The Inheritance

Reading at Central Coast Writers

“If you inherit something, do you also inherit responsibility for its history? Even if you have no awareness of that history?”

“Up until that very moment, I had not verbalized, even to myself, how difficult it was to reconcile living my life as I always had, with the knowledge that I was living it on stolen land, in a house purchased via stolen land.”

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“We need to ‘learn to stop acting like a colonizer.” This is the challenge Christine Sleeter poses for teachers who are not Indigenous in her page-turning second novel. The Inheritance is a warm and lively journey through the ethical minefield of a society made unequal by racism, theft, and violence. Oh, but there is romance, too.”

— Rethinking Schools

The Inheritance brings together uncomfortable truths about race, land, and education. Christine Sleeter brilliantly distills her anti-racist, pro-justice work into this page-turning novel that explores past and present through a white 4th grade teacher, as she grapples with her monetary — and ideological — inheritance. Although The Inheritance illuminates a pathway for teachers to uncover and dismantle their own weighty inheritances, the book is a compelling read for all audiences.” 

–Linda Christensen, author of Teaching for Joy and Justice and Rhythm and Resistance 

“Narrates difficult knowledge and enacts the social psychoanalysis that (predominantly) White women need to engage in to understand the White privilege, whitened ontology and epistemology, responses of people of color to Whites’ anti-racist activism, and the ongoing settler colonial forces of whiteness in the present moment. Perhaps more importantly for teacher educators, Sleeter’s novel renders both the complex issues White teachers face in taking up anti-racism, but also the needful critical question in teacher education: What is to be done in curriculum, schools, and with children now  that I understand White privilege and how it emerges from a history of settler colonialism?”

-James C. Jupp, Journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies

After tracing the house she inherited from her grandmother to the selling of land stolen from the Utes, Denise (the protagonist) must decide whether to stand up for her family or her convictions. The novel explores how someone who benefitted directly from the removal of an American Indian tribe from their lands comes to understand how that happened and what one can do about it. Denise wrestles with guilt on hearing about the impact of land theft directly from a Ute elder. How much responsibility does she bear for what happened long before she was born? As a fourth-grade teacher charged with teaching state history, how much can she change the prescribed curriculum in order to teach history from Indigenous viewpoints? As she gradually weighs various responses, Denise comes to terms with who she is in relationship to those around her.