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Code Talker: A Novel of the Navajo
by Ivon Blum
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Reviewed by: John L. Hoh, Jr.

American history has some really strange twists. One is the treatment of Native Americans and their culture. The American federal government decided to assimilate the Native Americans into American culture. That included forbidding the speaking of native tongues and learning English.

During World War II the American military needed a code to use that could not be cracked by the enemy. It was found that the Navajo language was perfect for this. Now to find Navajos who could still speak Navajo...

Code Talker is about the human need to survive and belong. It is also the story of Talking Boy Gorman, a U.S. marine and a Navajo Indian code talker-radioman at the battle of Iwo Jima during WWII. His story intermingles with the struggle of the Navajo People and his own ancestors for survival at the hands of the U.S. Army just 80 years before. Talking Boy lies wounded and alone as the marines fight to take Mt. Suribachi. He wonders why Vargas, his own bodyguard, wants to kill him amid the raging battle.

The novel follows the story about the struggles of the Navajo. As a child in government schools, Talking Boy and his Navajo friends were punished for speaking their native tongue. Now his language is prized as an unbreakable code in the war against the Japanese. Imagine the conflict that must present to a young man who faces death.

Talking Boy then writes a letter in his mind. He asks his sweetheart, Penny Joe, "how come I change flags so easily."

Through morphine induced wanderings Talking Boy remembers the old stories of generations of his family. They struggled against the U.S. Army's attempted extermination of an entire people before and during the Long Walk.

Talking Boy also remembers how this played out in his family. Juanito, his great grandfather, cries out, "I shall surrender, never." Juanito's own half-brother, Carlos Montoya, an Army officer, murders Hunts Quail, his great grandmother. Hunts Quail was giving birth to his grandfather at the time of her murder. This was during the endless trail into Navajo oblivion. Juanito then kills his half-brother in revenge. Jaunito has lost his beloved wife. But he gained a son and a renewed desire to survive.

The graphically portrayed battle for Mt. Suribachi provides a detailed look at one of the bloodiest battles of the war. It features some of the heroic marines who fought and died in this battle. The wounded radioman's experience offers a convincing look at how the Pacific war might have been lost without the Navajo language Code Talkers.

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