Cynsations

Rain Is Not My Indian Name

Paperback edition cover by Natasha Donovan; cover design by David DeWitt

RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME by Cynthia Leitich Smith, paperback cover by Natasha Donovan (Heartdrum, 2021). Ages 10-up. Also published by HarperCollins Canada.

Hardcover edition features a cover by Lori Early (HarperCollins, 2001).

In a voice that resonates with insight and humor, New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Leitich Smith tells the story of a teenage girl who must face down her grief and reclaim her place in the world with the help of her intertribal community.

Cassidy Rain Berghoff didn’t know that the night she decided to get a life would be the same night that her best friend would lose his.

It’s been six months since Galen died, and up until now Rain has succeeded in shutting herself off from the world. But when controversy arises around Aunt Georgia’s Indian Camp in their mostly white midwestern community, Rain decides to face the outside world again—at least through the lens of her camera.

As the new photographer for her town’s newspaper, Rain soon has to decide how involved she wants to become in Indian Camp. Does she want to keep a professional distance from her intertidal community? And, though she mourns, will she be able to embrace new friends and new beginnings?

Audio Edition Voice Actor: Jenna Lamia (Listening Library, 2001).

The paperback edition features a new cover, updated text and ancillary materials, including a new author’s note. Published in partnership with We Need Diverse Books.

Awards and Honors

  • Writer of the Year (Children’s-YA), Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers
  • 2020 Teaching for Change: Social Justice Books Selection
  • Finalist, Oklahoma Book Award
  • Featured Title, National Book Festival
  • Featured Title, Texas Book Festival
  • Dishchii’Bikoh High School Reader Award (DHS is on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in eastern Arizona)
  • “You Gotta Read This Book” Club, St. Petersburg Times
  • Featured Title, GREAT BOOKS FOR GIRLS by Kathleen Odean (Ballantine, 2002)
  • Book of the Month, Red Tales, Aboriginal Voices Radio
  • Recommended Title, THE CHILDREN’S LITERATURE LOVER’S BOOK by Joanna Sullivan (Jossey-Bass, 2003)
  • Recommended Title, DOES ANYBODY ELSE LOOK LIKE ME? A PARENT’S GUIDE TO RAISING MULTIRACIAL CHILDREN by Donna Jackson Nakazawa (Da Capo Press, 2004)
  • Recommended Title, SEVEN CHOICES: FINDING DAYLIGHT AFTER LOSS SHATTERS YOUR WORLD by Elizabeth Harper Neeld (Warner Books, 2003)
  • Suggested Title, Recommended Native Literature for Youth Reading Circles from American Experience: “We Shall Remain,” PBS, April 2009
Hannesburg, Kansas: the fictional setting of RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME. Illustration by Mark G. Mitchell.

Order RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME by Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Depending on the title, Cynthia’s books may be found from Native bookstores like Birchbark Books and Native Arts and Red Planet Books and Comics, her local independent BookPeople in Austin, other terrific Texas bookstores like Blue Willow Bookshop and Brazos Bookstore, retail sites supporting indie bookstores like BookShop (Affiliate), IndieBound and Libro.fm (audio books), brick-and-mortar chains like Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, and online retailer Amazon.com (Author Central).

Audio Version

rain_audioRead by actor Jenna Lamia (Listening Library)

  • November 2005 Book of the Month by Red Tales, Aboriginal Voices Radio, The Earth 106.5 (Nov. 2005)

“Jenna Lamia’s motherless Rain is as fresh, earnest, and appealingly impertinent as the character demands, while her secondary characters sing with individuality…. Rich with sorrow and the longing for resolution in a life diminished by loss, the story of Rain’s journey toward her own identity is captivating and exceedingly hopeful.” — Audio File

“It’s kind of like a combination of ‘Northern Exposure’ and ‘Party of Five’.” — Bob Langstaff, WAMV AM (Amhet, VA)

Reviews
“Tender, funny, and full of sharp wordplay, Smith’s first novel deals with a whole host of interconnecting issues, but the center is Rain herself. What’s amazing here is Rain’s insights into her own pain, and how cleanly she uses language to contain it.”  — Kirkus Reviews

“There is a surprising amount of humor in this tender novel. It is one of the best portrayals around of kids whose heritage is mixed but still very important in their lives. It’s Rain’s story and she cannot be reduced to simple labels. A wonderful novel of a present-day teen and her ‘patch-work tribe.'”  — School Library Journal 

“…readers will feel the affection of Rain’s loose-knit family and admire the way that they, like the author with the audience, allow Rain to draw her own conclusions about who she is and what her heritage means to her.”  — Publishers Weekly

“Smith (author of Jingle Dancer) portrays a protagonist with a genuine voice and an appealing sense of humor.”  — Children’s Literature

Hardback cover by Lori Early (HarperCollins, 2001)

“Cynthia Leitich Smith’s newest novel, RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME, is a powerful novel of two friends and the residual effects of a night of impulsive behavior. Smith’s writing is inspired. Rain’s heritage, sense of loyalty, her faith in herself and her abilities, and even the memories of her friendship are tested in this compelling story of a teenager who must face the realities of her life. A compelling read sure to be a popular choice among intermediate and young adult readers.”  — 100 MOST POPULAR CHILDREN’S AUTHORS by Sharon L. McElmeel (Libraries Unlimited)

“Not since BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA have I read a book for young people which dealt with death in such a gentle but firm tone.”  —Apache (Oklahoma, not Nation) News 

“Smith deftly tackles such dominant society icons and artifacts as football mascots, fake dreamcatchers, Elvis, Anime, Pez, cigar-store Indians and Barbie, and places them in a contemporary Indian cultural context alongside fried bologna sandwiches, two-steps, and star quilts. There is Indian Humor that not everyone is going to “get” …no vision quests and no mixed-blood identity crises…we see Cassidy Rain, called ‘Rainy Day’ by her mom, as a smart teenager with an acerbic wit.”  — Multicultural Review

“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.” — January Magazine

Book Trailer
Author Insights

“Probably every first novel is at least quasi-autobiographical, and that’s certainly true of this one. Like Rain, I grew up (in part) in Northeast Kansas and had ties to community journalism. I likewise enjoy Web design.

“More globally, it’s often remarked that this book is stylistically drawn more from Native literary traditions than most children’s books about American Indian characters. I think that’s part of my responsibility as a Native author, to honor and preserve those techniques and sensibilities.”

RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME from Cynsations. The story behind the story. PEEK: “Sometimes I think you have to write your first novel before you can write anything else, and it’s in many ways a mixed blessing if it’s actually published. Basically, that manuscript helps you clear out everything that’s built up over the years.”

Updating and Re-envisioning: JINGLE DANCER, INDIAN SHOES and RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Cynsations. PEEK: “Yes, I said re-envision. Perhaps you’re wondering what’s changed and why?”

CYN NOTE: “There’s some question as to whether the name ‘Aiyana’ is Cherokee in origin, but I left it in the updated edition for a child of Cherokee (among other tribes) heritage because (a) a lot of Native people have names that aren’t traditional (e.g., “Cynthia”) and because (b) my connection to it is that it’s the name of my best childhood friend’s daughter and my initial decision to incorporate it was a loving wink to them.

Illustrator Insights

From cover artist Natasha Donovan (Métis):

This project was a cover update, so the art director (David DeWitt) and I worked together to come up with something with a more contemporary feel. My work started with reading the book, highlighting any important imagery and trying to get a sense of how to best convey the spirit of the story.

We already knew we definitely wanted a portrait of Rain with her camera, and once I read the book, a backdrop of fireworks seemed like the right move. Fireworks are a reference to some important moments in the story, but they’re also a way of representing the explosiveness of loss (both in its wild grief and its unexpected, breathless joy). This decision informed the palette as well; I knew I’d need colours that would transport readers into a slowly-cooling summer night filled with the smell of smoke and the sounds of far-off revelry.

Once the art director and I decided on a composition that we were happy with, I was able to go ahead with inking (digitally, on my iPad) and colouring (in photoshop, using a graphics tablet). At this stage all of the details had been nailed down, and my focus was on Rain—getting her posture and expression just right. I thought a lot about Rain’s story and my own recent experience with grief, hoping to get the art to portray both brokenhearted vulnerability and newly-found strength. For me, this stage is largely instinctual, and it involves a lot of fiddling and then forcing myself to step away and come back later. One of the unexpectedly difficult parts of any illustration is deciding to be done!

Educational Resources

RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME: Reading Group Guide by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Features publication information; introduction; excerpt; discussion questions; author biography; author interview.

RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME: Chapter Discussion Questions by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Many feature notes on the story behind the story and more. This has been very popular for classroom use, from elementary schools to college classrooms.

RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME: Multiple Intelligence Projects by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer. Features activities related to Verbal/Linguistic; Logical/Mathematical; Visual/Spatial; Body/Kinesthetic; Musical/Rhythmic; Interpersonal; Intrapersonal.

Camera Women by Pat Joel from Booklinks. PEEK: “From a science and technology viewpoint, students will be interested in the challenges posed by early cameras, such as the malodiferous chemicals that ate holes in clothing and blackened fingernails. They can chart the advances and contributions of women as their sphere of influence gradually widened from the inner circle of family and friends to the national transitions and upheavals….”

5 Indigenous People You Should Teach Your Kids About from Parents Together.

Teacher and Librarian Resources for Native American Children’s and Young Adult Books from CYALR.

Diversifying Your Classroom Books Collection? Avoid These 7 Pitfalls from Kara Newhouse from KQED. PEEK: “…seven pitfalls to avoid when deciding what to leave in and out, accompanied by more than 50 title recommendations based on conversations in this piece to help kickstart the journey.”

June 2001 | 9780688173975; 0688173977 | HarperCollins | Hardcover | Tween Novel/Fiction | 144 Pages | Ages 10-up

February 2021 | 9780380733002 | Heartdrum | Paperback

February 2021 | 9780063049826| Heartdrum | Ebook