Foreword Reviews


Awakening to Swan Medicine

Clarion Rating: 3 out of 5

Awchewa is a magical story in which a journey into the past forever alters a girl’s plans for the future.

When mysterious visions begin plaguing a young girl, she discovers a hidden past and a heritage rich in power in Nita Bauer’s Awchewa: Awakening to Swan Medicine, a coming-of-age story infused with Native American tribal lore and legends.

Fifteen-year-old Katie is not looking forward to spending the summer on Grandma Ruby’s middle-of-nowhere ranch, but no one else seems to be able to explain the strange dreams that haunt her. With her grandmother’s guidance and the questionable interference of a few local ghosts, Katie learns some difficult truths about life, love, and changing your fate.

Best suited to young adult audiences, the story’s teenage angst and drama is also plentiful. When socially awkward Katie begins working at the local diner, she is immediately attracted to Dom, a womanizing “Abercrombie cowboy.” Rusty, the boy next door, has a longstanding crush on Ceci, the quintessential popular girl.

The story is set in Texas hill country; Katie’s ancestry is loosely based on the history and culture of the Tonkawa tribe, or the Tickanwatic people who were forced to migrate from Oklahoma in the 1800s. While references are made to the tribe’s tragic past, Katie’s story focuses on the mystical elements that motivated them. It’s a mix of fact and fiction. Common Native American motifs—the Great Spirit, Coyote, and vision quests—are prominent. Katie helps construct a wikiup and learns about the medicine of animals, from swans to redbirds, owls, deer, and wolves.

Initially, each character seems to fit a stereotype, from Dom’s over-the-top flirting that borders on sexual harassment to Ceci’s obvious cattiness. However, as the story progresses, each develops some depth. Refreshing plot twists and interesting choices and connections arise.

With her powers that manifest unexpectedly—including telepathy, the ability to glimpse the future, and the ability to see light that connects people together—Katie is often understandably confused and disoriented. Explanations for these mystical developments are esoteric at best and often involve “feeling” things or “seeing” things: “You’re looking, you’re naming, you’re thinking, but you don’t see.”

Friends and family send mixed messages. Her mother laments Katie’s involvement with the magic while also pushing her into it, and her father claims it is all nonsense but allows her to live with an estranged relative all summer and undertake a dangerous quest in the wilderness. As she grows into her powers and gains confidence in herself, Katie begins to accept her roles—in life, as a young adult, as a daughter of the Tonkawa tribe, and as a member of her family and the local community.

Awchewa is a magical story in which a journey into the past forever alters a girl’s plans for the future.

Reviewed by Pallas Gates McCorquodale

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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