- How I Became a Ghost: A Choctaw Trail of Tears Story by Tim Tingle
“When you will soon be a ghost, sometimes you see people before they are ghosts. You see how they will die,” explains ten-year-old Isaac regarding the premonitions he has of his fellow Choctaws dying. After the Nahullo—white settlers—force his village to leave their homeland and resettle in the western region now known as Oklahoma, Isaac and his family band with another family, who is reeling from the kidnapping of their oldest daughter, Naomi. Guided by the spirits of those Choctaw who have recently died and accompanied by his talking dog, a shape-shifting panther teen, and the ghost of Naomi’s young sister—who froze to death along the [End Page 240] walk—Isaac sets out to rescue Naomi from the soldiers who are using her as slave labor and reunite her with her family. Tingle’s prose is terse, urgently propelling the story along and providing a minimalist aesthetic that evokes storytelling techniques and renders accessible a tragic piece of history, a feat that’s also accomplished by brief chapters and a thrilling caper overlaying the historical information. Isaac’s insistent reminders to the reader that he will soon die make his death at the fangs of a wolf less of a shock and more of a device that allows Tingle to merge spiritual and physical worlds, while the infusion of Choctaw beliefs provides an interesting and important perspective. Some readers will likely notice the lack of source notes or background information save for a brief acknowledgement section and some discussion questions, but this slim volume—the start of a proposed trilogy, a fact made obvious by the introduction of a new character after the exploit’s resolution—would be useful in the classroom as an addition to studies of Indian removal and as a recommendation for reluctant readers who like their history tinged with the otherworldly.