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Review of CODE TALKER by Joseph Bruchac

by Becky Laney

Bruchac, Joseph. 2005. CODE TALKER: A NOVEL ABOUT THE NAVAJO MARINES OF WORLD WAR TWO. New York: Dial. ISBN 0803729219

CODE TALKER is an outstanding novel that traces the life of a young Navajo from his home, to boarding school, to his experiences in the Marines where he was a code talker. He talks about how he was treated by whites in all situations and locales. He discusses how he (and thousands of others) were punished severely at boarding school for talking Navajo. They were taught over and over again that their native heritage was useless, worthless, and that if they wanted to succeed in life they should forget everything about their heritage and learn to be white. Fortunately, this young man re-named Ned Begay knew better. He excelled at boarding school, but he never forgot who he was. Ned was only fourteen when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor but he knew that he must join the army as soon as he could. Soon Ned knew that he wanted to be a Marine. The Marines were specifically looking for Navajos to join up. Although Ned didn’t know it when he signed up at the age of sixteen, the very language he’d been forbidden to speak would now be essential to winning the war in the South Pacific. He joined a very elite group of Navajo marines who served on various islands of the South Pacific and fought in important/significant battles against the Japanese. The book is outstanding. It is told in story form. That is, the fictional character Ned Begay, is telling his story “aloud” to his fictional grandchildren.

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