The Morning the Sun Went Down [Paperback] Review

The Morning the Sun Went Down [Paperback]from "Kirkus Reviews" (starred review): A slim, modest, and altogether extraordinary memoir of rural Native American life. Wilson, a poet and scholar from the Achumawe and Atsugewi tribes of northeastern California, came into adolescence in the mid-1950s, when his people had all but disappeared through assimilation or extermination. Blame for part of that disappearance he lays squarely at the door of whites; but, he adds, "the neglect of our Elders to teach us our traditions was equally damaging." His own parents did their best to teach Wilson and his siblings something of the old ways: how to hunt deer, how to tame rattlesnakes, how to listen for mountain lions, lessons that he imparts to his readers with precision and grace- and not a little humor. But when his mother and younger brother were killed in a collision with a logging truck, Wilson was sent off to live with white foster parents among unfriendly neighbors (he remembers, touchingly, one young girl "who did not accuse me with her eyes or attitude," principally "because we were not enemies"). Whe it appeared that his foster parents wanted to strip away his Indian identity, Wilson rebelled, for which he was sent off to a boarding school where the young California Indian charges were locked in their rooms at nights and punished by day for minor infractions. Wilson recounts these horros matter-of-factly but doesn't dwell on them; instead, he celebrates a teacher who sagely corrected his compositions, encouraged him to improve himself, and urged him to become a writer.Readers have reason to be grateful to that teacher as well. Wilson is a careful and compassionate obeserver of his life and those of other young Indians, and his book is a fine addition to the growing library of Native American autobiography.

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