Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fall Into Reading- Code Talkers

I decided that I would go ahead participate in Katrina's Fall into Reading over at Callapidder Days. I don't have an actual list created of what books I'm working on yet but thought I'd at least review the ones I finish.

I just finished Code Talkers by Joseph Bruchac. It is a novel about the Navajo Indians during WWII and how they created an unbreakable code. Since I've always been interested in history, this topic caught my attention. I had heard about them before but didn't really know much about them. While it is a work of fiction, the historical facts in the book are completely true. The details were not so great that I actually got bogged down, which is quite possible when your talking about war battles.

The story begins with a man telling his grandchildren about what his war medal is and what it took to earn it. The main protagonist is sixteen year old Ned Begay who was forced to go to a boarding school as a young child in order to learn how to become more "Americanized". He and the other Navajo children are forced to speak English only and not speak their native Navajo language. They are constantly reminded about how worthless it is to just be an Indian during this time.

When the war breaks out Ned is able to lie about his age in order to join the Marines and thus become part of a select group of Navajos who are fluent in both English and their native language Navajo. These men create their own code to be used during the war out of common words that are assigned to military terms. They then go on to train new men and add to this unbreakable code every few months. These men had to commit to memory everything they were learning and were sworn to secrecy. They were never aloud to speak of this code existence until 1969, almost twenty five years after the war ended.

The Code Talkers were vital to the many battles that were fought in the South Pacific and saved countless lives in the process. They helped to take back the islands of Guam, Okinawa and of course Iwo Jima. They were highly valued because of their ability to pass on information so quickly. Their fellow Marines and soldiers held them in very high esteem because of this fact until the war ended.

This story ends as Ned returns back to reservation after the war only to realize that he is once again considered a second class citizen because he is an Indian. All the pride that these code talkers had at being able to use their native language to help serve their country was sworn to secrecy. No one had any idea of the service they had performed.

While there are alot of details in this novel about war, you are primarily drawn to Ned's character and his emotions he felt during his life. He is a very likable character and you can't help but share his pain and joy. This is truly a story about hope and tolerance and how we should learn to just accept people and their differences instead of trying to wipe them out.


alisonwonderland said...

great review! i've been looking for some good historical fiction, and i'm adding this one to my TBR list.

Corrie said...

Interesting! I've never heard of this book. Thanks for the review! Maybe I'll have to check it out. I love historical fiction.