WINTER COUNTS meets DROWNING IN FIRE in this heart-pounding narrative that explores gender identity through folklore. Girls, including Anna’s sister Grace, are going missing on the Tonnica Indian reservation, and Anna—silent and unseen as a maid at the tribe’s casino/resort—will do anything to get Grace back, even putting her faith in an old Tonnica tale that brings her close to death while revealing her two-spirited identity.
Anna Horn’s classmates bowed before her at school, in the cafeteria and in the gym locker room. “All hail the king!” they said. The smirks on their faces stripped the declaration of any majesty it might possess. Anna wished to say something biting in return, but there were dozens of them and there wasn’t anything she could say to slay them all. She clenched her cinnamon gum between her teeth instead.
Silence was often Anna’s best defense, even if it was forced upon her. But sometimes silence hurt her too. She dragged her feet through the dirt and told herself not to think about it. Or them.
The steady beep of a reversing truck and the grumble of heavy machinery carried across the Tonnica Indian reservation. The noxious scent of hot asphalt came with it. The road beneath Anna’s feet was hard-packed dirt, but it wouldn’t be for long. A construction crew hired by the Tonnica Tribe, to which Anna belonged, had begun paving over the reservation’s dirt roads a month earlier. Soon the reservation would be linked by smooth streets like the ones in town, and gone would be the days when shoes got covered in dust from trampling over the uneven dirt roads. It was just one more change made possible by the Grand Nacre Casino and Resort on the rez, which had triumphantly opened its doors two years earlier.