Award-Winning Story Published by the State Historical Society

Pierre, South Dakota — The State Historical Society of South Dakota has published a softcover edition of a winner of an American Indian Youth Literature Award, “The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood.”

“The Christmas Coat,” written by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve and illustrated by Ellen Beier, is a story from the writer’s childhood on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, unfolding as her family gets ready for the holidays.

The story was initially published by Holiday House in 2011. It begins with Virginia, the author, and her brother going to school. The coat Virginia is wearing does not fit her anymore, while the uncomfortable boots her brother has get stuck in the mud. Virginia is shivering in the cold wind, typical for winters in South Dakota. She dreams about having a new coat sent in a clothing parcel from a church in the eastern part of the country. However, she is aware of the fact that this year, she may not get it. Her family is the last one to get to choose clothing from the boxes as her father is an Episcopal priest of the village, and her mother always says that other people need that clothing more than they do.

Appreciated for its convincing description of childhood in Sioux Falls and Christmas traditions, the book addresses all generations. It illustrates the idea of generosity and unpredictable joy as Virginia remembers the significance of the community.

As Sneve herself writes in the new edition, she is overjoyed that the South Dakota Historical Society Press chose to print “The Christmas Coat” again. She states that her mother taught her to put the needs of others before her own, saying that the particular trait is difficult for a child to adopt. Sneve concludes by saying that her mother’s words have stuck with her throughout the years, making her choice between doing something for herself or doing something for someone else clear.

Driving Hawk Sneve was born and grew up in South Dakota on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. She is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, and she has written several books and received the Spirit of Crazy Horse Award and the Native American Prose Award. Furthermore, Sneve is the first resident of South Dakota to earn the National Humanities Medal.

Beier, who illustrated the book, was raised in the vicinity of New York City. Beier currently lives in Corvallis, Oregon, and is known to have illustrated numerous children’s books, one of them being “The Blue Hill Meadows,” written by Cynthia Rylant.

You can purchase “The Christmas Coat” for $9.95, tax and shipping not included. The book can be ordered from the South Dakota Historical Society Press either by visiting the official website of the organization or by calling the following number: 605-773-6009. If you are interested to learn more details about the organization, you may follow its official page on Twitter (@sdhspress) or Facebook (SDHS Press). Sneve will be present as a speaker at this year’s South Dakota Festival of Books, which takes place in October. You can gather additional information regarding the event by clicking on the following link: sdhumanities.org/festival-of-books.

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