Book Review: 47,000 Beads by Koja Adehoya and Angel Adehoya, illustrated by Holly McGillis

Review by Emma Heckel

How do you stay true to yourself when you don’t feel like you fit in? In 47,000 Beads, young Peyton discovers the power of family, culture, and community as she uncovers the very special role she has as a Two-Spirit person.

47,000 Beads offers readers a celebratory representation of the Lakota people and traditions, including an insight into the sacredness of Two-Spirit identities. Set within a tight-knit Lakota community, Peyton usually loves dancing at pow wow with her friends and family, but one day she feels as if she doesn’t belong with the others when she is jingle dancing, a healing dance traditionally performed by women across many Native American and First Nations communities. As a Two-Spirit person, does Peyton belong in the dance circle? With the help of her friend L and Auntie Eyota, Peyton’s community sets out to make sure she has the perfect regalia. Peyton is reassured that just like there are many different regalia and dances for the jingle dance, there are many different paths to take and roles to have in the community!

Full of colorful, intricate illustrations, this picturebook captures the necessary care, attention, and tiospaye (extended family) support that goes into the creation of the jingle dance regalia. Against this specific context, the book celebrates everyone’s unique identity. The authors reject colonized ideas of gender by using the singular pronoun “they” throughout the book. 47,000 Beads celebrates the resilience of Two-Spirit peoples despite decades of stigmatization and trauma as a result of the oppression of Indigenous peoples in the settler colonial culture. It is rare, but enlivening, to see a picture book that successfully depicts the continuum of gender identity and expression in a Native community. It is liberating to see a book that frames gender fluid identities as reasons to celebrate.

Additional Resources:

47,000 Beads. (2017). Koja Adehoya, Angel Adehoya, and Holly McGillis (illus). Flamingo Rampant.

Emma is an educator, writer, and youthworker pursuing her Master’s in Education at the University of Minnesota.

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