Tali Nohkati, The Great Crossing - Book Review

Tali Nohkati, The Great Crossing

Author: Koza Belleli
Genre: Fiction - Adventure
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Date Published: May 8, 2019
ISBN-10: 1684332583
ISBN-13: 9781684332588

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Book Review of :  Tali Nohkati, The Great Crossing


Tali Nohkati, by Koza Belleli, tells the folktale of man's genesis on earth as told in the mythic style of Native American oral storytelling. Coyote, the trickster-god a well-known figure in Native American myths, and Moon find themselves watching over the orphaned boy born of the first woman and man after their demise during a terrible forest fire.

Tali Nohkati had been born in the White Land, the land of the polar bear.  The descriptions indicate that this is likely in the region of the Bering Sea. Tali encounters Yupik a polar bear who would teach him courage.  This she-bear mothers Tali providing him with milk from her breast, fish to eat, the warmth of her body, and the friendship of her own cub, Qanuk.  The fantastical story is replete with many talking animals, indigenous to Native American cultures.  This is a coming of age story that tracks Tali Nohkati into adulthood and into his senior years with an emphasis on his resilience, determination, and the aide of friends.

Belleli’s narration of this indigenous folktale has a poetic cadence and a visually descriptive tone as illustrated in this passage, “After a long absence, the Sun finally returned. Its light… made the snow and the ice sparkle…crystalline icebergs brightened the horizons or turned into threatening shadows at dusk.  Those gigantic blocks played with the sea, capturing the indigo of the waves, creating a dreamlike scenery of extraordinary beauty.”

As winter’s storms threaten to isolate Tali Nohkati, he is befriended by a whale named Atii, that harbors him in its belly and carries him to the Pacific Northwest forested coast.  Later he journeys to the mid-west plains. Here a buffalo indicates that there are other humans on the earth. His travels take him to the high desert and an encounter with Zia Zia the Snake who shows him pictographs in a cave.

Traveling to Red Land, Tali Nohkati, at last, discovers a tribe that takes him in. He enters puberty with an initiation and a rite of passage. Running away with a young lady, he survives a flood and ends up in a swampy delta with mangrove trees. From here, the pair travel to an island, then to a jungled land of deserted stepped monuments and a winged serpent. The relationship between Tali Nohkati’s epic travels and the prehistoric timeline of the immigration of ancient peoples from the Bering Straight into South America is subtle but apparent. The fragile thread of life is evident in the tale that speaks of compassion and friendship entwined with the cultural diversity of fellow men.

The author includes part of Chief Seattle’s speech regarding peace treaty negotiations with the United States in the 1850s, and is an apt conclusion, “…Man did not weave the web of life.  He is merely a strand in it.  Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” (the speech is adapted in Brother Eagle, Sister Sky, written and beautifully illustrated by Susan Jeffers.)

The book, Tali Nohkati, provides a tale about the natural world around us, that highlights the sacredness of all life and affirms that we and all creations on earth are an integral part of our existence. From the birds that soar above us to the insects beneath our feet. It is an enlightening and uplifting read that brims with insights into the relevance of Native American spirituality.

Reviewed by: Carol W.

About Koza Belleli

Koza Belleli was born and still lives in Paris. Author of many MG/YA's books in Europe and Japan, she makes regular appearances at school literacy programs. One of her books Le Bal de Houpelune (The Ball of Houpelune) was read on Radio Classique in France. She also wrote the lyrics of the song Esperanza Irisada (Sao Vicente di Longe album) for Cesaria Evora.


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