If you have read along with us, you will have noticed The Removed is not a straightforward read. It is confusing and constantly balancing between reality, tales of ancestors, and a mysterious place called Darkening Land, but we will try and look back on it together.

It’s the story which in the beginning resonates with us because it feels so familiar: a 15-year-old non-white boy is killed by a white police officer who shot him even though he wasn’t carrying a gun.

That boy was Ray-Ray, a Cherokee boy, son of Maria and Ernest, brother to Edgar and Sonja. The murder happened in Oklahoma and the police officer wasn’t charged.

Since Ray-Ray’s death, the family has tried to deal with the trauma, but it was in vain. The parents are still mourning him, although Ernest now has Alzheimer’s disease, which is at the heart of their day-to-day worries.

The Removed by Brandon Hobson

Sonja lives what seems like a normal life on the outside, but is lonely and getting into relationships with younger, dangerous men.

Edgar became an addict and lives away from the family in Albuquerque and after his family’s “intervention” he hasn’t been in contact with them at all.

Each family member has their own storyline in the short time leading up to the anniversary of Ray-Ray’s death, which is always marked by a family bonfire.

The voice pulling all the strands together is that of Tsala, an ancestor whose trauma of being forcibly removed still lives in Cherokee people, including the Echota family.

Hobson has let Ray-Ray’s death coincide with the beginning of the Trail of Tears, the period of around 20 years when thousands of indigenous people were removed from their land, and Tsala is telling the story in tales and memories. They are not always easy for us to understand as tales like these aren’t common in our storytelling, but they make us understand what indigenous families are still grieving today.

Sonja’s story seems one of a lost and lonely 30-year-old, when actually her relationship with Vin has a very specific goal of revenge, while Edgar’s story is dark, terrifying and leaves us wondering where the line between reality and imagination (or death?) was.

The heart-warming, and driving element of the story though is Wyatt, a Cherokee boy taken in for a few days as a foster child by Maria and Ernest. This boy, wise beyond his years and a born storyteller, brings back Ray-Ray’s spirit to parents who lost their child so long ago. He brings a change to the house – and to Ernest’s health – which can be understood, felt, and celebrated across cultures.

The Removed by Brandon Hobson, published February 2021 by Ecco IBSN: 9780062997548. Please note, this is an affiliate link and we may make a very small commission on any purchases you make through them. This is one of the ways that helps to fund the publication and allow us to have free articles.

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