Rain Is Not My Indian Name

by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Published by HarperCollins Juvenile

137 pages, 2001

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A Warm Rain

Reviewed by Lynne Remick


Rain is not my Indian name, not the way people think of Indian names. But I am an Indian, and it is the name my parents gave me.

More than just the sum of her heritage -- Creek-Cherokee/Scots-Irish on her mother's side and Irish German-Ojibway on her father's side -- Rain is a unique and freethinking individual. With the sting of jealousy in the air, colored seed beads around her neck, the salty-taste of a first kiss on her lips and a camera in her hand, Rain begins her 14th year. In the glare of glimmering, ice-trimmed oaks, the world looks so promising. Just when Rain comes of age, her whole world collapses.

My eyes grew heavy, fuller, like sponges. My lips and fingertips chilled. I felt the news clear to the most locked-down places inside of me, clear to the part I thought had died years before with my mom. And that was before it began to make sense.

As Rain searches for the reason behind the rhyme, she finds herself forced to explore relationships with those around her -- a long-distance father, a poetry-writing ex-second best friend named Queenie, Aunt Georgia who desperately wants her to attend Indian Camp and Mrs. Owen who wants to know what really happened the night Galen gave her the necklace.

I shuffled like a zombie into my room, opened my hope chest and took out the box with my birthday necklace inside. It had been sitting on a stack of unanswered cards and letters from my grandparents in Oklahoma. Before going to bed that last night, I'd taken the necklace off so as not to get it tangled in my hair. I wasn't ready to wear it again, not yet. I wanted to keep it as one last secret between Galen and me.

Through unique insights and compelling journal entries, Cassidy Rain Berghoff presents the mysteries of her 14th year and attempts to make sense of the unexplainable phenomenon of life and death.

Rain Is Not My Indian Name is a poignant chronicle of the tender years. As a main character, Rain proves truthful, pensive, able to laugh at herself and absolutely intriguing. The way she handles herself when the cards of her life are shuffled and cut with lies and secrets provides an inspiring tale for teens.

After enjoying the delightful preservation of Indian culture/heritage in Leitich Smith's Jingle Dance, I am likewise thrilled with the treatment of multicultural issues in Rain Is Not My Indian Name. A new voice in Native American Children's Literature, Cynthia Leitich Smith has a lot to say and she speaks in her own, unique way. As I followed Rain Berghoff through the journey of her 14th year, I became caught in the flow and ended up in a thought-provoking place where nothing lasts forever, but memories cannot be erased. Highly worthwhile. | April 2001


An avid reader, established reviewer and writer of poetry, non-fiction, fiction, historical romance and children's books, Lynne Remick can always be found with a book in her hand. She lives in New York with her fiancé Michael, her son Kevin, her Schipperke Dante, a feral cat named Sahara and a spoiled hedgehog named Nike. There, in a little house once owned by her Great Grandparents, she reads, writes stories, book reviews, writing columns and poetry.