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Reporting from Native America

May 31, 2016
Latest post: March 20 5:07 pm

The Hunger Games sparks thirst for more American Indian young adult fiction characters

By Lee Longhorn

BIXBY, Okla. — I could not hold back from going to see the film "The Hunger Games" on Friday night. Having already read the books upon which the film is based made the anticipation that much more unbearable.

The 2012 Lionsgate film stars Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson and is set in the not too distant future in a reformed North America where instead of states there are twelve outlying districts that serve the main city only referred to as the Capitol. Jennifer Lawrence stars at the heroine, Katniss Everdeen, a young girl who is rebellious against the rules in her district and her strengths are shown within the first few minutes on screen.

Not to give out too many details of the film for those who haven’t seen it yet, Katniss is selected along with another boy from her district to represent District 12 as “tributes” in the 74th Hunger Games. There are 24 tributes selected altogether and are taken to the capitol. The rules of the Hunger Games are simple: 24 tributes are placed in the arena and only one tribute will be crowned the victor. The victor wins by outliving and potentially having to kill the other tributes. Oh, and did I mention that the tributes are all between the age of 12-18?

The movie is the first in a trilogy based on the popular and best selling young adult books by Suzanne Collins. With a popular following by many young students and adults, it was no surprise that the media reported the movie made over $150 million at the box office from the midnight release to the Sunday showings- creating the next American Indian literary giant.

After seeing the movie the first time, it got me thinking about creative writing and American Indians. Having studied a little bit of creative writing in my undergrad career (the school called the program “Professional Writing”) I wondered when the next American Indian author would write such a great character that sits in the same league as Katniss Everdeen.

When I remembered that Thursday night was the premiere of The Hunger Games, I updated my Facebook to read “The world will soon learn how much better Katniss Everdeen is than Bella Swann.” I stand by my opinion. Granted though, in regards to the Twilight novels, I’ve only read the first book and watched the first two films but there’s just no appeal to me.

Going back to my original question and thought about an American Indian literary hero/heroine has me asking the question: What would I like to see in this character?

In Harry Potter, I enjoyed reading about good overcoming evil, the power of friendship and interdependent relationships, education and the key to learning and that in the darkest of times, hope and trust can always be found.

I enjoyed reading the Hunger Games trilogy and how the characters overcame adversity, political oppression and were catalysts for change in their society. As I’m rereading the second book again, I can’t help but feel motivated and empowering.

Some other young adult fiction, like those by John Green has me feeling like a part of my life is in the story.

Personally, I would like to see a young adult fiction book have an American Indian character overcome so many challenges and relate to everyone that if it weren’t for the simple character design of his ethnicity being American Indian, you would think that their challenges could happen to anyone. It’s a long shot, but it’d be worth it in my opinion.

I wouldn’t mind reading about a young character overcoming life challenges like choosing a life decision, building a strong relationship with a character, racism and prejudices, going against society norms and standing up for their self and making a name.

Sherman Alexie has written some good books and I enjoy reading them, but my thirst for more American Indian characters can be analogous to wanting more sweet tea at dinner with my beans and fry bread. One just isn’t enough. I want more.

To the authors out there, I wish you the best of luck in accepting my challenge. I hope to see many more names in the young adult fiction section.

All I have to say to you while you take on this endeavor is “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

Lee Longhorn is a regular contributer to Reznet News.