Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac is a YA novel about a Navajo code talker in #WWII but it begins with the main character's childhood. Sent away to boarding school, Ned Begay was met with harsh authorities who would punish the children severely if they spoke Navajo instead of English.
Nevertheless, the students found ways to keep their language alive and it became a useful skill, speaking Navajo, when the Marines needed Navajo speakers to create and use a code as they invaded islands in the Pacific.
The book goes beyond the war years as Ned is narrating his story to his grandchildren. So, you also find out that Navajos who served were cut out of the GI Bill (unless, apparently, they bought homes that were not on Native land) and were not given military honors for their bravery. It also gives you a little insight on Navajo beliefs and traditions.
Highly recommended - Excellent writing, packed with carefully researched facts about military movements and some real-life characters who were important to the story. I liked the fact that not everything was fictionalized and the book went beyond the war years both past and present, so that you got a good feeling for what it was like to be a Navajo, having your traditions and language suppressed, and then serving with honor (some of the code talkers sacrificing their lives) only to return to the a hostile environment in which one was considered lesser at home.
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