are inclusive because of what they mean to various peoples and religions.” Her response, “I guess we have to agree to disagree (heart).” My response, “Works for me! I love you!” Her response, “(heart) u 2 (smiley face)”
Fast forward to school the next day. I put my sign up in my classroom – front and center, and my rainbow welcome sign from Mission u above my door. I attended the scheduled training sessions during orientation and periodically was given time to work in my classroom. Fast forward to Wednesday when the entire staff returned, and it wasn’t just us newbies any more. My principal wore black and white. She looked sharp. On Thursday she wore black and white, too. Half of the staff was very colorfully dressed. In hindsight, I was, too. Thank you, Lord, for directing me to my colorful striped dress. On Friday, when we went to the district welcome and celebration at Grand Canyon University, my colleague wore bright pink next to me. I wondered why. That afternoon as I was putting up my bulletin board my colleague walked by carrying a very heavy load of colorful paper. I do not know if she is a member of the LGBTQIA community, but I suspect she is. She was accompanied by another staff member. As they entered the building, I remember the woman carrying the heavy load saying, “I got this,” loudly. As she walked past me in the hallway, I remember commenting, “Good thing you have someone to help you with that.” The staff member accompanying her looked at our colleague, smiled, and remarked, “I’m supervising.”
That afternoon we had a legitimate lockdown. There were fugitives running loose in the neighborhood. When the lockdown ended, our Principal called us into our end of the day staff meeting early. I noticed she was once again wearing black and white, and the guy who sat behind me on Thursday – wearing a bright orange shirt – was seated to my left, and he had his hat on backwards – kind of like a maverick. I also noted he was wearing black and white. He then looked at the Principal and very intentionally turned his hat around, as if to signal he was in compliance and on board. During our meeting our Principal referenced me as “Ms. Maria” and talked about how I had said in our exceptional student services meeting that I had stressed the importance of teachers being at students’ Individual Education Plan and Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team meetings to share about the students’ social emotional learning. This morning it hit me that the staff was having a quiet “spirited debate” if you will without me knowing. I was entirely oblivious to the social cues. It took me until 4:10 a.m. Sunday to realize what transpired. I woke up crying, because of the way God worked through me this week. My Principal’s subtly communicated verdict is that the sign must go.
My verdict is that my rainbow colored welcome sign from Mission u above my door, and my “safe space” rainbow sign by my door will remain. I will use my National Geographic rainbow projector to keep the rainbow in my room. I love rainbows. We are all colors in the same rainbow. Ladies who attended the Living the Charter for Racial Justice training by Bonita Jane Miller, Jo Lawson and Deb Williams on August 1 – there you have how it all played out….You were right. My sign can go, but people cannot change their color.
“...and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (RSV)
During a time of larger nation-wide and global change, our bold organization is strategically improving our operating framework to welcome, unify, orient, and encourage women around our common vision to: “turn faith, hope and love into action on behalf of women, children and youth around the world.”
It’s an exciting time for all of us as we continue to grow and adapt, motivated and responsive to new ideas for the rapidly revolving world in which we live. We’re transforming the way we operate as an organization to continuously improve our ability to provide opportunities to grow spiritually, offer enriching and transformative educational experiences, and equip women and girls to be leaders, while continually striving toward justice through service and advocacy.
You, as United Methodist Women, have the vision, the knowledge, the ability, and the experience to help us build into the future. You are truly our greatest legacy today and for tomorrow! You never know how your story might inspire another. Ponder this lovely insight from young Anne Frank: “Everyone has inside them a piece of good news. The good news is you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is.”
I’ve grown to understand that many people have helped me along my way, providing me with what I couldn’t do for myself. Family, my church family, co-workers, team members, staff, and friends around me have spiritual gifts that have complemented my own talents. The God-given abilities and insights that accompany each gift enrich my life and move me to work with greater joy and efficiency.
Celebrate others! Support the dreams, goals, and loving acts of all people, and we will make the world a better place one person at a time. Then, those people begin to respond by helping and reaching out to others. We will explore new opportunities and share our creativity in ways that will benefit the organization and those we serve! During this time, we manifest qualities such as encouragement, humility, understanding, resilience, and, most of all, love.
Dear Lord, Thank You for fearfully and wonderfully creating each of us. Thank You for giving us worth in Your eyes. Help us live as the one You uniquely intended us to be. Help us abide instead of strive, living peacefully and joyfully as heirs to Your Kingdom and co-heirs with Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.