Summary: Two Tribes
Mia is part of two tribes, although she’s only known one for most of her life. She lives with her Jewish mom and stepfather in California but has always been curious about her father and his Muscogee heritage. Her mom and dad did not have an amicable divorce, so her mother doesn’t like to talk about her dad. Eventually, Mia’s curiosity gets the best of her, and she uses her Bat Mitzvah money to travel to her father in Oklahoma, telling her mom that she’s at a Jewish camp. There, she learns about her Muscogee family and their culture. But of course, her mom finds out, and Mia is in a fix. Can she embrace both sides of herself even when she’s in California?
I liked the premise of this book and the fact that it delves into Native American culture. Mia is understandably torn and naturally curious about the cultures that make up who she is. She goes to a Jewish school and looks different from everyone else, but her adopted Asian friend. So she’s constantly reminded that she’s mixed.
The book showcases both Mia’s Jewish culture (her mother has a strong Jewish support system, and they’re welcoming of Mia) and her Native American culture. I loved meeting the Muscogee side of Mia’s family and even though I was worried about her traveling without her mother’s knowledge, I was glad she didn’t encounter anything dangerous.
I felt at times that this book was really preachy; there’s so much Native American history that it felt like an all-out education for readers, which I thought could’ve been more subtle and still as effective. I felt like I learned more about Native American and Jewish culture than I did the protagonist. I also really did not like the illustration style, and I think that was more off-putting to me than anything else. It just felt sub-par to me.
Overall: Two Tribes
Two Tribes is an important middle grade graphic novel about personal identity and navigating a bi-cultural existence. This book is a rare exploration into life for a tween who is both Muscogee and Jewish, and readers will empathize with Mia’s questions and struggles. While I wish the illustrations were better and the story was less preachy in parts, I do think this is worth reading, and I look forward to reading whatever this author writes next.