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Wilma’s Way Home: The Life of Wilma Mankiller

Wilma’s Way Home: The Life of Wilma Mankiller book coverThis inspiring picture book biography follows the journey of Wilma Mankiller from her early displacement from her Cherokee culture through her triumphant return to her roots, culminating in her becoming the first women chief of the Cherokee Nation.


“Rappaport’s latest recounts the life of Wilma Mankiller. She grew up “dirt poor” in Oklahoma, and her family survived by following Gadugi, the philosophy of helping one another, trading for the necessities to live. She and her family were uprooted to San Francisco as a result of the Relocation Act. Kukuk’s illustrations draw parallels between Mankiller’s experiences and those of her Cherokee ancestors, who were forced to walk the Trail of Tears. Feeling alone and disconnected from her Native roots, she found belonging at the Indian Center in San Francisco. Mankiller took part in the occupation of Alcatraz Island, which set her on the path of activism, and eventually returned to Oklahoma, where she learned to help her people by listening first and working together to solve problems. She became the first woman chief of the Cherokee Nation, not without resistance. Her legacy lives on through Native people as a strong leader who believed collaboration was the only way to govern. In an author’s note, Rappaport discusses meeting with Mankiller’s husband and friends; also included are a time line, a pronunciation guide, a bibliography, and source notes. Kukuk’s artwork brings Mankiller to life, from her childhood days to her sunset. VERDICT An important read for all libraries, this work highlights a strong woman who left a vital message for future leaders.’ School Library Journal

“Employing her familiar pattern of accessible narration punctuated by the subject’s direct quotations, Rappaport emphasizes not only the hurdle of overcoming poverty in a society that devalues Native culture but also twentieth-century intra-Cherokee resistance to women in an elevated leadership role. Artwork is friendly and accessible, with vivid details of settings both natural and human-engineered. Source notes, a list of internet resources, author and illustrator notes, and a brief pronunciation guide are included.” The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Rappaport has produced a thoroughly researched biography enhanced by Mankiller’s own words, and though it’s heavy with text, readers should find that Choctaw artist Kukuk’s detailed scratchboard and watercolor illustrations provide visual balance. The combined effect gives readers a sense of intimacy. A solid resource for a classroom or school library about a phenomenal Cherokee woman that feels a bit like flipping through a family photo album.” Kirkus Reviews

“Doreen Rappaport and Linda Kukuk unfurl Mankiller’s evolution from “dirt poor” child growing up in a society that devalues Native culture into an exemplar of leadership and strength. It is a detailed account, lovingly rendered in Kukuk’s occasionally awkward but enthusiastic artwork, and skillfully told in Rappaport’s clear and accessible prose. But it is the use of Mankiller’s own words, woven throughout the text, that makes this book soar. Hearing her voice gives us a sense of the real woman. When Mankiller says, ‘Women can help turn the world right side up,’ her sincerity resonates, and we can’t help nodding at the wisdom of her words. The New York Times


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