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Letters About Literature National Winners 2010

National Honor Winner, Level 2: Daniel Flores, OK

Dear Joseph Bruchac,

Growing up as a poor Mexican kid with a slightly darker skin tone than other kids is difficult for me. The majority of kids I meet won’t talk to me after they’ve met me. They don’t want to get to know me, and they don’t even acknowledge me sometimes. I feel as if I’m not as good or as capable as the other kids because I’m different. It seems to me that some people don’t like me and won’t accept me because of my darker skin. It just doesn’t seem fair for people to judge me by my skin color without even knowing me on the inside.

Your story, Code Talker, helped me to realize that the color of my skin and my nationality don’t make me less capable than other people. At first the Navajos were put down and insulted and were told that they would never amount to anything as Navajos. Although they were told that being differed was wrong, they knew that they wouldn’t let their heritage be taken away from them. The reason I admire the Navajo people in this story is because they stayed true to themselves. They were specially selected to do a task that only they could do, to be Code Talkers, sending secret messages in their native language across the Hawaiian Islands in World War II. One of the many reasons I admire those brave Navajo men is because they left their families, their friends, and everything they had to give it all for their country. They made a huge difference in the world by being Navajo, and for that I will remember them. I greatly appreciate you telling the story of Ned Begay and the Code Talkers and how they made a difference in the world by using their native language to help win the war.

I respect those brave Navajo men for fighting the battles from Iwo Jima to Okinawa as U.S. Marines and especially as Code Talkers. Those battles will always be inspiration to me because I look at them like the battles I face and the ones I have yet to endure. To me, a struggle I sometimes face is not having any friends outside my brothers and sisters, and sometimes it seems as if I can never truly fit in. Although I’ve never had to endure any struggle as large as the battle on Iwo Jima, I still often face small battles with self-esteem and making friends. Because they won their battles on those islands they give me hope to overcome my own.

But it makes me sad to think that even after those courageous Navajos had fought in WWII, and served their country that some people still treated them poorly and with disrespect. Although there will always be people that judge me because of my skin color, I now know that I should not be ashamed, but proud of my heritage. This book has also helped me learn to never give up, that eventually, by being myself, I can someday make a difference.

Thank you for writing such a capturing and eye-opening novel that changed my point of view of the world, the people around me, and myself. Even though your main character, Ned Begay, is fictional, he told me an inspirational story of fighting for respect, and winning recognition. To me, this book is an inspiration to be all that I can be.

Daniel Flores