rain back coverA Chapter From RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME

Warning: this page gives away some events and language from the novel.

Memory Ticklers

  1. Who did Rain pick as the subject of her third grade class report?
  2. Who first gave Rain a toy camera?
  3. What room does Rain call “spacious, uncharted territory”?
  4. What kind of film does Rain use?
  5. What question is The Flash trying to answer about Native people in Hannesburg?
  6. What deal do he and Rain shake on?
  7. Who has left a message at Rain’s house?
  8. What is Natalie doing at home?

For Book Talks Or For Your Journal


When Rain went as a third-grader to the library for her report on an important person, she wanted to focus on a Native woman. However, the only related books available were about Pocahontas and Sacajewea. Both were Native women whose role in American history has been much touted.

Why do you think Rain decided not to do a report on either of these women?

Why is this chapter called Malibu Pocahontas?


Although Aunt Georgia is Rain’s mentor through the large part of this story, it’s also clear that Grampa Berghoff has been her mentor with her photography.

Who are the mentors in your life?

What have they meant to you and why?


Rain explains that she sometimes considers using color film, “but Grampa always says that true artists shoot the highlights and the shadows because stories live in shades of gray. He says color can hide the truth.”

Do you think this has any meaning to the story besides photography? If, so explain.


Until realizing that Natalie is pregnant, Rain is very upset when she first discovers her rearranging the master bedroom. Rain particularly doesn’t like Natalie touching her own mother’s things.

Why do you think this is the case?

Author Insights

Native American versus American Indian

Native American versus American Indian. Many people from the community have a preference for one over the other. Some don’t care. In this story both are used. A few characters rely on one consistently. Others switch back and forth. To the extent possible, Rain prefers to use specific Native Nation (or tribal) names, and when speaking broadly she alternates between Native American and American Indian. With regard to tribal names, careful readers will notice a sprinkling of traditional and imposed names.

In historical books, a common factual error is to have Native people refer to themselves by imposed names. However, in a contemporary setting, I had to consider that after so many years of imposed names, many of today’s Native people have adopted them into day-to-day speech. As an author, my job is to make characters come alive as individuals. The choice of each individual character between Native American or American Indian or a particular tribal name is determined largely by their upbringing, perspective, and in some cases, what they’re trying to accomplish with the reference. This is true with all of their choices.

I don’t always agree with the words or actions of my characters, but I frame them thoughtfully to inspire readers to think both hard about the way the story unravels as well as to lose themselves in it.

interracial identity

In this chapter Rain has to tell The Flash that she is biracial. He doesn’t recognize her as a Native girl on sight. I am biracial, which means I have ancestors of different races. In writing Rain and her big brother Fynn, I created a family wherein one child, Fynn, has more traditional Native features and the other child, Rain, physically takes more after her European ancestors—at least in relationship to their coloring.

I’m not the first author to do this. Read, for example, the picture book A MAN CALLED RAVEN by Richard Van Camp (Dogrib) with pictures by George Littlechild (Plains Cree)(Children’s Book Press, 1997).

But of course, not all of the interracial characters in the book have grown up with exposure to both sides of their cultural heritage. Queenie, in joining Indian Camp, is taking a step toward exploring her Native roots. This gives her a much different perspective than the other biracial characters. She is doing what Queenie loves to do most—learning.