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Bullying is such a big problem for kids, so we started a club to help you deal with it. Go to the STACK Back Message Board and tell us your stories of being bullied. If you don’t want to go into detail you don’t have to. We are here for you though.
My story: I’ve been bullied almost every year in school. I was tired of it and needed to do something about it. My best friend Layla and I created this organization to help people like us. This is for YOU GUYS.
Amy Koester is the Youth & Family Program Coordinator at Skokie Public Library, where she selects fiction for youth birth through teens and oversees programming aimed at children through grade 5. She is the chair of the ALSC Public Awareness Committee, and she manages LittleeLit.com and is a Joint Chief of the Storytime Underground. Amy has shared her library programs, book reviews, and musings on librarianship on her blog The Show Me Librarian since early 2012.
There is a conversation happening on the Storytime Underground Facebook Group right now. It’s been going on for a few days, actually, and it seems to have started innocuously enough: with a question about folks’ thoughts on the Youth Media Award winners, asked by a person who expressed “major shock” and disappointment (via frown-y face emoticons) about one of the Caldecott honors. As I said; innocuously enough.
Some folks who added to the thread brought up the perennial gripe that not all the recognized titles seem to have much kid appeal; other voices jumped in to clarify that kid appeal is not part of the criteria for any of the major YMAs awarded by ALSC and YALSA. I find this argument annoying the same way I do a mosquito bite, because it pops up every year around the same time and is irritating but will disappear in a week. After all, there are awards that take kid appeal into account.
But. Then something ugly and uncomfortable popped up. People started talking about certain books not appealing to kids or their entire communities for one reason: because said certain books have diverse protagonists.
Things people have said*:
“Sometimes I pass on even well reviewed books because I know they just won’t circulate. There aren’t any Greek gods in it! I also have a difficult time getting uh, diverse books to circulate in my community. When I started my job and weeded the picture books a huge number of non circulating titles had POC on the cover. ‘Brown Girl Dreaming?’ That’s a hard sell.”
“You can have my copy then. Because it won’t circulate where I am.”
“I just know it’s going to be a hard sell.”
“We have a copy, but I can count the number of black patrons my library has in two weeks on one hand. It is rural, middle class, white West Michigan. The only black author that circulates…at all…is Christopher Paul Curtis and that’s because some teachers require it. It’s not just the race of the characters either. If our young patrons want sports fiction they are going to choose Mike Lupica or Tim Green. The crossover has not circulated even one time since we got it. It’s not like Kwame can’t write. Acoustic Rooster checks out frequently.”
After reading the full thread and seeing this build-up of negative dialogue specifically around diverse award-winning titles in collections, I responded:
“I find it extremely problematic to suggest that a library doesn’t need a book–award-winner or not–that features a minority protagonist on the basis that there aren’t many readers of that minority who use the library. To me, that suggests both a bias on the part of selectors as well as a lack of trust in the readers we serve. We know verifiably that young readers do not only want to read about characters whose lives are like their own, and keeping them from even having the option to try a book about a person who is different from them is bordering dangerously on censorship. If a particular child does not want to read a particular book, so be it; but, especially in a public library, children should have that option.”
I am going to expand on that a bit.
First, and frankly, I find the position “because we don’t have X readers in my library, we don’t need X books” to be racist. This position implies that we as selectors view diverse books as inherently less-than. If we argue that only black youth will want to read about black youth, we are really saying that the experiences of black youth have no relevance or meaning to youth of any other race. We are saying that the experiences of the youth in the books we do buy have broader relevance and resonance. That is the very definition of otherizing and making a particular perspective, experience, or group less-than.
The position that “because we don’t have X readers in my library, we don’t need X books” also denotes a fundamental lack of respect for the children we are supposed to be serving. It suggests that we think our young readers cannot handle, relate to, or be expected to understand an experience that does not mirror their own. Not collecting—and collecting but not promoting—titles with diverse protagonists projects the selector’s own bias onto the reader instead of letting readers freely encounter stories and information.
Also, I feel very strongly that if the excellent diverse books in your collection do not circulate, you are not doing your job of getting great books into the hands of readers. As librarians, we can sell any great book to the right reader. We can find the aspects of a title that will appeal to the range of readers we serve. Diverse books have the exact same appeal factors as the whitewashed majority of children’s publishing. So we can be professionals and make our readers’ advisory about appeal factors, or we can continue to always take kids interested in sports reads to Matt Christopher or Tim Green instead of to Kwame Alexander. But if we do the latter, we are part of the problem. If we omit diverse titles from our RA even though those exact same appeal factors are there, we are perpetuating a racist status quo.
I want to take a moment to step outside of what I have to say on this topic and share what some other professionals have said*:
“Good collection development policies should emphasize a variety of things, but one of them should most definitely be diversity. The goal of a public library is not just to serve as a mirror for our community, but to serve as an open door to the world, which includes giving our communities opportunities to walk in the shoes of characters very different from them. This, to me, is part of our education goals, to help our patrons gain a broad perspective of the world. If books don’t circulate there are things we can do to help promote circulation, including book displays, book talks, sharing book trailers and more. Yes, budgets are tight every where, but we should absolutely make sure that we actively are working to build diverse collections because it is an important part of helping us fulfill our primary mission to our local communities. And the idea that not one single person in our local communities wants or needs to read books that highlight diversity concerns me because it suggests that we don’t have enough faith in our kids to learn, grow and step outside of their comfort zones.”
“I think it is a PRIMARY JOB of librarians, specifically youth services librarians, to promote and encourage diversity in our collections, budgets be damned. After all, I spend way too much of my money on crap like Barbie and Disney princesses … which circulate like *gangbusters*. But if I went on just that, I’d have a very shallow collection.”
“The point: if the only way you know how to sell a book is ‘it’s got brown people’ then you might’ve missed the point of the story.”
“If you want to champion diversity in a place where people are resistant, sell the story, not the character’s color or orientation.”
“And I absolutely hate that people use the excuse ‘well, they just don’t circulate in my library.’ That speaks the the librarian’s failings.”
When it comes down to it, a major aspect of this topic is selection/collection development, and the fact that selection is a privilege. If you select materials for your readers, you are privileged to get to influence not only what children read, but what they have access to in the first place. And when I read arguments against including diverse titles, or questions about why we have to talk about this topic, it puts into sharp focus for me the fact that we have to recognize our privilege as selectors, and, more than likely, as white selectors for diverse readers.
If you find yourself thinking “I don’t need this title because we don’t really have many X readers here,” your privilege is showing. You have probably never had to open more than one or two books in a row in order to find a character who looks/speaks/lives like you do. That is privilege. And whether we intend it to or not, our privilege influences our thinking and our decisions. This is a problem because our decisions affect the capabilities of young readers to find books in which they can find themselves and in which they can meet new people.
Confronting our privilege is hard. It is uncomfortable. I am acutely aware that, because of my privilege as a white woman, I don’t have to write this post. No one would begrudge me for not speaking up on this topic publicly. In fact, it would probably be a lot easier, and I would seem a lot nicer, if I didn’t write this post.
But that course of action is no longer acceptable to me. I am no longer going to privately roll my eyes when professional colleagues make privileged statements about their exclusionary practices, or when reviewers ignore microaggressions in books for youth. I am going to say something, because ignoring it only lets it perpetuate. And when someone calls me out on something I say or causes me to think critically about my own practice, I am going to try really, really hard not to get defensive and to just listen and reflect and improve. It is hard. And I don’t need to do it.
Except that I do, because the ability of every child I serve to feel valuable and see themselves as a beautiful, complex individual is what hangs in the balance.
This is not about our comfort, or our personal convictions, or what we think we know definitively after doing this job a particular way for so many years.
It is about the children we serve. Every single one of them.
*Because these conversations have been happening in public forums (a public Facebook group and on Twitter), I feel that sharing direct quotations is not a breach of anyone’s privacy. I have made the decision to share these quotes without identifying the speakers, as my ultimate goal is constructive conversation about privilege in selection for youth libraries, not alienating or shaming members of the community.
YOU: Oh no! I’m not a STACKS Blast subscriber and I don’t even know what the STACKS Blast is!
ME: The STACKS Blast is our free monthly e-mail newsletter. You give us your e-mail address and an e-mail address for one of your parents, and once a month (usually around the 15th), we send you a newsletter full of polls, quizzes, books, and a sweepstakes you can enter.
YOU: Cool! I want to get that newsletter! But wait, I want to enter for a chance to win that DVD now. How do I enter?
ME: Patience, grasshopper! First, you sign up for the newsletter. Then you must wait until March 13 when Hooray! the STACKS Blast will arrive in your e-mail inbox. Hurry up and open it! Inside, you’ll see a special section for the STACKS Giveaway. That’s where you enter. OK?
Humdrum or delicious? When students eat their homework, the classroom suddenly turns from tedious to oh-so-tasty. Get ready to serve up some yummy new fun—while discovering and learning about math and science.
Psst, did you remember that Pi Day is March 14? It’s time to divvy up some Variable Pizza Pi. Look up the recipe for this constant crowd-pleaser in Eat Your Math Homework, and get set for variable excitement—quite a lot . . . or mega.
Never mind the constants (the crust and the sauce), here’s your chance to add your own variables: toppings such as pepperoni, green pepper, or pineapple chunks. And we’re not done yet! Measure the circumference and determine the diameter of the pizza. This will help you pinpoint pi, that amazingly endless decimal number that starts 3.1415926 . . . (pi = circumference divided by diameter)
What about in the classroom? How about switching things up a bit with this yummy classroom adaptation? Share circle shaped cookies (Yes, the cookie itself and the icing are the constants). Have students decorate each cookie with variables such as chocolate chips, raisins, or colored marshmallows. Figure out the circumference and diameter of one cookie (Hint: To measure the circumference, use a piece of string. Place the string around the rim of the cookie. Cut or mark the string to match the size of the cookie’s circumference. Straighten this measured string and find its length using a ruler).
When students find the circumference divided by the diameter, it’s easy as pie to calculate pi. Was the answer close to 3.14? Why wasn’t it exact? What else can you find out about pi?
And now here’s another tasty tidbit. Let’s face it, all science lessons are not created equal. Neither are rocks. In fact, there are three basic categories of rocks: metamorphic, igneous, and sedimentary. Heat and pressure cause metamorphic rocks to morph, or change form. Igneous rocks form from cooled liquid rock beneath the earth’s surface. And sedimentary, well, think of a lasagna—when layers of sediment press against each other, the layers meld together.
Speaking of lasagna, check out the recipe for Sedimentary Pizza Lasagna from Eat Your Science Homework . . . Yum!
. . . Or whip up some classroom friendly Sedimentary Sandwiches instead. Use 3 or 4 layers of bread (or crackers) and your favorite sandwich fixings to build a rock solid masterpiece. Bite in—and don’t worry about chipping a tooth!
This morning, you found out your two so-called best friends, Megan and Kelly, are going to be co-leading the presentation in the school St. Patrick’s Day festival . . . and you’ve been assigned to dress up as a bearded leprechaun. Ugh!
You were hoping that you could be a part of the Irish Step Dancing troupe, but when assignments were announced today, you found out that Megan and Kelly would be dancing with Tommy instead. And you three were supposed to be best friends! So you’ll be leading the “folklore” segment of the presentation, whatever that means, and you are definitely NOT a happy camper. The costume alone makes you want to hide under a million blankets until March 18th.
It’s a gray and dreary day, but at least it’s not raining. You take the long way home so you can get a cookie to cheer yourself up. You’re right–a delicious Snickerdoodle is just the trick, and you’re feeling way more chipper halfway through. That’s when you notice a kind of shabby-looking woman sitting behind a homemade stand. She is wearing a cape, and has long, windblown, brown hair flowing out from underneath her hat. She sees you, smiles, and starts waving. Something about her makes you curious, so you walk over. As you approach, you see her stand is full of little bottles organized neatly.
“Hello, darling,” she says in a thick accent. From underneath the brim of her brown hat, her eyes are sparkling and bright. “Fancy a potion?”
“Yes, yes! A love potion, a healing potion, a lucky potion. I do all kinds of potions. Though I think what you need,” she says, reaching into her pocket and pulling out a little bottle, “is this little guy right here.”
The bottle is made of dark green glass. There’s a tiny, faded label on the side with a three-leaf clover painted on it.
“What does this one do?”
“Exactly what you need it to,” the woman says. “And don’t worry; it’s a gift.”
“How do I even use it?”
“You’ll know when the time is right.” She smiles and shoos you away, so you slip the potion in your pocket and start to go home.
Your walk takes you past a bridge that goes over the lake, and at the foot of the bridge you see a most unusual sight. A lone, white horse is standing at the edge of the water. It’s an overcast day, but the horse seems to be glowing. When it sees you, it begins neighing and nodding. When you don’t move, it starts to huff and paw the ground impatiently. You . . .
call Animal Control. Someone is definitely missing a glowing horse!
keep walking. Someone is definitely missing a glowing horse, and that someone is responsible for finding it!
approach the horse. I mean, it’s a glowing horse! That’s awesome!
take out your phone and look up how to safely interact with a horse. Hey, better safe than sorry, right?
wait a while to see if the owner shows up. You don’t want to jump the gun and call for help, but you want to make sure the horse isn’t left alone or eaten by a swamp monster.
Leave your response in the Comments and tell us what you think will happen next! Part 2 of this 3-part story is coming to Ink Splot 26 on March 10.
The Victorian era was the high point of literary tourism. Writers such as Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Sir Walter Scott became celebrities, and readers trekked far and wide for a glimpse of the places where their heroes wrote and thought, walked and talked. Even Shakespeare was roped in, as Victorian entrepreneurs transformed quiet Stratford-upon-Avon into a combination shrine and tourist trap.
Stratford continues to lure the tourists today, as do many other sites of literary pilgrimage throughout Britain. And our modern age could have no better guide to such places than Simon Goldhill. In Freud’s Couch, Scott’s Buttocks, Brontë’s Grave, Goldhill makes a pilgrimage to Sir Walter Scott’s baronial mansion, Wordsworth’s cottage in the Lake District, the Brontë parsonage, Shakespeare’s birthplace, and Freud’s office in Hampstead. Traveling, as much as possible, by methods available to Victorians—and gamely negotiating distractions ranging from broken bicycles to a flock of giggling Japanese schoolgirls—he tries to discern what our forebears were looking for at these sites, as well as what they have to say to the modern mind. What does it matter that Emily Brontë’s hidden passions burned in this specific room? What does it mean, especially now that his fame has faded, that Scott self-consciously built an extravagant castle suitable for Ivanhoe—and star-struck tourists visited it while he was still living there? Or that Freud’s meticulous recreation of his Vienna office is now a meticulously preserved museum of itself? Or that Shakespeare’s birthplace features student actors declaiming snippets of his plays . . . in the garden of a house where he almost certainly never wrote a single line?
Goldhill brings to these inquiries his trademark wry humor and a lifetime’s engagement with literature. The result is a travel book like no other, a reminder that even today, the writing life still has the power to inspire.
How can drums help people communicate? What can someone communicate through a drum?
How do you think the musician(s) in this book wanted their music to make people feel?
Is the drum a central part of this story or community? Why or why not? How would the story be different if another instrument were used, such as a guitar or flute?
What words in the text describe how the drum sounds?
Bring in other images of drums from around the world or compare two or more books featuring drums: What are the features of a drum? What do drums around the world have in common? How are drums unique from other instruments? What materials are best for making drums? What geometric shapes are best for making drums?
If you read more than one book featuring a drum: Post a world map and note which countries drums are found.
Have students research the particular type of drum featured in the book. What materials are used for this type of drum? What characteristics does this type of drum have and what is special about the design? Is this drum used everyday/casually or for special holidays/significant times? What country or region does it originate? What genre of music is the drum used in today? Who are some famous drummers who use this kind of drum?
Set up a listening station devoted to music including drums. Provide a range of musical genres. Leave covers available for students to explore. After students have an opportunity to listen to different kinds of music featuring or including drums, encourage students to share their reactions in writing. What images did the music bring to them as they listened with their eyes closed? What did they imagine as they heard the drums?
Encourage students to make their own drum in class or at home. Students can make their own drums out of coffee cans, cylindrical oatmeal boxes, or plastic deli containers. Supply different materials (plastic wrap, paper, foil, etc.) for covering the opening so students can hear a variety of different sounding drums. Which ones make metallic sounds, loud sounds, soft sounds, sweet sounds, deep sounds? How can you make the sound change?
Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
St. Patrick’s Day is March 17 and we want you to be ready with your leprechaun name in case you meet a leprechaun! Here’s how it works. Find the first initial of your first name in the list below. That word is your leprechaun first name. Then look at the list of the numbers below and pick your luckiest number. That word is your leprechaun last name. For example, my name begins with an S and my lucky number is 10, so my leprechaun name would be Goldie McElfin.
Hi! I’d like to introduce you to Mimi Kirkland. She plays Lily on Austin & Ally this season. Her character is a spunky and energetic fan who begins taking music lessons from Ally so she can hang out with the star. In real life, Mimi loves to spend time with her family and enjoys participating in outdoor activities such as bike riding, swimming, and playing tag with her 2 sisters and her dog.
Photo courtesy Disney Channel
AND . . . she has offered to answer YOUR questions! Do you want to know what it is like to be on a Disney TV show with Laura Marano and Ross Lynch? Now is your chance to ask.
Leave your questions in the Comments and come back here on March 13 for Mimi’s answers!
This post is the first in an ongoing series we’ll run answering questions about book marketing and publicity.
So, here you are: you’ve gone through the long, grueling process of writing draft after draft of your book. You’ve gotten an agent, who then sold it to an editor. You’ve revised and revised, until finally it’s ready to go to print. And now…you wait.
Authors often ask me: What can I do while I’m waiting for my book to come out? Here are five of my top suggestions:
1. Develop your list of contacts. It may seem obvious, but one of the most important things you can do while waiting for your book to be released is to simply put together a list of all your professional and personal contacts who you think should know about your book. This includes family, friends, coworkers, professional contacts, fellow writers, and contacts from any communities you’re personally connected to: religious communities, volunteer organizations, even neighborhood restaurants where you’re a regular. Don’t be shy! All of these people will be excited to find out that you’ve published a book, and many of them will want to support you by buying a copy. Create a clean list of email addresses so that when the book is released, you can easily send out an email to everyone to let them know (even if you are connected to many of these people on Facebook, studies show that they will be more likely to make a purchase from a direct email). After that, don’t forget to add new contacts to your list as you meet new people at conferences or events.
2. Reach out to your local bookstore about hosting a launch party. As soon as you have a release date for your book, get in touch with your local bookstore to see if they would be willing to host a launch party for you. Many bookstores are happy to do this, especially for local authors. Launch parties at bookstores are a win/win: you get a space for hosting and don’t have to worry about handling book sales yourself, and bookstores get an influx of people who are excited to purchase books. Coordinate with your publisher to make sure you pick a launch date when books will definitely be available.
3. Refine your online presence. Now is the time to make sure that your online presence is everything you want it to be and contains all the most updated information about you. This means, first and foremost, having a clean and updated website. Put a book cover, release information, and any reviews you’ve received on your website as soon as possible. You may feel like only your mom visits your website now, but once your book comes out, traffic will increase, and your website should be in top shape before then. You should also use this time to decide which, if any, social media platforms you want to use. Delete accounts you don’t use instead of letting them languor un-updated for years (or, at the very least, add links that redirect people to your website) and start getting in the habit of updating content regularly on any platforms you want to use.
4. Come up with a list of topics related to your book. Book releases today are almost always accompanied by blog tours or some other type of blog coverage. You can do your part to get ready for this by putting together a list of topics related to your book on which you would be willing to write guest posts or answer questions. These could include anything from the research you did for the book to your playlist of songs you listened to while revising. Be creative! Share this list with your publishers so they can use it when shaping their pitches for bloggers. They may also work with you to shape some of these topics into longer pieces to pitch to online or print publications.
5. Get to know local opportunities. Spend some time looking into any local or state book awards for which you might be eligible, and pass them on to your publisher to make sure they are submitting your book. Are there any book fairs or book festivals in your area? The deadlines for getting on panels at these events are often many months before the event happens, so the earlier you find out about them, the better the chances that you’ll be able to participate. Don’t assume your publisher already knows about everything; while publishers have extensive lists of awards and book festivals, no one knows your area better than you, and you may find something they’ve missed.
Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid to bother your publisher! Even if they’re busy, they’ll appreciate the work that you are doing to prepare for your book release and be happy to work with you.
What am I missing? Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments.
In the next installment of this series, I’ll answer the question: What do I need to include on my author website? (use the links in the top left sidebar to subscribe so you won’t miss it.)
The Reverend Gary Davis was born in Piedmont, South Carolina, on April 30, 1896. He died in Hammonton, New Jersey, on May 5, 1972. In between, he become one of the most protean guitar players of the twentieth century, and his finger-picking style influenced everyone from Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead to Keb’ Mo’ and Blind Boy Fuller.
Born partially blind as the sole surviving son to two sharecroppers in the Jim Crow South, by the 1940s, Davis, ordained as a Baptist minister, was playing on Harlem streetcorners and storefronts, making his living as an itinerant, singing gospel preacher. By the beginning of the 1960s folk revival, he had moved in circles that included Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie, recorded a series of albums for the legendary Folkways label, and been embraced by a generation of educated, middle-class young people eager for fodder to spur a folk revival. See his performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival for further illumination of this cultural congruence. Even before his death in 1970, he was the subject of two television documentaries. Davis’s legacy, however, still exists outside a canon that has acknowledged his peers, including Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson—his music, like his troubled life, is the stuff of myth, and as such, has charted a more intimate course through a series of covers and the musical offerings of his students, a group numbering in the dozens.
In concert with the publication of Say No to the Devil: The Life and Music of the Reverend Gary Davis, the first biography of Davis, written by Ian Zack, one of his former students, we’re putting together a special feature, with performances, of every student who studied with the Reverend. In the meantime, here’s a teaser list of some names, just to give you a sense of the breadth of those who sought Davis out, and in whose own compositions, the master player’s gospel still lingers.
Roy Book Binder
Allen Evans (one of Davis’s final guitar pupils; a week or two before his death, Davis gave him a two-and-a-half hour lesson, then wanted to arm wrestle)
Blind Boy Fuller
Jesse Lee Kincaid
Dean Meredith (drove Davis to visit Woody Guthrie at Brooklyn State Hospital in 1964)
Dave Van Ronk
As a bonus, here’s Bob Dylan playing Davis’s arrangement of the song “Candy Man,” from a 1961 Minneapolis hotel tape (it’s really good):
Science fiction for kids is rare enough; truly funny middle-grade science fiction is even rarer. In fact, off the top of my head I can only think of one book in the hilarious middle-grade science fiction genre: The True Meaning of Smekday. Now that number has doubled, with the publication of a worthy sequel, Smek for President.
If you haven't read The True Meaning of Smekday, why not? Go forth and read it now! It's a great road-trip buddy comedy about a girl and an alien on the run from the evil alien overlords. Beyond this point there will be spoilers for the first book.
In Smek for President, human leader Dan Landry has taken credit for defeating the Gorg. No one, human or Boov, knows that it was really Tip and J.Lo who discovered the Gorg's weakness and defeated them with hundreds of cloned cats. Tip is living an anonymous life trying to adjust to being a regular girl again. J.Lo is infamous on two worlds: he can't seem to stay out of trouble in their community on Earth, and to the Boov he's still the Squealer, who accidentally signaled the Gorg in the first place. Tip and J.Lo decide to take a trip to New Boovworld (formerly known as the moon Titan) to explain to Captain Smek what really happened and clear J.Lo's name.
Hilarious hijinks ensue, including a low-gravity chase that is every bit as awesome as you'd hope for a low-gravity chase to be, an escape into a garbage-pit, (with obligatory Star Wars reference) and a lonely bubble-billboard. There's more awesomeness that I can't say anything about without spoiling the book. There are several comic sections that extend the story throughout the book.
There's not much else I can say, except that this is a perfect middle-grade book, and fans of The True Meaning of Smekday will love it. Anyone who hasn't read The True Meaning of Smekday would be well served to read it first.
The protagonist Tip is mixed-race and dark skinned. She's also an awesome character that boys and girls of all races can identify with. (How many times am I allowed to say awesome in one review?)
FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.
Humpback Whales is an extraordinary journey into the mysterious world of one of nature’s most awe-inspiring marine mammals. Set in the spectacular waters of Alaska, Hawaii, and the remote islands of Tonga, this ocean adventure gives an up-close look at how these whales sing, feed, play, and take care of their young. Humpbacks were nearly driven to extinction 50 years ago, but today are making a recovery. Join a team of researchers as they unlock the secrets of the humpback and find out why humpbacks are the most acrobatic of all whales, why they sing their haunting songs, and why these intelligent, 55-foot, 50-ton animals migrate up to 10,000 miles round-trip every year.
• Humpback whales are found in all oceans on Earth. Populations migrate between summer feeding grounds in temperate polar waters and winter mating grounds in tropical waters. In a sense, the humpback connects all of the world’s oceans.
• Humpback whales are named for the arching motion they make with their backs in preparation for diving. Their scientific name Megaptera Novaeangliae means “great wing,” referring to their large flippers.
• Some of earth’s largest mammals, humpbacks can reach between 40 and 55 feet (about the length of a school bus) and weigh up to 50 tons (about the weight of 500 average-sized human beings). Their lungs alone are about the size of a compact car.
• Humpbacks are one of the few animal species in which females are larger than males.
• The humpback diet consists of krill and varieties of small schooling fish and they have been observed eating up to a ton of food a day when in feeding grounds.
• Humpback whales can swim in bursts up to 16 mph, but swim at slower speeds when feeding.
• A newborn humpback calf can be 10-15 feet long at birth and weigh up to a ton.
• Only the males sing. A humpback song can last as long as 20 minutes, and sometimes the same song will be repeated for hours.
I’ll be the first to admit it: I didn’t pay much attention to math. I specialized in literacy and focused on reading, speaking, listening, writing, social studies, and science instruction. Math? My third graders went down the hall each day to the “math classroom.” My co-teacher and I collaborated over best teaching practices, family relationships, and classroom management, but I didn’t spend time delving into the third-grade mathematics standards.
It wasn’t until I entered into our first parent-teachers-student conferences in September that I realized I couldn’t afford to compartmentalize my students’ learning.
In those conferences, we had students who loved math and had excelled in math every year leading up, but were now struggling to advance. They seemed to have hit an invisible wall. What happened?
Two words: Word problems.
Some of our students who were English Language Learners, reluctant readers, or who struggled to read at grade level for other reasons all of a sudden “couldn’t do” math anymore because the vocabulary, text length, and sentence structure were increasing in complexity. Even though they knew what 9 x 5 was, they couldn’t read and decipher the sentence:
Rene enjoys wearing a new outfit every day. His father bought him nine pairs of shorts and five shirts. Rene doesn’t want to wear any outfit twice. How many different outfit combinations does he have?
Now several of my students weren’t only struggling to read in my literacy class, but also struggling to read in math class. This was disheartening and confusing for them because math was a subject they loved, excelled at, and didn’t feel “below their grade level” because of language abilities or background schema. Yet reading challenges were following them down the hall and across instruction periods.
Guess what: Reading teachers are ALSO math teachers.
Let me explain.
A text is a text no matter the form. Those ELA standards about determining the central idea and unknown or multiple-meaning words apply to word problems along with poems, plays, and biographies. Word problems can be lengthy, involve two or more steps, and contain new and unknown vocabulary that require examining context clues to solve.
Great English teachers improve students’ math scores. According to The Hechinger Report, researchers from Stanford and University of Virginia looked at 700,000 students in New York City in third through eighth grade over the course of eight school years. Results: Students of good English language arts teachers had higher than expected math scores in subsequent years.
Starting in second-grade mathematics, students are reading, interpreting, and solving two-step and multi-step word problems. Even as early as kindergarten and first grade, students are encountering one-step word problems. Bottom line:If they can’t read, they will get left behind in math, too.
So, how can literacy teachers embrace math?
1. Nice to meet you, Math. I’m ELA. The Common Core website also falls victim to sequestering the ELA and math standards. Whether you teach both math and literacy or only one, compare the math standards to the ELA standards of your grade. Open two windows on your computer setting the Reading or Language standards of your grade side by side with the Operations & Algebraic Thinking standards for your grade. What do they have in common?
(Hint, hint: determining central idea of a text, interpreting unknown words or phrases, using context clues, and learning general academic and domain-specific words)
2. Share what read aloud or model text you are reading for the week or unit if you have a separate teacher for math instruction. In word problems, you or the math instructor can write a few of the problems about the characters. Reading In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage? Make Augusta the main character in the word problems.
This book has several money references because Augusta earned money from her teaching and from competitions she entered. Use some of the scenes in the book to review the values of currency. For example, Augusta earned a dollar every day from the principal of her school. How many different ways can you make $1.00 using combinations of quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies?
3. Reward students with a math problem during the reading instruction block. (I’m telling you—students LOVE seeing you break out math during a literacy block). This gives students a break, uses a different part of their brains/thinking, and allows them to display their abilities in another subject (which is especially important if English makes a student feel doubtful or shy). Students can do this if they finish their required assignment early or you are transitioning between periods.
4. Allow students to create a word problem using the setting and characters of a book they are reading as an incentive, extension opportunity, or way to engage reluctant readers. Students can submit problems for you to review at the end of the day and the next day you can post one with the student author’s name. Students will have a chance to model (and observe) high quality writing and thinking, as well as delight in their peers’ recognition.
5. Word problems ARE story problems. Treat a word problem like any other fiction story. Have students identify the main character(s) and the problem. Give the word problem a setting. Encourage students to expand the math problem into a fiction story through writing or drawing.
6. Make a math bin in the classroom library. Whatever gets a student excited to read and pick up a book, right? Just as we will scour web deals and dig through yard sales for books on tiger sharks and poison dart frogs, don’t forget to hunt for math-themed books to add to your classroom library if math is your students’ passion.
7. Pick math-themed books to align with units students are covering in the grade level’s math standards. Great read alouds and leveled readers exist to help teach concepts around counting, money, time, geometry, and mixed operations, such as:
If Hoy was born in 1862 and died in 1961, how old was he when he passed away? If Hoy started playing in the major leagues in 1888 and retired from baseball in 1902, how many years did he play in the major leagues? How many years ago did Hoy last play baseball? If Hoy were alive today, how old would he be?
Frederick’s mother walks twelve miles. How many yards does she walk? How many kilometers and meters does she walk?
If students can’t read, they will struggle to succeed in math (and science and social studies). These challenges will compound with each year affecting self-confidence and commitment. Bridging math and literacy for students is a powerful way for students to see that learning how to derive meaning from text has real world applications and that you are invested in their entire education.
Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
The 2014 Nebula Award nominees have been announced, and with it the nominees for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. The Nebula and Andre Norton awards are given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Two of the Andre Norton nominees were also Cybils Awards finalists:Salvage, by Alexandra Duncan, and Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, by A.S. King. As a Cybils judge, I read both books and they're both excellent, although very different, books. I've also read Love Is the Drug, by Alaya Dawn Johnson, and loved that one as well.
Here's the full list of Andre Norton Award nominees:
Unmade, Sarah Rees Brennan (Random House)
Salvage, Alexandra Duncan (Greenwillow)
Love Is the Drug, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, A.S. King (Little, Brown)
Dirty Wings, Sarah McCarry (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Greenglass House, Kate Milford (Clarion)
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton (Candlewick)
Now in their 39th year, the PROSE Awards honor “the very best in professional and scholarly publishing by bringing attention to distinguished books, journals, and electronic content in over 40 categories,” as determined by a jury of peer publishers, librarians, and medical professionals.
Last year, we released an infographic and study on the diversity gap in the Academy Awards. The study looked at racial and gender diversity over 85 years of Oscars, through 2012. Here’s the updated study, which includes the 2013, 2014, and 2015 winners:
You may notice it looks…not very different from the old infographic. Three big stats that we called out then are still true:
Only one woman of color (1%) has ever won the Academy Award for Best Actress
Only seven men of color (8%) have ever won the Academy Award for Best Actor
Only one woman (1%) has ever won the Academy Award for Best Director
That’s because in the last three years, no person of color has won in the Best Leading Actor or Best Leading Actress category. Including last night’s win for Alejandro González Iñárritu, three people of color have won in the Best Director category, all male. 2014 saw a step forward with three Oscar wins for Twelve Years a Slave, but just a year later all 20 acting nominations once again went to white actors. No women were nominated in the directing, writing, or cinematography categories in 2015 either.
It’s no surprise that there’s no change among the winners when there’s no change among the voters. According to a recent LA Times article, the racial makeup of the Academy has barely budged in the last few years, even with a commitment to diversify from the Academy’s first black woman president.
We often get so caught up in the glamour of the Oscars that it’s hard to remember that the winners are not necessarily the best movies but rather the movies that resonate most with the (mostly male, white, and older) Academy voters. Roxane Gay reminds us of this:
It is frustrating, particularly in looking at the Best Picture nominees, to see what kind of story is resonating with Academy voters. With the exception of Selma, these are movies about white men coming of age, coping with old age, coping with genius, coping with a strong mind but frail body, coping with the burdens of patriotism and duty, and on and on.
These stories deserve to be told but they are not the only stories that deserve to be told. This is what we continually lose sight of. And in Selma, which is an outstanding movie, we see, yet again, the kind of story Academy voters are comfortable with when it comes to people of color–always about the history, about the struggle. Where is the Birdman for an aging Asian actress? Where is Girlhood, ambitiously chronicled over a number of years? Where is the twee movie shot in highly saturated color about a woman working as a hotel concierge? These stories exist and if they don’t they have the potential to exist, if there were more opportunities available.
This echoes a comment from Gina Prince-Blythewood, writer/director of the 2014 film Beyond the Lights:
The numbers do not surprise me because very few Academy Award level films with non-white leads are being greenlit. Until this changes, the abysmal numbers will not change.
So, what would it take to see these stories told and awarded?
There’s no easy answer, but one thing is certain: things won’t change on their own. Sitting back and waiting for the Academy to catch up to our country’s demographics is not an option. And while we may not each have the power to greenlight what gets produced, we do have the power to affect the box office and support great diverse movies with our time, money, and word of mouth. Together we have the power to prove that there’s a market for all different kinds of stories.
It may be the most famous tear in American history. Iron Eyes Cody, an actor in native garb, paddles a birch bark canoe on water that seems at first tranquil and pristine but becomes increasingly polluted along his journey. He pulls his boat from the water and walks toward a bustling freeway. As the lone Indian ponders the polluted landscape and stares at vehicles streaming by, a passenger hurls a paper bag out a car window. The bag bursts on the ground, scattering fast-food wrappers all over his beaded moccasins. In a stern voice, the narrator comments: “Some people have a deep abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country. And some people don’t.” The camera zooms in closely on Iron Eyes Cody’s face to reveal a single tear falling, ever so slowly, down his cheek (fig. 5.1).
This tear made its television debut in 1971 at the close of a public service advertisement for the antilitter organization Keep America Beautiful. Appearing in languid motion on television, the tear would also circulate in other visual forms, stilled on billboards and print media advertisements to become a frame stopped in time, forever fixing the image of Iron Eyes Cody as the Crying Indian. Garnering many advertising accolades, including two Clio Awards, and still ranked as one of the best commercials of all time, the Crying Indian spot enjoyed tremendous airtime during the 1970s, allowing it to gain, in advertising lingo, billions of “household impressions” and achieve one of the highest viewer recognition rates in television history. After being remade multiple times to support Keep America Beautiful, and after becoming indelibly etched into American public culture, the commercial has more recently been spoofed by various television shows, including The Simpsons (always a reliable index of popular culture resonance),King of the Hill, and Penn & Teller: Bullshit. These parodies—together with the widely publicized reports that Iron Eyes Cody was actually born Espera De Corti, an Italian-American who literally played Indian in both his life and onscreen—may make it difficult to view the commercial with the same degree of moral seriousness it sought to convey to spectators at the time. Yet to appreciate the commercial’s significance, to situate Cody’s tear within its historical moment, we need to consider why so many viewers believed that the spot represented an image of pure feeling captured by the camera. As the television scholar Robert Thompson explains: “The tear was such an iconic moment. . . . Once you saw it, it was unforgettable. It was like nothing else on television. As such, it stood out in all the clutter we saw in the early 70s.”
FIGURE 5.1. The Crying Indian. Advertising Council / Keep America Beautiful advertisement, 1971. Courtesy of Ad Council Archives, University of Illinois, record series 13/2/203.
As a moment of intense emotional expression, Iron Eyes Cody’s tear compressed and concatenated an array of historical myths, cultural narratives, and political debates about native peoples and progress, technology and modernity, the environment and the question of responsibility. It reached back into the past to critique the present; it celebrated the ecological virtue of the Indian and condemned visual signs of pollution, especially the heedless practices of the litterbug. It turned his crying into a moment of visual eloquence, one that drew upon countercultural currents but also deflected the radical ideas of environmental, indigenous, and other protest groups.
At one level, this visual eloquence came from the tear itself, which tapped into a legacy of romanticism rekindled by the counterculture. As the writer Tom Lutz explains in his history of crying, the Romantics enshrined the body as “the seal of truth,” the authentic bearer of sincere emotion. “To say that tears have a meaning greater than any words is to suggest that truth somehow resides in the body,” he argues. “For [Romantic authors], crying is superior to words as a form of communication because our bodies, uncorrupted by culture or society, are naturally truthful, and tears are the most essential form of speech for this idealized body.”
Rather than being an example of uncontrolled weeping, the single tear shed by Iron Eyes Cody also contributed to its visual power, a moment readily aestheticized and easily reproduced, a drop poised forever on his cheek, seemingly suspended in perpetuity. Cody himself grasped how emotions and aesthetics became intertwined in the commercial. “The final result was better than anybody expected,” he noted in his autobiography. “In fact, some people who had been working on the project were moved to tears just reviewing the edited version. It was apparent we had something of a 60-second work of art on our hands.” The aestheticizing of his tear yielded emotional eloquence; the tear seemed to express sincerity, an authentic record of feeling and experience. Art and reality merged to offer an emotional critique of the environmental crisis.
That the tear trickled down the leathered face of a Native American (or at least someone reputed to be indigenous) made its emotionality that much more poignant, its critique that much more palpable. By designing the commercial around the imagined experience of a native person, someone who appears to have journeyed out of the past to survey the current landscape, Keep America Beautiful (KAB) incorporated the counterculture’s embrace of Indianness as a marker of oppositional identity.
Yet KAB, composed of leading beverage and packaging corporations and staunchly opposed to many environmental initiatives, sought to interiorize the environmentalist critique of progress, to make individual viewers feel guilty and responsible for the degraded environment. Deflecting the question of responsibility away from corporations and placing it entirely in the realm of individual action, the commercial castigated spectators for their environmental sins but concealed the role of industry in polluting the landscape. A ghost from the past, someone who returns to haunt the contemporary American imagination, the Crying Indian evoked national guilt for the environmental crisis but also worked to erase the presence of actual Indians from the landscape. Even as Red Power became a potent organizing force, KAB conjured a spectral Indian to represent the native experience, a ghost whose melancholy presence mobilized guilt but masked ongoing colonialism, whose troubling visitation encouraged viewers to feel responsible but to forget history. Signifying resistance and secreting urgency, his single tear glossed over power to generate a false sense of personal blame. For all its implied sincerity, many environmentalists would come to see the tear as phony and politically problematic, the liquid conclusion to a sham campaign orchestrated by corporate America.
Before KAB appropriated Indianness by making Iron Eyes Cody into a popular environmental symbol, the group had promoted a similar message of individual responsibility through its previous antilitter campaigns. Founded in 1951 by the American Can Company and the Owens-Illinois Glass Company, a corporate roster that later included the likes of Coca-Cola and the Dixie Cup Company, KAB gained the support of the Advertising Council, the nation’s preeminent public service advertising organization. Best known for creating Smokey Bear and the slogan “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires” for the US Forest Service, the Ad Council applied the same focus on individual responsibility to its KAB advertising.
The Ad Council’s campaigns for KAB framed litter as a visual crime against landscape beauty and an affront to citizenship values. David F. Beard, a KAB leader and the director of advertising for Reynolds Metals Company, described the litter problem in feverish tones and sought to infuse the issue with a sense of crisis. “During this summer and fall, all media will participate in an accelerated campaign to help to curb the massive defacement of the nation by thoughtless and careless people,” he wrote in 1961. “The bad habits of littering can be changed only by making all citizens aware of their responsibilities to keep our public places as clean as they do their own homes.” The KAB fact sheet distributed to media outlets heightened this rhetoric of urgency by describing litter as an infringement upon the rights of American citizens who “derive much pleasure and recreation from their beautiful outdoors. . . . Yet their enjoyment of the natural and man- made attractions of our grand landscape is everywhere marred by the litter which careless people leave in their wake.” “The mountain of refuse keeps growing,” draining public coffers for continual cleanup and even posing “a menace to life and health,” the Ad Council concluded.
And why had this litter crisis emerged? The Ad Council acknowledged that “more and more products” were now “wrapped and packaged in containers of paper, metal and other materials”—the very same disposable containers that were manufactured, marketed, and used by the very same companies that had founded and directed KAB. Yet rather than critique the proliferation of disposables, rather than question the corporate decisions that led to the widespread use of these materials, KAB and the Ad Council singled out “individual thoughtlessness” as “the outstanding factor in the litter nuisance.”
Each year Beard’s rhetoric became increasingly alarmist as he began to describe the antilitter effort as the moral equivalent of war. “THE LITTERBUGS ARE ON THE LOOSE,” he warned newspapers around the nation, “and we’re counting on you to take up arms against them. . . . Your newspaper is a big gun in the battle against thoughtless littering.” Each year the campaign adopted new visuals to illustrate the tag line: “Bit by bit . . . every litter bit hurts.” “This year we are taking a realistic approach to the litter problem, using before-and-after photographs to illustrate our campaign theme,” Beard reported in 1963. “We think you’ll agree that these ads pack a real wallop.” These images showed a white family or a group of white teenagers enjoying themselves in one photograph but leaving behind unsightly debris in the next. The pictures focused exclusively on places of leisure—beaches, parks, and lakes—to depict these recreational environments as spaces treasured by white middle-class Americans, the archetypal members of the national community. The fight against litter thus appeared as a patriotic effort to protect the beauty of public spaces and to reaffirm the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, especially among the social group considered to exemplify the American way of life.
In 1964, though, Beard announced a shift in strategy. Rather than appealing to citizenship values in general, KAB would target parents in particular by deploying images of children to appeal to their emotions. “This year we are . . . reminding the adult that whenever he strews litter he is remiss in setting a good example for the kids—an appeal which should hit . . . with more emotional force than appealing primarily to his citizenship,” he wrote. The campaign against litter thus packaged itself as a form of emotional citizenship. Situating private feelings within public spaces, KAB urged fathers and mothers to see littering as a sign of poor parenting: “The good citizenship habits you want your children to have go overboard when they see you toss litter away.”
These new advertisements featured Susan Spotless, a young white girl who always wore a white dress—completely spotless, of course— together with white shoes, white socks, and a white headband. In the ads, Susan pointed her accusatory finger at pieces of trash heedlessly dropped by her parents (fig. 5.2). The goal of this campaign, Beard explained, was “to dramatize the message that ‘Keeping America Beautiful’ is a family affair’”—a concept that would later be applied not just to litter, but to the entire environmental crisis. Susan Spotless introduced a moral gaze into the discourse on litter, a gaze that used the wagging finger of a child to condemn individual adults for being bad parents, irresponsible citizens, and unpatriotic Americans. She played the part of a child who not only had a vested interest in the future but also appealed to private feelings to instruct her parents how to be better citizens. Launched in 1964, the same year that the Lyndon Johnson campaign broadcast the “Daisy Girl” ad, the Susan Spotless campaign also represented a young white girl as an emblem of futurity to promote citizenship ideals.
Throughout the 1960s and beyond, the Ad Council and KAB continued to present children as emotional symbols of the antilitter agenda. An ad from the late 1960s depicted a chalkboard with children’s antilitter sentiments scrawled across it: “Litter is not pretty. Litter is not healthy. Litter is not clean. Litter is not American.” What all these campaigns assumed was a sense of shared American values and a faith that the United States was fundamentally a good society. The ads did not attempt to mobilize resistant images or question dominant narratives of nationalism. KAB did not in any way attempt to appeal to the social movements and gathering spirit of protest that marked the 1960s.
With this background history in mind, the Crying Indian campaign appears far stranger, a surprising turn for the antilitter movement. KAB suddenly moved from its rather bland admonishments about litter to encompass a broader view of pollution and the environmental crisis. Within a few years it had shifted from Susan Spotless to the Crying Indian. Rather than signaling its commitment to environmentalism, though, this new representational strategy indicated KAB’s fear of the environmental movement.
FIGURE 5.2. “Daddy, you forgot . . . every litter bit hurts!” Advertising Council / Keep America Beautiful advertisement, 1964. Courtesy of Ad Council Archives, University of Illinois, record series 13/2/207.
The soft drink and packaging industries—composed of the same companies that led KAB —viewed the rise of environmentalism with considerable trepidation. Three weeks before the first Earth Day, the National Soft Drink Association (NSDA) distributed a detailed memo to its members, warning that “any bottling company” could be targeted by demonstrators hoping to create an “attention-getting scene.” The memo explained that in March, as part of a “‘dress rehearsal’” for Earth Day, University of Michigan students had protested at a soft drink plant by dumping a huge pile of nonreturnable bottles and cans on company grounds. Similar stunts, the memo cautioned, might be replicated across the nation on Earth Day.
And, indeed, many environmental demonstrations staged during the week surrounding Earth Day focused on the issue of throwaway containers. All these protests held industry—not consumers—responsible for the proliferation of disposable items that wasted natural resources and created a solid waste crisis. In Atlanta, for example, the week culminated with an “Ecolog y Trek”—featuring a pickup truck full of bottles and cans—to the Coca-Cola company headquarters. FBI surveillance agents, posted at fifty locations around the United States to monitor the potential presence of radicals at Earth Day events, noted that in most cases the bottling plants were ready for the demonstrators. Indeed, the plant managers heeded the memo’s advice: they not only had speeches prepared and “trash receptacles set up” for the bottles and cans hauled by participants, but also offered free soft drinks to the demonstrators. At these protests, environmental activists raised serious questions about consumer culture and the ecological effects of disposable packaging. In response, industry leaders in Atlanta and elsewhere announced, in effect: “Let them drink Coke.”
The NSDA memo combined snideness with grudging respect to emphasize the significance of environmentalism and to warn about its potential impact on their industry: If legions of consumers imbibed the environmentalist message, would their sales and profi ts diminish? “Those who are protesting, although many may be only semi- informed, have a legitimate concern for the environment they will inherit,” the memo commented. “From a business point of view, the protestors . . . represent the growing numbers of today’s and tomorrow’s soft drink consumers. An industry whose product sales are based on enjoyment of life must be concerned about ecological problems.” Placed on the defensive by Earth Day, the industry recognized that it needed to formulate a more proactive public relations effort.
KAB and the Ad Council would devise the symbolic solution that soft drink and packaging industries craved: the image of the Crying Indian. The conceptual brilliance of the ad stemmed from its ability to incorporate elements of the countercultural and environmentalist critique of progress into its overall vision in order to offer the public a resistant narrative that simultaneously deflected attention from industry practices. When Iron Eyes Cody paddled his birch bark canoe out of the recesses of the imagined past, when his tear registered shock at the polluted present, he tapped into a broader current of protest and, as the ad’s designers knew quite well, entered a cultural milieu already populated by other Ecological Indians.
In 1967 Life magazine ran a cover story titled “Rediscovery of the Red-man,” which emphasized how certain notions of Indianness were becoming central to countercultural identity. Native Americans, the article claimed, were currently “being discovered again—by the hippies. . . . Viewing the dispossessed Indian as America’s original dropout, and convinced that he has deeper spiritual values than the rest of society, hippies have taken to wearing his costume and horning in on his customs.” Even as the article revealed how the counterculture trivialized native culture by extracting symbols of imagined Indianness, it also indicated how the image of the Indian could be deployed as part of an oppositional identity to question dominant values.
While Life stressed the material and pharmaceutical accoutrements the counterculture ascribed to Indianness— from beads and headbands to marijuana and LSD—other media sources noted how many counter-cultural rebels found ecological meaning in native practices. In 1969, as part of a special issue devoted to the environmental crisis,Look magazine profiled the poet Gary Snyder, whose work enjoyed a large following among the counterculture. Photographed in the nude as he held his smiling young child above his head and sat along a riverbank, Snyder looked like the archetypal natural man, someone who had found freedom in nature, far away from the constraints and corruptions of modern culture. In a brief statement to the magazine he evoked frontier mythology to contrast the failures of the cowboy with the virtues of the Indian. “We’ve got to leave the cowboys behind,” Snyder said. “We’ve got to become natives of this land, join the Indians and recapture America.”
Although the image of the Ecological Indian grew out of longstanding traditions in American culture, it circulated with particular intensity during the late 1960s and early 1970s. A 1969 poster distributed by activists in Berkeley, California, who wanted to protect “People’s Park” as a communal garden, features a picture of Geronimo, the legendary Apache resistance fighter, armed with a rifle. The accompanying text contrasts the Indians’ reverence for the land with the greed of white men who turned the space into a parking lot. Likewise, a few weeks before Earth Day, the New York Times Magazine reported on Ecology Action, a Berkeley-based group. The author was particularly struck by one image that appeared in the group’s office. “After getting past the sign at the door, the visitor is confronted with a large poster of a noble, if somewhat apprehensive, Indian. The first Americans have become the culture heroes of the ecology movement.” Native Americans had become symbolically important to the movement, because, one of Ecology Action’s leaders explained, “‘the Indians lived in harmony with this country and they had a reverence for the things they depended on.’”
Hollywood soon followed suit. The 1970 revisionist Western Little Big Man, one of the most popular films of the era, portrayed Great Plains Indians living in harmony with their environment, respecting the majestic herds of bison that filled the landscape. While Indians killed the animals only for subsistence, whites indiscriminately slaughtered the creatures for profit, leaving their carcasses behind to amass, in one memorable scene, enormous columns of skins for the market. One film critic noted that “the ominous theme is the invincible brutality of the white man, the end of ‘natural’ life in America.”18
In creating the image of the Crying Indian, KAB practiced a sly form of propaganda. Since the corporations behind the campaign never publicized their involvement, audiences assumed that KAB was a disinterested party. KAB documents, though, reveal the level of duplicity in the campaign. Disingenuous in joining the ecology bandwagon, KAB excelled in the art of deception. It promoted an ideology without seeming ideological; it sought to counter the claims of a political movement without itself seeming political. The Crying Indian, with its creative appropriation of countercultural resistance, provided the guilt-inducing tear KAB needed to propagandize without seeming propagandistic.
Soon after the first Earth Day, Marsteller agreed to serve as the volunteer ad agency for a campaign whose explicit purpose was to broaden the KAB message beyond litter to encompass pollution and the environmental crisis. Acutely aware of the stakes of the ideological struggle, Marsteller’s vice president explained to the Ad Council how he hoped the campaign would battle the ideas of environmentalists—ideas, he feared, that were becoming too widely accepted by the American public. “The problem . . . was the attitude and the thinking of individual Americans,” he claimed. “They considered everyone else but themselves as polluters. Also, they never correlated pollution with litter. . . . The ‘mind-set’ of the public had to be overcome. The objective of the advertising, therefore, would be to show that polluters are people—no matter where they are, in industry or on a picnic.” While this comment may have exaggerated the extent to which the American public held industry and industry alone responsible for environmental problems (witness the popularity of the Pogo quotation), it revealed the anxiety felt by corporate leaders who saw the environmentalist insurgency as a possible threat to their control over the means of production.19
As outlined by the Marsteller vice president, the new KAB advertising campaign would seek to accomplish the following ideological objectives: It would conflate litter with pollution, making the problems seem indistinguishable from one another; it would interiorize the sense of blame and responsibility, making viewers feel guilty for their own individual actions; it would generalize and universalize with abandon, making all people appear equally complicit in causing pollution and the environmental crisis. While the campaign would still sometimes rely on images of young white children, images that conveyed futurity to condemn the current crisis, the Crying Indian offered instead an image of the past returning to the haunt the present.
Before becoming the Crying Indian, Iron Eyes Cody had performed in numerous Hollywood films, all in roles that embodied the stereotypical, albeit contradictory, characteristics attributed to cinematic Indians. Depending on the part, he could be solemn and stoic or crazed and bloodthirsty; most of all, though, in all these films he appeared locked in the past, a visual relic of the time before Indians, according to frontier myth, had vanished from the continent.
The Crying Indian ad took the dominant mythology as prologue; it assumed that audiences would know the plotlines of progress and disappearance and would imagine its prehistoric protagonist suddenly entering the contemporary moment of 1971. In the spot, the time- traveling Indian paddles his canoe out of the pristine past. His long black braids and feather, his buckskin jacket and beaded moccasins— all signal his pastness, his inability to engage with modernity. He is an anachronism who does not belong in the picture.
The spectral Indian becomes an emblem of protest, a phantomlike figure whose untainted ways allow him to embody native ecological wisdom and to critique the destructive forces of progress. He confronts viewers with his mournful stare, challenging them to atone for their environmental sins. Although he has glimpsed various signs of pollution, it is the final careless act—the one passenger who flings trash at his feet—that leads him to cry. At the moment the tear appears, the narrator, in a baritone voice, intones: “People start pollution. People can stop it.” The Crying Indian does not speak. The voice-over sternly confi rms his tearful judgment and articulates what the silent Indian cannot say: Industry and public policy are not to blame, because individual people cause pollution. The resistant narrative becomes incorporated into KAB’s propaganda effort. His tear tries to alter the public’s “mind-set,” to deflect attention away from KAB’s corporate sponsors by making individual Americans feel culpable for the environmental crisis.
Iron Eyes Cody became a spectral Indian at the same moment that actual Indians occupied Alcatraz Island—located, ironically enough, in San Francisco Bay, the same body of water in which the Crying Indian was paddling his canoe. As the ad was being filmed, native activists on nearby Alcatraz were presenting themselves not as past-tense Indians but as coeval citizens laying claim to the abandoned island. For almost two years—from late 1969 through mid-1971, a period that overlapped with both the filming and release of the Crying Indian commercial— they demanded that the US government cede control of the island. The Alcatraz activists, composed mostly of urban Indian college students, called themselves the “Indians of All Tribes” to express a vision of pan- Indian unity—an idea also expressed by the American Indian Movement (AIM) and the struggle for Red Power. On Alcatraz they hoped to create several centers, including an ecological center that would promote “an Indian view of nature—that man should live with the land and not simply on it.”
While the Crying Indian was a ghost in the media machine, the Alcatraz activists sought to challenge the legacies of colonialism and contest contemporary injustices—to address, in other words, the realities of native lives erased by the anachronistic Indians who typically populated Hollywood film. “The Alcatraz news stories are somewhat shocking to non-Indians,” the Indian author and activist Vine Deloria Jr. explained a few months after the occupation began. “It is difficult for most Americans to comprehend that there still exists a living community of nearly one million Indians in this country. For many people, Indians have become a species of movie actor periodically dispatched to the Happy Hunting Grounds by John Wayne on the ‘Late, Late Show.’” The Indians on Alcatraz, Deloria believed, could advance native issues and also potentially teach the United States how to establish a more sustainable relationship with the land. “Non-Indian society has created a monstrosity of a culture where . . . the sun can never break through the smog,” he wrote. “It just seems to a lot of Indians that this continent was a lot better off when we were running it.” While the Crying Indian and Deloria both upheld the notion of native ecological wisdom, they did so in diametrically opposed ways. Iron Eyes Cody’s tear, ineffectual and irrelevant to contemporary Indian lives, evoked only the idea of Indianness, a static symbol for polluting moderns to emulate. In contrast, the burgeoning Red Power movement demonstrated that native peoples would not be consigned to the past, and would not act merely as screens on which whites could project their guilt and desire.
A few weeks after the Crying Indian debuted on TV, the Indians of All Tribes were removed from Alcatraz. Iron Eyes Cody, meanwhile, repeatedly staked out a political position quite different from that of AIM, whose activists protested and picketed one of his films for its stereotypical and demeaning depictions of native characters. Still playing Indian in real life, Cody chastised the group for its radicalism. “The American Indian Movement (AIM) has some good people in it, and I know them,” he later wrote in his autobiography. “But, while the disruptions it has instigated helped put the Indians on the world map, its values and direction must change. AIM must work at encouraging Indians to work within the system if we’ve to really improve our lives. If that sounds ‘Uncle Tom,’ so be it. I’m a realist, damn it! The buffalo are never coming back.” Iron Eyes Cody, the prehistoric ghost, the past-tense ecological Indian, disingenuously condemned AIM for failing to engage with modernity and longing for a pristine past when buffalo roamed the continent.
Even as AIM sought to organize and empower Indian peoples to improve present conditions, the Crying Indian appears completely powerless, unable to challenge white domination. In the commercial, all he can do is lament the land his people lost.
If you’re all shaken up Shake it Up! is over, then you might need to check out Zendaya’s NEW Disney show that’s all the rage: K.C. Undercover.
K. C. (played by Zendaya) is an undercover spy in a family of undercover spies who go on secret government missions. She is a 16-year-old math genius spy in training (who can rock incredibly dangerous looking 3-inch sneaker high heels)! Her brother Ernie is a socially awkward, but lovable computer expert. And the family receives a new addition of a 10-year-old robot sister Judy. We’re still learning whose side she’s on. It’s pretty hilarious. The stories have a nice mix of capturing the bad guy while balancing being a teenager. And I have to say I love all her outfits!
So for today’s mission, it’s your job to let us know:
Would You Rather . . .
Go undercover to your school dance and arrest your date (who’s a bad guy spy!) OR go undercover into the football team locker room and arrest the sweaty but gorgeous star quarterback?
Be a spy like K. C. and her family OR be a ghost like on The Haunted Hathaways?
Live as a spy in Russia OR Brazil?
Have a secret gadget to listen in on people’s conversations OR secret gadget to make things explode by pressing a button?
Discover your parents are spies OR your parents are secretly rich and famous from being in a rock band in the 1990s?
Be able to dance like Zendaya in Shake It Up OR do action karate moves like Zendaya in K. C. Undercover?
Have a robot sister like Judy OR a real robot who obeys your every command?
Be a good spy OR an evil spy? (bwa ha ha ha)
Should you choose to complete this mission, leave your answers in the Comments below. And let us know what you think of Zendaya’s new show K. C. Undercover!