47,000 Beads (2017), written by Koja Adeyoha and Angel Adeyoha and illustrated by Holly McGillis, is a Flamingo Rampant publication about a child named Peyton who does not want to participate in her community pow wows because she isn’t comfortable wearing a dress. Her Auntie Eyota acknowledges Peyton’s feelings and works with family and community to help Peyton connect with her cultural traditions while creating an identity she is comfortable claiming.
Eyota meets with her friend L who is referred to by the “they” pronoun. Eyota explains that she thinks Peyton is Two-Spirit. A helpful glossary at the back of the book defines Two-Spirit as:
“A newer English word used as a rough translation for older words in the languages of many Tribes and Nations. Two-Spirit describes someone whom non-indigenous people might call gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and gender-independent/nonbinary. The word Two-Spirit only describes Native/Indigenous/First Nations people and should not be used for others.”
Eyota enlists L to help guide Peyton down the right path, and asks them to help her get regalia for Peyton. The two work together to sketch the perfect regalia and then Eyota calls family and friends to help create it.
Peyton does look forward to the next pow wow, although she doesn’t want to dance in her current regalia. She particularly enjoys the giveaway and potluck. Peyton considers what she will give away at the pow wow and decides on an abalone shell.
At the pow wow Peyton’s Auntie Eyota introduces her to L who will teach her stories about “people from all nations who carry two spirits inside of them.” Eyota also surprises Peyton with several gift, the new regalia she slowly opens as she sits framed by her mother and Auntie Eyota.
The next day, Peyton wears her new regalia and dances “not as a boy or as a girl, but as Peyton in her 47,000 beads.”
This is one of only a couple of books I’ve identified that explores queer Indigenous culture. The other, Jesse Unaapik and Kerry McCluskey’s Families, was published in 2017.
47,000 Beads is a lovely story about community that can serve as a mirror for Indigenous readers and a window for non-indigenous readers who will be introduced to several aspects of Indigenous cultural tradition.
This review is part of my “Snapshots of LGBTQ Kid Lit” project. I’m working on a book, The New Queer Children’s Literature: Exploring the Principles and Politics of LGBTQ* Children’s Picture Books, which is under contract with the University Press of Mississippi. Part of my research is identifying and interpreting English-language children’s picture books with LGBTQ* content published in the US and Canada between 1979 and 2019. Follow my blog to follow my journey!