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Multicultural Literature
Morning Girl
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Yangsook Choi: Book Analysis
The Thief Lord
This Same Sky
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge
The Eleventh Hour: Curious Mystery
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry
M.C. Higgins, the Great
Goin' Someplace Special
Locomotion
Too Many Tamales
Pablo Remembers
My Name is Maria Isabel
Pablo's Tree
The Great Ball Game
Buffalo Woman
Morning Girl
The Mud Pony: A Traditional Skidi Pawnee Tale
Jingle Dancer
The Name Jar
Tree of Cranes
Good Luck Gold: And Other Poems
The Magic Paintbrush
Habibi
Ella Enchanted
Silent Lotus
Real Heroes

Dorris, Michael.  1992.  Morning girl.  New York: Scholastic Inc.
     ISBN:  0590679252.

 

Living on a tropical island, in 1492, the Taino people live in peaceful harmony with nature. In alternating chapters twelve year old Morning Girl and her younger brother, Star Boy, reflect on their lives.  Morning Girl loves the aloneness of early morning and her brother loves the night.  Morning girl is frustrated with her brother's loud impulsivness and feels like life would be so much better if he were not around.  Their sibling rivalry and opposing views are reflective of brothers and sisters everywhere.

          Through their eyes we learn what life might have been like at that time and place.  Living in a thatched roof hut, we learn some of the activities that filled day-to-day life on this island as their father repairs his fishing nets and the children are free to wander and collect shells, weave flower necklaces, and swim.   

     Dorris respectfully represents this native culture weaving life’s triumphs with tribulations.  The village endures great damage as a storm ravages the coastline and Morning Girl’s mother loses a baby.  We see a strong connection growing between brother and sister as they experience these events.  Family relationships and growth are central to the story.

Morning Girl comes upon a canoe full of Europeans and welcomes them to her village with friendliness and generosity.  She tries not to laugh at their cumbersome clothing and manners so as not to appear foolish and reflect badly upon her people.  It is only then that the reader learns through a journal entry in the epilogue that this group of visitors includes Christopher Columbus.  Columbus reveals in his journal that these natives “should be good and intelligent servants, for I see that they say very quickly everything that is said to them…and would become Christians very easily” (Dorris).  He also notes  that the people are young, no more that thirty years old, go around naked, live simply and poorly, and they have no acquaintance with weaponry

What is clear throughout the story are the loving bonds within the family, the developing appreciation and understanding between brother and sister, and the peaceful cooperation of the village.  The community is peace loving and neighbors live respectfully among each other.  If visitors approach, and seem non-threatening, they are welcome to come and share the hospitality of the village.  Children are named with great care and consideration by people within the community, and names can change with the person as their personalities emerge.  These attributes reflect what is known of native cultures.

One of the most interesting aspects of this story is to view a native culture preceding Columbus' landing and realize that this civilization existed in an organized society, traded with other groups of people, and engaged in celebrations without benefit of outside influence.  In other words, the Taino people acted in accordance with their view of the world. 

The author received the Scott O’Dell Award for historical fiction for this book (Zuiderveen).  To view the Taino culture from the insider perspective of Morning Girl and Star Boy and then glimpse the European perspective is thought provoking.  The reader is left with lot to think about when contemplating the existing native culture and what is to come of their way of life with the discovery of the “New World”.

Zuiderveen, Josh.  2001.  Colonial and postcolonial dialogues.  Available from
      http://www.wmich.edu/dialogues/texts/morninggirl.html.  Accessed 11 July 04.