Quality fiction is imagined reality.
Sunny (Jóhonaá¹) of the Old Southwest
Things to Know Before Considering this Series for Yourself
or Recommending it to a Student or Other Reader
I am not pretentious enough to think that this series would readily be used in a class, as such use is generally reserved for well know and famous works. Nevertheless, since the themes within this long story (a series of related stories) are universal and appropriate to Christian reading, one or more of these books may lend themselves easily to supplemental reading in or out of the classroom. Therefore, important points about the series are related in the few paragraphs below. As a parent of grown children and former teacher² with a degree in literature and a minor in history, I wrote this with the intention that it would be fully appropriate for adult readers and mature students (probably, grade eight³ and above).
As it was being written, this series evolved quickly and somewhat unexpectedly into the story of the young Navajo woman, Jóhonaá (Sunny); and we see her natural attributes, education, and experiences turn her into a woman to be reckoned with by anyone contemplating evil. We see her grow and even push certain limits at times.
This story began partly as a traditional Western containing a hint of the Old West clichés that are actually reality based, but it carries as well a slice-of-life realism as the violence and other iconic realities of the frontier are treated with the believable manner they deserve. Thus, within the context of such violence, the main male character, who gains a small regional reputation as a gunman and knife fighter in volumes one and two, actually only fires a gun once, at a distance, during the entirety of volume three. And, in volumes four and five, his martial actions are that of a military-like individual dealing with attacking hostiles in warlike scenarios. In fact, throughout this series, all of the morally responsible characters only use violence when necessary. Historically, that is pretty much the way life played out for responsible, unprejudiced members of society in those often very prejudice-laden times.
The realistic feel of the story is further experienced in the way that the main female character (the series title character), a native woman who can take care of herself when threatened, becomes known as much for her healing help, freely given to the frontier's broken female victims, as for the defensive abilities that her father developed in her. Both of the lead characters take less actively dominant roles in volume three, revealing a lifelike scenario in this fictional series in which no one person in life is always most central or more important than others. In these books, as in life, everyone plays important roles when their name is called upon by God.
Carrying themes of 1. the worth of the Native American people and the unfair treatment of them, 2. the courage of a mixed marriage when the social timing of it is dangerous and unpopular, and 3. the immoral harshness on both the white and native sides of the conflict between them, these books reveal a realistic look at people and history. The story told throughout these five volumes says to us that: nothing is ever simple; but courage, love, and faith are absolutes.
There is no gratuitous sex and violence. The violence of that historical time is displayed accurately. There are two attempted rape scenes by the combatants of one people against innocent civilian victims on the other side. There is nothing sexually graphic in them, but throughout the novels the threats to women are alluded to accurately. One of these two scenes is in volume 4 during the Red River War between the Comanche and Texans and the U.S. Army (1874). The second such scene is set in the Philippines in 1902. Both have been described as handled well by the author by the administrator who approved them for the organization and website called Clean Indie Reads (clean independently published books).
The timeline begins just before the male protagonist leaves his home in the Shenandoah Valley after the Civil War and as the female protagonist is hiding with her Navajo Clan in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains where they avoided the 300+ mile, forced 'Long Walk of the Navajo' and incarceration by the U.S. Army at Bosque Redondo at Fort Sumner near El Paso. The series of novels follows these two through significant parts of their lives until they return from the Philippines after an important trip in 1902.
This series elevates minorities, women, minority relationships, sacrifice, courage, and the right of self-defense; and it warns of the power of unbridled government and the public mob. These themes should be universal to all thinking, open minded people, no matter what their political philosophy.
The narrative, storyteller style harkens to an older era and is less common today, but still reveals much information through action and conversation that readers have found much favor with. It is reminiscent of C.S. Forester’s The African Queen, but lacks the detailed descriptive passages such as that of the Ulanga River seen in that book. These five books also lack the long narrative beginning (nine pages) of his classic romantic adventure story; however, younger readers, not so familiar with this style, might struggle a bit.
¹ Jóhonaa’ éí . . . . shortened with an accent on the last ‘a’ (Jóhonaá) to simulate the
sound of the original Diné word (as seen in some name lists for children).
² U.S., grades 4 through 8; the Philippines, grades 6 through second year college
³ with guidance