A Gallery of Butterflies is a thought-provoking book that addresses a social problem of national proportions—the homeless—with lighthearted touches.
This time, I concluded, Togahawk really wanted to be on his own—not in the confines of the shelter that had rules and expectations and other people with whom he had to relate. Togahawk liked Bob all right, but probably because Bob was among a few who would not take unfair advantage of him in some way. And the wide open spaces of a deserted downtown, even at night, offered more freedom and relaxation than the YMCA or the Salvation Army—not to mention any other “hospitable” people who would be either condescending, or ruthless. Togahawk briefly symbolized to me the entire Native American population amidst the European’s encroachment. Plus, for a young person of no more than 28, who would so much want to “make it” on his own and face the world as well as explore it, I felt a strong sense of helplessness. This sense came not so much from the standpoint of one who can barely take care of herself, as from the conundrum of a dominant culture trying to respond to tribal values and strengths among established values that are not often questioned and in his case, Togahawk needed more help and support than even I did. For Togahawk and me, it was difficult to maintain independence when one has no resources. I understood his need to be free.
Elizabeth Akerman worked as a feature reporter for two newspapers and completed two books prior to A Gallery of Butterflies. She believes in the value of education, has three children and lives in Oklahoma.