Week 2: I Am Regina Read-a-Long

Welcome to the final week of the 2014 War Through the Generations With a Twist Read-a-Long of I Am Regina by Sally M. Keehn for April.

Because this young adult novel is so short, we’re only hosting 2 discussions for it.

For this week’s discussion, we’ve read chapters 14-end, including the afterword.

Please be aware that there could be spoilers in this final discussion:

Serena: Looks like my concerns about Tiger Claw’s covetous nature toward Regina were on target.  What do you think about the author including a disturbing event in a younger reader’s book? Did you think it was well handled?

Anna: I was surprised to find that scene in what appears to be a middle-grade novel.  However, I think the author handled it well; she didn’t get too descriptive, but she also didn’t sugar-coat it.  I think it seemed very realistic and true to the characters she created.  I think that’s what I liked best about this book — it doesn’t stay away from the difficult issues, but tackles them head on.  What did you think?

Serena: I think she handled the scene really well, but didn’t “sugar coat it” as you said. I do like that she made it seem immediate and threatening, but at the same time, it didn’t get into too much detail. I wonder how teachers would approach that in the classroom, especially since those types of things surely happened.

Anna: It reminded me of the discussion we had about Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains, and how she avoids the subject altogether.

Did you feel that the story was rushed toward the end? The pace was definitely quick in the latter half, but I think her reunion with her mother was quickly tied up and then the story ended. I think it would’ve been interesting to see how Regina fared after that (even if only a chapter or two), especially since the author emphasizes how much she lost, from her language to her own identity, and how she didn’t want to leave Wolefin behind.

Serena: I do think the book’s ending was a bit rushed, but I wonder if that has to do with the lack of source material about the real Regina. I do think there should have been a bit more about her transition back into a white man’s society. It would have been interesting to see how she acclimated herself or didn’t. I did read the afterword about it, but I think it would have been more interesting to read as part of the narrative, especially as she and her mother reunited.

I do think its an interesting paradox that she would feel so connected to her old family and the Indian family, and how she’s torn about how to choose, even though Wolefin wasn’t exactly nice to her and wanted her to marry Tiger Claw. I think it would make for a good discussion about what identity is and how you hold onto in a time of crisis.

Anna: If there wasn’t much source material about the real Regina and the author had to invent all the previous scenes, I think she could have done the same after the reunion between Regina and her mother. I think the ending is what made this a 4-star book instead of a 5-star for me.

The book definitely does make you think about identity and all the gray areas when it comes to war. It’s interesting how the war is so central to the story, especially in how it sends the warriors away and leaves the women to fend for themselves in the harsh winter, yet it also manages to stay in the background. So I definitely think the issues of identity and faith are more prevalent.

Serena: I agree that the issues most prevalent are faith and identity here, and I think that Regina’s strong religious upbringing helped her tackle the challenges ahead of her as an Indian captive.

I do like that this one included most about the French and Indian War than the previous book I read, Indian Captive (which is also based on a true story). This made the dangers of war more immediate and their actual impact on the village more immediate for me, with the warriors heading off to battle and leaving the women alone to find whatever rats and nuts they could in winter to get sustenance.

Regina seems to endure quite a bit more loss when her “sister” Nonschetto is killed and she’s forced to leave the village with the white men and lose her “mother” and her dog. Why do you think she’s not as despondent at Quetit?

Anna: I think it’s because that’s the only home Quetit has known, so she’s bound to feel the loss more keenly. When they are forced to leave the village, Quetit is the same age as when Regina was taken captive. That scene really brings the book full circle; at the beginning, we see the Indians killing and stealing from the white men, and at the end, we see the white men burning the Indian village — and with all the kindness we witnessed in between, it really drives home the point that there is good and evil on both sides.

This book really took me on a roller-coaster ride. I was so upset at Regina’s happy family life being torn apart and her being thrust into this new world against her will. And then I was sad that she lost her old self, but I was glad she was able to cope and even find moments of happiness in her new life. And then I felt so bad when she was torn away from that into another situation full of chaos and uncertainty. This really was a downer of a book, and I think that’s why I had a problem with the ending because reuniting with her mother was supposed to be a happy time — she was getting a piece of her old life back, after all — but all I could do was feel bad about how confused she was about who she was and worry about how she would cope.

Serena: I agree the end could have been fleshed out more. I could have even been ok with just a bit more solace from Regina when she’s in her mother’s arms, rather than the bit about the song. I wanted a bit more emotion there. While I get that the song is important to her, I just wanted her to articulate some form of comfort or emotional connection with her mother.

I did enjoy the book more than the other book I read on this time period for all of these reasons and for the inclusion of war. I do think this would be a great discussion for a book club or in a classroom.

Any final thoughts?

Anna: I’ll be honest — I didn’t have high expectations for this book, but I ended up really liking it. The story itself was interesting, more so knowing that it was based on a true story. I think the author did a great job with Regina’s evolution to Tskinnak, and I like how it was a balanced story.

Please feel free to share your thoughts about I am Regina in the comments.

We hope that you’ll join us in June for a read-a-long of the Korean War novel, War Babies by Frederick Busch. SCHEDULE to be released in May.

1 Comment

  1. […] check out the readalong chats that Serena and I posted on War Through the Generations here and here (beware of […]

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