Julie of the Wolves (George)

Next up: “Julie of the Wolves” by Jean Craighead George

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A children’s book that’s frequently on reading lists for elementary school curriculums (curricula?).  There are also two sequels, “Julie” and “Julie’s Wolf Pack”.

Summary

The book tells the story of an Inuit girl in Alaska who runs away and lives for a time with a pack of wolves.  It is set up in three parts, the first being the story of how she integrated herself into a wolf pack, the second being the story of her past and how she’d come to be with the wolves, and the last being her leaving the wolves and returning to human civilization.

There are a lot of deep themes in the book, likely why it is included in school curriculums/a a lot.  The most prominent is the division between Miyax’s (Julie’s) traditional Inuit life and a modern American life; the loss of identity that comes with being forced to assimilate into a different culture, and the frankly stupid/terrible way people treat/have treated native peoples in America.  There is also the division between nature and humanity, which is explored through Julie/Miyax’s interactions with the wolves as well as through her observations of others’ interactions with nature.

My thoughts

Apparently this book is often contested as school-assigned reading because there’s a rape scene?  Which, wow, totally did not catch that when I was reading it as a child.  It’s fairly obviously implied, looking at the scene with adult eyes, but I was probably just too young and ignorant to know it for what it was.

I think my childhood reading of the book was heavily skewed toward the parts when Julie/Miyax was with the wolves, or at least those are the parts I remembered liking.  What kid doesn’t like reading about people living in the wilderness with their wolfy friends?  Rereading it now, I caught a lot more of the terrible subtext peppered throughout it and I’m a little depressed coming away from it.  Just, humans are the worst.  To each other and to nature.  Maybe I’m being a little pessimistic with my take-away, but there’s not a lot of true hopefulness in the end, in my opinion.  I mean, the true source of the problems isn’t addressed, it’s more of a ‘we endure and live on’ kind of thing, which doesn’t register as hopeful to me.  Maybe the sequels resolve more positively, I don’t know.

Rating

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4/7 stars

Warnings

Sexual violence between two minors.

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