What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in
    from   

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Posts

(from American Indians in Children's Literature)

Recent Comments

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing Blog: American Indians in Children's Literature, Most Recent at Top
Results 1 - 25 of 997
Visit This Blog | Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
Blog Banner
Critical discussion of American Indians in children's books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society-at-large.
Statistics for American Indians in Children's Literature

Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 21
1. Thumbs down to THE MAYFLOWER by Mark Greenwood

In July of 2014, Holiday House released The Mayflower written by Mark Greenwood. Illustrated by his wife, Frane Lessac, some people think it is a contender for the Caldecott. I sure hope not, but America loves its birth narratives and many segments of America refuse to see it in a balanced or accurate light.

Greenwood and Lessac provide that same romantic story, as shown on these pages (source: https://wondersinthedark.wordpress.com/2014/11/27/caldecott-medal-contender-the-mayflower/). Here's Squanto:


And of course, that meal:



For further reading:



0 Comments on Thumbs down to THE MAYFLOWER by Mark Greenwood as of 1/29/2015 10:25:00 AM
Add a Comment
2. BOOKLIST lists American Indians in Children's Literature as a Resource

Booklist's February 2015 issue is titled "Spotlight on Multicultural Literature." The feature article is online. Written by Sarah Hunter, the article opens with:

It’s no secret that children’s publishing has a problem. Numerous venues, from the New York Times to Twitter, have rightfully brought to light the significant disparity in the representation of diversity in kids’ books. So what can librarians do, both immediately and in the long term, to make things better?
She closes with a quote from two librarians at Chicago Public Library:
McChesney and Medlar similarly note, “These conversations may ‘feel’ uncomfortable to a librarian, but they are important to our kids and [they] help them gain power as both consumers and critics.” If librarians allow themselves the room to make mistakes, and openly and humbly accept feedback, they should be able to help create change, even it if is incremental rather than overnight.
And, she links to American Indians in Children's Literature and the American Indian Library Association's Youth Literature Award as resources:



Click on over and read Hunter's article. If you can't get to it, let me know and I'll send you a pdf of the article. 

0 Comments on BOOKLIST lists American Indians in Children's Literature as a Resource as of 1/29/2015 10:25:00 AM
Add a Comment
3. HOUSE OF PURPLE CEDAR selected by International Reading Association


Tim Tingle's exquisite House of Purple Cedar is among the books the Children's Literature/Reading group of the International Reading Association selected for inclusion in its list of Notable Books for a Global Society. (Note: I did two screen captures from their pdf to make the image above.)

Here's a bit of info about the Notable Books list, from their website:
The Notable Books for a Global Society (NBGS) list was developed to help students, teachers, and families identify books that promote understanding of and appreciation for the world's full range of diverse cultures and ethnic and racial groups. Although advances in technology allow us to communicate quickly with people around the world and the growth of world trade brings us increasingly into contact with far-flung members of the "global village," today's society is rife with tension, conflict and ignorance of others different from us. If we hope to meet the many challenges that face us in the 21st century, we must recognize the similarities and celebrate the differences among all races, cultures, religions, and sexual orientations, and appreciate that people can hold a wide range of equally legitimate values.
I'm thrilled to see House of Purple Cedar receive this recognition. It is on American Indians in Children's Literature's list of Best Books of 2014, too, and I hope you'll add it to your shelves. Book talk it if you're a librarian. Assign it if you're a teacher. And if you're a bookseller, hand sell it to people who come in to your store.

Tingle was at the National Book Festival last year. Though the audio isn't great in this video, you won't regret taking time to listen to what Tingle has to say. He starts out with a great bit of humor. Do watch at least the first few minutes.




0 Comments on HOUSE OF PURPLE CEDAR selected by International Reading Association as of 1/28/2015 9:27:00 AM
Add a Comment
4. FERAL PRIDE by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Feral Pride is the third book in Cynthia Leitich Smith's Feral series. She is Muscogee Creek. Books in the series consists of a series of chapters, each one told from the point of view of one of the characters.

Prior to this and her Tantalize series, Leitich Smith wrote three books I highly recommend: her picture book Jingle Dancer, the early reader chapter book Indian Shoes, and her young adult novel Rain is Not My Indian Name. Each one is a terrific story featuring Native kids and their families. All three are set in the present day.

Feral Curse, the second book in the Feral series, introduces a Native character. Her name is Jess. She is Osage. Kayla, one of the main characters in Feral Curse, is a shapeshifter. Kayla and Jess grew up together and are good friends. In her early teens when Kayla realized she is a shapeshifter, she started to keep to herself, afraid of what people and friends will think about her, and afraid that she might inadvertently hurt or frighten them.

Some people in the world Leitich Smith creates are fine with shapeshifters; others aren't. It is that facet of the story that stands out to me as a Native women. The world Leitich Smith creates--and the attitudes of people in it--reflect the real world. Here on AICL, I've written about U.S. assimilation policies. Some of those laws and policies took land from Native peoples as a means to destroy our nationhood, and others sought to "kill the Indian and save the man." Those laws and policies were driven by attitudes held by people who did not want 'other' in the U.S.

That history is in my head as I read Feral Pride, or any book. It doesn't matter what I read. I see gaps. And misrepresentations. But as I read Feral Pride, I see Leitich Smith filling those gaps, meeting them head on.

Here's an example from early in Feral Pride. It picks up where Feral Curse left off. Feral Pride opens with Clyde. Like Kayla, he is a shapeshifter. Clyde, Yoshi, and Kayla are on the run. Both Clyde and Yoshi have more experience with being hunted than Kayla does. Jess is driving them in her dad's squad car. He's a sheriff in the small town in Texas where Kayla and Jess are from. They're headed to the Osage reservation. Here's their conversation (p. 3):*
"None of this makes sense," Kayla says from the backseat of the squad car. "It's not illegal to be what we are. Why would federal agents be gunning for us?"
"Why wouldn't they?" answers Yoshi, who's beside her.

Clyde thinks:
They're both right. It's not illegal to be what we are. But whenever anything goes wrong, anything bloody and brutal, shape-shifters are presumed guilty.
As I read "It's not illegal to be what we are" I thought about all the young people in the US today who some segments of society think of as "illegal." I thought about them being hunted, living in fear of being deported. I thought about how they are unfairly blamed for one social ill after another. Those who aren't branded "illegal" may not notice the work this particular part of Feral Pride is doing, but you can be sure that those who are considered "illegal" will note that passage. It speaks to them, as does Jess, on page 9, when she says:
"Shifters are people. There are terrific people. There are terrible people. Most fall in between."
I keep reading Jess's words. The list of peoples in the world that have been dehumanized and demonized by terrible people is astounding. Feral Pride pushes us--if we're willing--to think about that and why it happens.

Weighty topic, I know, but Leitich Smith lightens that weight with the banter the teens engage in as they drive. They're into superheroes and science fiction characters.

And! The parts of the story where characters shift or are talking about clothes? Well, I find those parts exquisite and they make me wish I could see all of this on a movie screen. And the parts where characters from the Tantalize series join the characters in the Pride series? Well done!

There are other tensions throughout the novel that provide opportunities to think about, for example, relationships across race. Characters who experience these tensions reflect on the ways that their own flaws and experiences shape what they say, do, and think. Their reflections and conversations give them space to revisit what they think, say, and do--and of course, provide those opportunities to us, too.

Elsewhere, reviewers note some of what I did above, and they call Feral Pride compelling, action-packed, sexy, campy, and wickedly funny. I agree with all that, and am happy to recommend it.

Feral Pride is due out this year (2015) from Candlewick.

*I read an advanced reader copy of Feral Pride. Page numbers I noted above may not correspond to the book when it is published.



0 Comments on FERAL PRIDE by Cynthia Leitich Smith as of 1/27/2015 8:51:00 PM
Add a Comment
5. "Injun" in Chris Kyle's AMERICAN SNIPER

When American Sniper opened in theaters last week, I started to see reviews that pointed out Kyle's use of the word savage to describe Iraqis. That word has been used to describe American Indians. I wondered if Kyle made any connections between "savage" and American Indians in his book. The answer? Yes.

In his autobiography, Kyle uses "Injun" in two places. Here's what he said on page 267:

Or we would bump out 500 yards, six or eight hundred yards, going deep into Injun territory to look and wait for the bad guys.
And here's what he said on page 291:
Our missions would last for an overnight or two in Injun country.
See? He made connections between "savage" Iraqis and "savage" Indians. In his book, he used the word "savage" several times. Here's page 4 (the book uses caps as shown):
SAVAGE, DESPICABLE EVIL. THAT'S WHAT WE WERE FIGHTING in Iraq. That's why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy "savages." 
Later on that same page, he says that when people asked him how many he's killed:
The number is not important to me. I only wish I had killed more. Not for bragging rights, but because I believe the world is a better place without savages out there taking American lives.
On page 147:
THE BAD GUYS THE ENEMIES WE WERE FIGHTING WERE SAVAGE AND WELL-armed 
On page 173:
It was near a hospital the insurgents had converted into a headquarters before our assault, and even now the area seemed to be a magnet for savages.
On page 219:
I hated the damn savages I'd been fighting.
On page 228:
They turned around and saw a savage with a rocket launcher lying dead on the ground.
On page 244:
They had heard we were out there slaying a huge number of savages.
On page 284:
There was a savage on the roof of the house next door, looking down at the window from the roof there. 
On page 316:
"...after we killed enough of the savages out there," I told him. 
On page 338:
I'd have to wait until the savage who put him up to it appeared on the street.
Of course, Kyle is not the first person to equate American Indians with Iraqis. In 2008, Professor Steven Silliman of the University of Massachusetts did a study of the use of "Indian Country." His article, The "Old West" in the Middle East: U.S. Military Metaphors in Real and Imagined Indian Country includes a chart of how it was used in the Middle East, by media and soldiers.

And, anyone who has paid attention to the use of "savage" or "Injun" in children's literature will be able to list several books that use either word to dehumanize American Indians. Here's a few examples:

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder used "savages" in her Little House on the Prairie.  
  • Carol Ryrie Brink used "savages" in Caddie Woodlawn.
  • Lois Lenski used "savage" in Indian Captive.
  • Elizabeth George Speare used "savages" in Calico Captive and "savage" in Sign of the Beaver.
  • Eoin Colfer used "savage Injun" in The Reluctant Assassin.

When we share books with the dehumanization of American Indians, do we inadvertently put people on that road to being able to dehumanize "other" in conflicts, be the conflict that takes place in war or on the streets of any country?

0 Comments on "Injun" in Chris Kyle's AMERICAN SNIPER as of 1/26/2015 5:13:00 PM
Add a Comment
6. David Arnold's MOSQUITOLAND

A few days ago, I wrote about the ways that Amazon is using a snippet of School Library Journal's review of David Arnold's Mosquitoland, due out this year

In contrast, Barnes and Noble uses the entire review. The reviewer, Angie Manfredi, pointed to Arnold's use of lipstick as "warpaint" and noted that the protagonist is "part Cherokee."

Today (January 26, 2015), David Arnold tweeted the photograph to the right as part of a hashtag started by Gayle Forman. I take it to be his way of showing us his protagonist in her "warpaint."

Mr. Arnold? Did you imagine a Native reader of your book? Did it occur to you that this "warpaint" would be problematic?  I see that this is the person in the book trailer. In it, she is shown putting on this "warpaint." How did the particular "warpaint" design come about?!

The book trailer ends with "Mim Malone is not ok." What you have her doing is not ok either.


0 Comments on David Arnold's MOSQUITOLAND as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
7. Comparing Reviews of MOSQUITOLAND at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

A lot of people use the reviews at Amazon to make decisions about books. I don't know how the specific content that is used at Amazon is selected, but it is worth noting that it is selectively used. No surprise there, really, because Amazon is a business, and so are the publishers.


Case in point: David Almond's Mosquitoland 

Amazon includes this from School Library Journal:


Three sentences. They say "Debut author Arnold's book is filled with some incredible moments of insight. The protagonist is a hard-edged narrator with a distinct voice. There is a lot for teens to admire and even savor." 

The full review was much longer, as seen at Barnes and Noble:



In the full review, Angie Manfredi pointed out that the protagonist uses lipstick to paint her face and calls it "war paint" or that the protagonist is "part" Cherokee. She described these as "deeply problematic elements" of "cultural appropriation." 

She's right. 

I haven't read the book yet but will as soon as I get a copy. 

For now, though, I think it important to note the difference in what gets excerpted at Amazon versus what gets used at Barnes and Noble. If you are a person who is mindful of problems related to depictions of Native peoples, Amazon would lead you astray. 






0 Comments on Comparing Reviews of MOSQUITOLAND at Amazon and Barnes & Noble as of 1/21/2015 5:19:00 PM
Add a Comment
8. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Genocide of American Indians

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Why We Can't Wait includes "The Summer of Our Discontent" in which he wrote about moderates who, opposed to segregation, were friends of the Civil Rights Movement. But, King wrote, these moderates were less enthused about the breadth of the movement's call for equality to jobs, housing, education, and social mobility, which he called a Revolution.

Rather than condemn them, he sought to understand their reluctance. He wrote:*

They [the moderates] are evidence that the Revolution is now ripping into roots. For too long the depth of racism in American life as been underestimated. The surgery to extract it is necessarily complex and detailed. As a beginning it is important to X-ray our history and reveal the full extent of the disease. The strands of prejudice towards Negroes are tightly wound around the American character. The prejudice has been nourished by the doctrine of race inferiority. Yet to focus upon the Negro alone as the "inferior race" of American myth is to miss the broader dimensions of the evil.

Here's the next paragraph. There is a lot to say about the ideas in this paragraph, but my point in sharing it is the last line, which I am emphasizing with bold italics:

Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles over racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or to feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it.

I'm sharing King's words today--the day after the US celebrates Martin Luther King Day--because I would like people to think about what he said in those two paragraphs. I want you to think about it each day as you work with children or teens and the books you use with them.

How many of the books on your shelf exalt the experiences of Native peoples in ways that incorrectly cast us as inferior people? Is it hard for you to look critically at those books because they require you to examine a previously unexamined allegiance to a view of American character that has not looked critically at what King called its evil dimensions?

__________
*I am reading Why We Can't Wait as an ebook and cannot provide page numbers for the excerpts above. Why We Can't Wait was first published by Beacon Press in 1963.

0 Comments on Martin Luther King, Jr. on Genocide of American Indians as of 1/20/2015 12:41:00 PM
Add a Comment
9. Merriam-Webster's CHILDREN'S DICTIONARY

Due out this year (2015) is a new edition of Dorling Kindersley's Merriam-Webster Children's Dictionary. I reviewed a copy, available via Edelweiss, focusing on its Native content. Here's some of my notes/thoughts.

It includes (if I counted right) 27 specific "group[s] of American Indian people" --- but nowhere did the editors use the word 'nation' or 'sovereign' or 'government' to describe these "group[s} of American Indian people."

Let's look at the entry for Apache:

1 a member of an American Indian people of the southwestern United States
2 any of the languages of the Apache people
The editors are focusing on individuals and languages, both of which are important, but, our status as self-governing sovereign nations is the single most important fact about who we are.

As some of you know, there are several Apache nations. If you go to the National Congress of American Indians directory, you can enter Apache into the "Search by Keyword" box and you'll get nine different ones. If I was writing the entry for Apache, I'd do this:
1 a citizen or member of a sovereign Native nation currently located in the southwestern United States
2 any of the languages of the people of the Apache nations

See my use of 'sovereign' and 'nation'? Those words matter! For your reference, here are the entries:

  • Apache
  • Arapahoe
  • Cherokee 
  • Cheyenne
  • Choctaw
  • Comanche
  • Creek
  • Crow
  • Dakota
  • Delaware
  • Fox
  • Hopi
  • Mahigan or Mohican
  • Mohawk
  • Mohegan 
  • Navajo
  • Nez Perce
  • Ojibwa or Ojibway or Ojibwe
  • Oneida
  • Osage
  • Paiute
  • Pueblo
  • Seminole
  • Seneca
  • Shoshone
  • Tlingit
  • Wampanaog

Like some of you, I'm wondering how, out of the hundreds of options, they chose those particular nations.

I wondered if the dictionary has an entry for Eskimo, so did a search and found the word in a photo inset for the word costume, where a child is shown with this caption "Eskimo costume worn in Canada" (there are six children shown; more about that later). The "costume" includes a parka. A parka isn't a costume. It is an article of clothing. The definition of costume is (p. 201):
1 special or fancy dress (as for wear on the stage or at a masquerade) 2 a style of clothing, ornaments, and hair used during a certain period, in a certain region, or by a certain class or group <ancient Roman costume> <peasant costume>.  
Information provided in that photo inset is this:
Many countries and regions have one or more traditional national costumes. These often reflect the lifestyles that people led in the past, both in terms of climate and in the type of work undertaken by many inhabitants of the country.
The six "costumes" shown are described as follows (bullets are mine):

  • "the sari is worn in India" - lines point to "short top" and "sari" 
  • "a costume worn in Finland" - line point to "boots made from reindeer fur"
  • "a costume worn in Vietnam" - lines point to "scarf" and "piece of cloth wound around the legs"
  • "a costume worn in Korea" - lines point to "silk jacket" and "sports shoes are not traditional"
  • "a costume worn in Tanzania" - lines point to "bead necklace" and "bead belt" and "colorful cloth tied around the body"
  • "Eskimo costume worn in Canada" - lines point to "modern parka" and "insulated boots"


I don't think someone in India would call a sari a costume. Do you? Same with the boots worn in Finland, the items worn in Vietnam, etc. If, however, a kid who isn't of those places or people wears one of those items, then I think it would be accurate to say it is a costume.

The other place the dictionary has the word Eskimo is in its front matter, where you learn how to use the dictionary itself. Here's a screen capture (see update at the bottom of this page regarding Eskimo/Inuit):


Thinking about that usage label, I wondered if the word "squaw" is included. It isn't (it isn't in the 2000 version either; see update at end of review). I looked at other words commonly used for Native people. Of course, each nation has its own language and its own word for man, woman, child, baby, etc.

The third entry for brave is "an American Indian warrior" (p. 121). Though I've seen "brave" used as a standard word for man (or braves for men), I think they're trying to say that it is a person who fights. Like a soldier. I wonder who first used brave to describe Native fighters? Cooper?!

The entry for medicine man is "a person especially among American Indian groups believed to have magic powers to cure illnesses and keep away evil spirits." Contrast that to the definition of priest and you see some bias: "a person who has the authority to perform religious ceremonies."

Sachem is "a North American chief" (p. 700) but it is like the word papoose--it has become the default word for chief. In fact, the word is Narragansett and the Narragansett's use it today. I don't know anyone from another tribe who calls their leader a sachem.

Interestingly, the entries for chief don't include reference to Native leaders.

Entries for hogan, tepee (better spelling is tipi), powwow,  and totem pole, are ok.

The entry for tom-tom is "a drum (as a traditional Asian, African, or American Indian drum) that is beaten with the hands" (p. 834). It should not include American Indian because we use drumsticks, not hands, to beat our drums, and we do not call them tom-toms.

The entry for reservation could be better. It is not wrong to say it is "land set aside for American Indians to live" but it raises questions like, who set it aside, why, and when.

The entry for wampum as "beads made of shells and once used for money or ornament by North American Indians" (p. 891) is mostly incorrect and imprecise. Beside it is a photograph of a wampum belt. It is intended to be evidence of wampum as an ornament to be worn. Wampum is made of shell. That is the part of the definition that is correct, but wampum is far more than decoration, and it belongs to specific nations. Here's the first paragraph about wampum, from the Onondaga Nation's website:
Wampum is created from the shell of a clam. The bead is cut from the white and purple parts of the shell. The shell is thought of as a living record. The speaker puts the words of the agreement into the wampum. Each speaker thereafter uses the wampum to remember the initial agreement and the history that has happened to date.
Go read the rest of the page and you'll understand why the definition is wrong.

The definition for wigwam suggests that they are no longer in use, which is inaccurate and it doesn't specify what nations use them.

In conclusion, this was an interesting exercise (and tiring), going through this dictionary. I hope the editors make changes next time around to make it more accurate and less biased.

___________

Update: Thank you, Sarah, for noting that the definition for Eskimo in the screen capture is incorrect. There is no entry for Eskimo in the dictionary. (Note: there is an entry for Eskimo that I missed in my searching. If you use the search option in your e-copy, note that it is inconsistent. The entry for Eskimo does not show up when you search using the word itself. It will come up when you search using Inuit.)

Sarah also provided me with a useful page: Inuit or Eskimo: Which Name to Use? The entry for Inuit is:
1 a member of the Eskimo people of the arctic regions of North America
2 any of the languages of the Inuit people.

____________

Update (first update above was within minutes of the review being uploaded. Here's another update, within an hour of the review being uploaded): Thank you, Michelle, for looking at the 2000 edition of this dictionary. It does not have the word squaw in it. Does someone have an older version?

0 Comments on Merriam-Webster's CHILDREN'S DICTIONARY as of 1/14/2015 4:50:00 PM
Add a Comment
10. Time Magazine's Almost All White 100 Best Children's Books of All Time

This morning, I posted a quick analysis of Time magazine's 100 Best Young Adult Books of All Time. This is my quick analysis of the children's books they chose. Here's what Time says about how they compiled the list:

To honor the best books for young adults and children, TIME compiled this survey in consultation with respected peers such as U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate Ken Nesbitt, children’s-book historian Leonard Marcus, the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress, the Every Child a Reader literacy foundation and 10 independent booksellers. 

There are no Native authors on the list. There are eight authors of color:

  • Mitsumasa Anno
  • Sharon Draper
  • Taro Gomi
  • Walter Dean Myers
  • Kadir Nelson
  • Allen Say
  • Divya Srinivasan
  • Ed Young

With only eight authors of color on the list, I'll echo what I said earlier today in my analysis of the young adult books. It is fair to say that Time Magazine has put together an Almost All White list. People who study children's books know that my "all white" refers to Nancy Larrick's article from the 1960s, in which she noted that the books in her library were almost all white. Over 50 years ago, she made that observation. We're still there, aren't we? Dismal. Depressing.

In only one of the books (to my knowledge), Allan Say's Grandfather's Journey has an accurate depiction of a Native person.

Within the pages of the books on this list, you'll see problematic depictions of Native people in these books (and possibly others):

  • The Berenstain Bears series includes one where Brother Bear and Sister Bear go to a summer camp where Grizzly Bob tells stories dressed up in stereotypical Indian attire.
  • Cooney's Miss Rumphius shows cigar store Indians
  • Holling's Paddle to the Sea has a toy wooden Indian

Next time you weed books in your library, consider replacing some of those books (above) with some excellent books by/about Native people. This page of Best Books includes ones that I recommend, and ones that have won the American Indian Library Association's book awards.

For your convenience, here's Time's list:

Allard, Harry. Miss Nelson is Missing
Allsburg, Chris Van. The Garden of Abdul Gasazi
Anno, Mitsumasa. Anno's Journey
Atwater, Richard and Florence. Mr. Popper's Penguins
Averill, Esther. Jenny and the Cat Club
Barnett, Mac. Extra Yarn
Base, Graeme. Animalia
Becker, Aaron. Journey
Bemelmans, Ludwig. Madeline (series)
Berenstain, Stan and Jan. The Berenstain Bears (series)
Bond, Michael. A Bear Called Paddington
Brown, Margaret Wise. The Color Kittens
Brown, Margaret Wise. Goodnight Moon
Brown, Margaret Wise. The Important Book
Brown, Margaret Wise. The Runaway Bunny
Bradfield, Roger. Hello, Rock
Brown, Marc. Arthur's Nose (series)
Burton, Virginia Lee. Katy and the Big Snow
Burton, Virginia Lee. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
Cannon, Janell. Stellaluna
Carle, Eric. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Cooney, Barbara. Miss Rumphius
Cronin, Doreen. Click, Clack, Moo
Day, Alexandra. Good Dog, Carl
Daywalt, Drew. The Day the Crayons Quit
Deacon, Alexis. Slow Loris
de Brunhoff, Jean. The Story of Babar
Donaldson, Julia. The Gruffalo
Draper, Sharon M. Out of My Mind
Eastman, P. D. Go Dog, Go
Falconer, Ian. Olivia
Freeman, Don. Corduroy
French, Jackie. Diary of a Wombat
Gag, Wanda. Millions of Cats
Gannett, Ruth Stiles. My Father's Dragon
Geisel, Theodore. The Cat in the Hat
Geisel, Theodore. Green Eggs and Ham
Geisel, Theodore. The Lorax
Geisel, Theodore. Oh, the Places You'll Go!
Geisel, Theodore. Yertle the Turtle
Gomi, Taro. Everyone Poops
Henkes, Kevin. Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse
Hills, Tad. How Rocket Learned to Read
Hoban, Russell. Bread and Jam for Frances
Holling, Holling Clancy. Paddle-to-the-Sea
Hurd, Thacher. Mama Don't Allow
Johnson, Crockett. Harold and the Purple Crayon
Joyce, William. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Kalman, Maira. Sayonara, Mrs. Kackleman
Keats, Ezra Jack. The Snowy Day
Keats, Ezra Jack. Whistle for Willie
Klassen, Jon. I Want My Hat Back
Knudsen, Michelle. Library Lion
Lamorisse, Albert. The Red Balloon
Lawson, Robert. The Story of Ferdinand
Lee, Dennis. Alligator Pie
Lindgren, Astrid. Pippi Longstocking
Litwin, Eric. Pete the Cat (series)
Lobel, Arnold. Frog and Toad (series)
Lowrey, Janette Sebring. The Poky Little Puppy
Martin, Jr. Bill. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom 
McCloskey, Robert. Blueberries for Sal
McCloskey, Robert. Make Way for Ducklings
Milne, A. A. Winnie the Pooh
Minarik, Else Holmelund. Little Bear
Mosel, Arlene. Tikki Tikki Tembo
Munsch, Robert. Love You Forever
Muth, Jon J. The Three Questions
Myers, Walter Dean. Jazz
Nelson, Kadir. We Are the Ship
Numeroff, Laura Joffe. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
Oxenbury, Helen and Rosen, Michael. We're Going on a Bear Hunt
Parish, Peggy. Amelia Bedelia
Piper, Watty. The Little Engine That Could
Potter, Beatrix. The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Prelutsky, Jack. The New Kid on the Block
Say, Allen. Grandfather's Journey
Scarry, Richard. Cars and Trucks and Things That Go
Scheer, Julian. Rain Makes Applesauce
Scieszka, Jon. The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales
Scieszka, Jon. The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs
Sendak, Maurice. In the Night Kitchen
Sendak, Maurice.  Where the Wild Things Are
Silverstein, Shel. The Giving Tree
Silverstein, Shel. Where the Sidewalk Ends
Srinivasan, Divya. Little Owl's Night
Stead, Philip C. A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Steig, William. Brave Irene
Steig, William. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
Thompson, Kay. Eloise
Tullet, Herve. Press Here
Van Allsburg, Chris. The Stranger
Viorst, Judith. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Wiesner, David. Tuesday
Willems, Mo. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
Willems, Mo. Elephant and Piggie (series)
Wright, Blanche Fisher. The Real Mother Goose
Yolen, Jane. Owl Moon
Young, Ed. Lon Po Po
Zion, Gene. Harry the Dirty Dog

0 Comments on Time Magazine's Almost All White 100 Best Children's Books of All Time as of 1/9/2015 3:39:00 PM
Add a Comment
11. Time Magazine's Almost All White list of 100 BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOKS OF ALL TIME

Let's take a look at Time Magazine's list of 100 best young adult books of all time.

Ninety-one are by white authors. Nine are by authors of color. Two of the nine authors of color have two books on the list (Myers and Yang):

  • Sherman Alexie
  • Isabel Allende
  • Walter Dean Myers
  • Marilyn Nelson
  • Pam Munoz Ryan
  • Mildred D. Taylor
  • Gene Luen Yang 

With only seven authors of color on the list, I think it is fair to say that Time Magazine has put together an Almost All White list. People who study children's books know that my "all white" refers to Nancy Larrick's article from the 1960s, in which she noted that the books in her library were almost all white. Over 50 years ago, she made that observation. We're still there, aren't we? Dismal. Depressing.

Focusing on Native depictions in the books, there's one book on it that doesn't reduce Native people to caricatures or stereotypes (Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian). It stands alone.  Several books on Time's list have problematic content regarding Native people:

  • Alcott's Little Women (character doing "Indian war whoop" and passage about "Indian in full war costume)
  • Anderson's Tiger Lily (see review)
  • Block's Weetzie Bat (see review)
  • Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy (when Ole Golly blushes, the text reads that she looked "exactly like a hawk-nosed Indian)
  • Green's The Fault in Our Stars (see review)
  • Meyer's Twilight (see review)
  • Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia (characters go to museum to see dinosaurs and Indians; diorama of Indians hunting buffalo is "three dimensional nightmare version of some of his own drawings)
  • Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond (talk of fighting Indians and wolves)
  • Twain's Huckleberry Finn (see review)
  • Wilder's Little House on the Prairie (see reviews)


Next time you weed books in your library, consider replacing some of those books (above) with some excellent books by/about Native people. This page of Best Books includes ones that I recommend, and ones that have won the American Indian Library Association's book awards. 

For your convenience, here's Time's list:

Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women
Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian 
Allende, Isabel. City of the Beasts
Alexander, Lloyd. The Book of Three
Alexander, Lloyd. The Chronicles of Prydain
Anderson, Jodi Lynn. Tiger Lily
Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak
Anderson, M.T. Feed
Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Block, Francesca Lia. Dangerous Angels (the Weetzie Bat Books)
Blume, Judy. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
Bosch, Pseudonymous. Secret (series)
Bradbury, Ray. The Illustrated Man
Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker. For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy
Carroll, Lewis. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Castellucci, Cecil. Boy Proof
Cleary, Beverly. Beezus and Ramona
Clements, Andrew. Frindle
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games
Cooper, Susan. The Grey King
Cormier, Robert. The Chocolate War
Crutcher, Chris. Whale Talk
Dahl, Roald. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Dahl, Roald. Danny the Champion of the World
Dahl, Roald. Matilda
DiCamillo, Kate. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
DiCamillo, Kate. The Tiger Riding
Donnelly, Jennifer. A Northern Light
Fitzhugh, Louise. Harriet the Spy
Forbes, Esther. Johnny Tremain: A Story of Boston in Revolt
Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl
Funke, Cornelia. The Thief Lord
Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book
Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars
Green, John. Looking for Alaska
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies
Goldman, William. The Princess Bride
Grahame, Kenneth. The Wind in the Willows
Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Hardinge, Frances. The Lost Conspiracy
Hinton, S. E. The Outsiders
Hughes, Richard. A High Wind in Jamaica
Jones, Diana Wynne. Dogsbody
Juster, Norton. The Phantom Tollbooth
Key, Watt. Alabama Moon
Knowles, John. A Separate Peace
Konigsburg, E. L. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
LeGuin, Ursula. A Wizard of Earthsea
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird
L'Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time
Leviathan, David. Every Day
Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
London, Jack. The Call of the Wild
Lowry, Lois. The Giver
Lowry, Lois. Number the Stars
McKay, Hilary. Saffy's Angel
Meyer, Stephanie. Twilight
Montgomery, L. M. Anne of Green Gables
Morpurgo, Michael. Private Peaceful
Myers, Walter Dean. Fallen Angels
Myers, Walter Dean. Monster
Nelson, Marilyn. A Wreath for Emmett Till 
Ness, Patrick. The Knife of Never Letting Go
Ness, Patrick. A Monster Calls
Nix, Garth. Sabriel
O'Brien, Robert C. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
Palacio, R. J. Wonder
Paterson, Katherine. Bridge to Terabithia
Paterson, Katherine. Jacob Have I Loved
Paulsen, Gary. Hatchet
Poe, Edgar Allan. Tales of Mystery and Imagination
Pullman, Phillip. The Golden Compass
Pullman, Philip. His Dark Materials
Raskin, Ellen. The Westing Game
Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan. The Yearling
Riordan, Rick. The Lightning Thief
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter (series)
Ryan, Pam Munoz. Esperanza Rising
Sachar, Louis. Holes
Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye
Scott, Michael. The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel
Selznick, Brian. The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sis, Peter. The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain
Snicket, Lemony. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning
Speare, Elizabeth George. The Witch of Blackbird Pon
Stead, Rebecca. When You Reach Me
Stewart, Trenton Lee. The Mysterious Benedict Society
Taylor, Mildred D. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Thompson, Craig. Blankets
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit
Tolkein, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings
Travers, P. L. Mary Poppins
Twain, Mark. Huckleberry Finn
Whaley, John Corey. Where Things Come Back
White, E.B. Charlotte's Web
White, T. H. The Sword in the Stone
Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little House on the Prairie
Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese
Yang, Gene Luen. Boxers and Saints
Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief

0 Comments on Time Magazine's Almost All White list of 100 BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOKS OF ALL TIME as of 1/9/2015 3:30:00 PM
Add a Comment
12. Nick Lake's THERE WILL BE LIES

Earlier today I finished reading a NetGalley copy of Nick Lake's There Will Be Lies. Due out in January of 2015, I do not recommend it.

The front matter for There Will be Lies includes a "Dear Reader" letter from Nick Lake. In that letter, he talks about a coyote that he saw in January of 2012:

In January 2012 I was standing on the grounds of a hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona, looking up at the stars, when a coyote ran past me on the path. It noticed me, stopped, and stared at me, shivering.
After a while, it turned and left. That moment stayed with him, he writes, and he knew he'd use it in his writing. He writes that, in fact, it turned into a key moment in There Will Be Lies. He goes on:
Then came something slightly spooky, as often happens with books. You see, what I didn't know until after I'd written the first draft of the novel was that the Navajo believed that a coyote crossed your path you would be hurt, suffer an accident, or be killed.
What is up with the past tense "Navajo believed" line? What are you telling your readers? That Navajos don't exist anymore? Or that they no longer believe whatever you think they believe about coyotes? And where did that info about coyotes come from?

Lake was in Scottsdale, a very wealthy area. Maybe he asked someone? And they told him that bit about coyotes crossing your path? (I think I know the answer; it'll come later on in this review.)

There Will Be Lies is set in Scottsdale. At the end of chapter two, the protagonist--a 17 year old girl named Shelby Jane Cooper--imagines the area 500 years ago (p. 10-11):
...before the settlers came, when the Apache and the Navajo and the Yavapai wandered the desert. Now they don't wander so much--they stick to the Yavapai Nation reservation up in the hills near Flagstaff.
Lake doesn't specify, but I'm guessing he figures his readers will fill in the gaps--that they'll know that the Apache and the Navajo have their own reservations--but I wonder if he (and his readers) know that there's actually more than one Apache Nation? There's the White Mountain Apaches, and the San Carlos Apaches, and the Jicarilla Apache's, too! All different. As for the Yavapai Nation being near Flagstaff? Nope. It is 23 miles northeast of Phoenix, and I kind think they'd be annoyed with Lake telling readers that they "stick" to their reservation. Anybody--Native or not--pretty much sticks to their neighborhoods, going elsewhere for work or school or shopping, but saying this about Native peoples... well, it is bugging me and I'm not sure why.

On page 12, Shelby says this ('she' is her mom):
...she's twenty feet ahead of me now, passing the Apache Dreams restaurant, a low block of a building with floor-to-ceiling windows. As far as I know it serves mainly waffles, which is a weird thing for an Apache to dream about.
Why is that a weird thing for an Apache to dream about? Are we supposed to think that the restaurant itself is owned by an Apache, and that the owner dreamt about waffles and so has a waffle restaurant? Why can't an Apache like waffles? I do.

When we get to page 28, Shelby is in the local library. She goes over to the Native American section. She's never been to that part of the library before. There's a book open on a table. She sees this line:
If Coyote crosses your path, turn back and do not continue your journey. Something terrible will happen--
The title of the book is Navajo Ceremonial Tales. I did a quick search on that title, given my curiosity about where Lake got that information about coyote (in his Dear Reader letter). I found a book by Gerald Hausman with "Navajo Ceremonial Tales" as part of its title. Having reviewed one of his books about a Pueblo story, I did an 'oh-oh' to myself. Then I did a search on that line about coyote crossing your path, and sure enough, Hausman's name comes up, but so do a few other pages, with the exact same line, but... none of them are Navajo sites or voices. The line seems to be coming right out of Hausman's book. Hausman isn't Navajo. He isn't Native at all, but has a LOT of books about various tribes. What is that phrase... dollars to donuts that you wouldn't read any of his books in an American Indian Studies class at any university or college in the US. Maybe you would... in some kind of course in... the UK? Where Lake is from!

At the library, Shelby flirts a bit with a guy named Mark who works there. He wants to get together after his shift but Shelby can't do it. She notices he has a dog tattoo above his collarbone. Outside while waiting for her cab, she's hit by a car. While waiting for an ambulance, a coyote comes up to her. She realizes that Mark's tattoo is a coyote, not a dog. The coyote seems to speak directly into her head. It tells her that there will be "two lies" followed by "the truth."

At the hospital, Shelby wakes to learn that she has a fractured ankle and foot. They'll need to operate in the morning to reduce the displacement of the bones in her foot. There are stitches from her ankle to her toes, and she will be wearing a CAM Walker (air boot) for four weeks. (I'm noting this because I had a fractured ankle in Aug 2014 and the things that Shelby will do next don't jibe with my experience of having a fractured ankle.)

After the operation, Shelby and her mom leave the hospital. She's surprised that her mom has rented a car and that there are suitcases with their clothes in the trunk. They're going on a trip, her mother says, and then she tells Shelby that her dad isn't really dead, as she's been told all her life. He's a violent person, her mom says, who had started hurting Shelby when she was a toddler. It is why Shelby's mom left him, but he's tried to find them before, which prompted them to move from Albuquerque to Phoenix. Now, again, they're leaving, apparently because of him. As they leave Phoenix and drive north in the desert, Shelby thinks (p. 60):
I mean, this landscape hasn't changed since the Native Americans rode their horses across it.
In a lot of places in the U.S., the landscape hasn't changed. I suppose Shelby's words reflect what she gets from television and books--Plains Indians.

Shelby and her mom stop at a campground where her mom gets friendly with a guy there named Luke. Shelby doesn't like it one bit. That night, they sit by the fire talking (p. 68):
They talk Apache culture, which I'm surprised to find Mom knows something about. The Navajo Star Chant, whatever that is. Luke gets very excited about something to do with four sacred colors, or something.
Umm... How do we go from Apache culture to the "Navajo Star Chant"? It suggests to me, again, that Lake is mashing distinct nations together. Recall he did it earlier?

Luke is going to show them some ruins the next day. Shelby and her mom don't have a tent, so they'll sleep in their car. Shelby can't sleep though, and looks out the window. There's a coyote there, and she remembers the line from the book and thinks about Mark.

That night she has a dream where she hears a child crying. It is a recurring dream, but that crying child and "the Dreaming" (that is how it is written over and over) itself will take up a huge part of the rest of the book. I found all of that tedious. Coyote is in those dreams, as are talking elks, and wolves, and snakes... And a crone. And a castle. It is all quite hokey to me, but apparently it is being read as "drawing from Native American mythologies." My best guess? It is drawn from Hausman.

The next morning they ride with Luke to the Agua Fria National Monument. They get started on a trail. This is less than 24 hours after her operation. It doesn't make sense that she would be doing this hike. There are signs telling them the ruins (p. 80):
...belong to the Perry Mesa culture, and date from around 1,000 CE. They predate the Apache, Yavapai or Navajo, and not much is understood about their culture.
Apache, Yavapai, Navajo... again. It is getting a bit redundant. There are a lot more Nations in the area. Why does Lake repeatedly name these three? They look at the ruins and some petroglyphs and then take a steep path down the canyon to a creek. They walk some more and find petroglyphs of elks. Luke reads from a guide book, telling her that elks were sacred to the Perry Mesa people but modern day Yavapai and Apache don't revere them.

Shelby's mom does a lot of very puzzling things that will make sense as you continue reading. Given my focus on Native content, I'm not going to get into Shelby, her mom, or other people that will come into the story.

After another two nights with Luke (at the camp and then in Flagstaff motel), Shelby and her mom take off to a cabin her mom knows about (her mom was a court stenographer and knows the cabin owner won't be there). We're on page 170 at this point (skipping over all the tedious dreaming, with coyote, and elks, and...).

When they go inside, Shelby sees some books about Native Americans on the shelf. They are Stories of the Hopi, and Navajo Firelight and The Mythology of the Major Native American Tribes. Hausman has a book called Turtle Dream: Collected Stories from the Hopi, Navajo, Pueblo, and Havasupai People. Note the word dream in the title...  If I read it, would I find it as the source for Lake's constructions of Shelby's dreams?

A bit later in the book (on page 191), Shelby thinks about her dreams and decides to look over the books (p. 191):
I see one on Apache folk tales so I take it down and go sit again, curling up, the book in my lap. 
She leafs through it to a story about Coyote stealing fire from the Fire God (p. 192):
The Fire God lived in a hogan with high walls. 
Wait... A hogan? I thought she was reading a book about Apache folk tales!

All of "the Dreaming" and lies and "the truth" will resolve but I gotta say, again and again, I was rolling my eyes and uttering curse words as I read this book. The messed up Native content and the not-plausible things Shelby does so soon after fracturing her ankle...  Overall, this book feels very mediocre. As noted above, I read a copy from NetGalley and presumably the author will be able to make corrections based on what people say after reading the NetGalley copy, but there's too much wrong. (NOTE: There are other problems, such as the ways that Shelby talks about her mom's weight, that I didn't like. See Pamela Penzu's review on Goodreads.)

Nick Lake's There Will Be Lies is due out in January of 2014. I do not recommend it.







0 Comments on Nick Lake's THERE WILL BE LIES as of 12/25/2014 3:52:00 PM
Add a Comment
13. The History Channel's app, FRONTIER HEROES

Did you know that the History Channel has a "Planet H" that is creating apps? Just released yesterday (December 19, 2014) is Frontier Heroes. Don't buy it. It is supposed to be educational material developed in a game format. The description says:

Frontier Heroes tests your smarts, skills, and reflexes as you work your way through an illustrated version of American history, from pre-Colonial days through the California Gold Rush. Complete era-specific challenges to unlock more exciting adventures, and collect “Did You Knows” to learn mind-blowing facts about the ol’ US of A.


Experience what it was like to be alive during Early American times, the Colonial Period, the American Revolution, life on the Frontier and during The Gold Rush. You’ll get a rush from completing each level and seeing how the challenges and rewards led to the amazing country America is today.

There's a video that shows you the game. Here's the welcome page:


The first stop on this path? "Early America." See the Indian girl? She might be waving at you, but based on what the rest of the Early America game and graphics look like, my guess is that the developers think they are showing her in that classic (not) way that Indians say hello: "How!" Oh yeah... Indian flute music plays in the background for the page. Here's the graphic:




In the first game (with the skull) you're supposed to throw a tomahawk at a target, and then a buffalo skull, and then a large bowl, and then a pumpkin. There's tipis in the background. The first target is the only one that kind-of makes sense. The others? Nope. Realistically speaking, why would you want to destroy those items?!

In the second one (top row, middle), you stand on a hollow log and shoot a bow and arrow across a chasm. Why? Maybe because few things say "Indian" as much as a bow and arrow.

In the third one, you "play" a "war drum" by striking your mallet on the drum according to the sequence of dots that scroll across the screen. That music is goofy, too, by the way and sounds nothing like any Native drum I've ever heard. A flute pops in here and there, as does some war whooping.

As you play these games, you might get lucky and earn a D.Y.K. (which stands for DID YOU KNOW). In the drum one, the D.Y.K. says "Native Americans believe the drum carries the heartbeat of Mother Earth." For some Native Nations, maybe, but all? I don't think so.

In the fourth one, you use the string of your bow to rotate a stick as fast as you can so that you can start a fire before the timer runs out. If you don't get the logs blazing, you'll see this picture, 'cept you (as that Indian girl) will be shivering:



Logically speaking, WHERE IS HER OUTER CLOTHING? Maybe there's a storyline about how she got captured by an enemy tribe or some white trappers, but that she got away and is trying to get back to her people. That's snark, by the way...   And---the D.Y.K. for this game? "Native Americans used smoke signals to communicate over long distances." Who ARE the people writing this stuff? They ought to be fired. They are hitting all the stereotypes!

If you don't get the fire started before time is up, you'll see this:



Missing an apostrophe there, H-Planet!

There's one more game in this "Early America" part of the game. Your task is to get kernels off a cob of corn and grind them up to make cornmeal.

Let's pause for a word about that phrase, "Early America." It isn't accurate to call pre-colonial times "Early America." Each Native Nation had its own name for its homelands. America was not one of the names any of them used.

As noted in the description above, there are several other time periods in this game but I'm not going to look at them. What I've seen is enough for me to say...

Do not waste your money
on H-Planet's Frontier Heroes. 


0 Comments on The History Channel's app, FRONTIER HEROES as of 12/24/2014 1:28:00 PM
Add a Comment
14. Eoin Colfer's THE RELUCTANT ASSASSIN (WARP BOOK 1)

One of the main characters in Eoin Colfer's The Reluctant Assassin (Disney-Hyperion, 2013) is a 16 year old girl named Chevron Savano who is kind-of-sort-of an FBI agent (p. 21-22):

At five foot six she was a little short for an FBI agent, but she was lithe and fast, with a delicate oval face and the glossy black hair typical of Native Americans.
That "glossy black hair" that is "typical" of Native people? Well.... it is typical of the stereotypical image of Native people. As such, it is our first clue that Colfer's character is, well, a bit more of a white man's Indian than a real Native person.

When Chevie first meets Riley, the other main character (he isn't Native), he looks at her and says (p. 46):
'Miss,' said Riley. 'Have I come to rest in a travelling Wild West Show? You appear to be a savage Injun.' 
Chevie glared down at the boy, along the sights of her weapon. 'We don't use the term savage Injun any more. Some people take issue with being described as savages. Go figure.'
In the story, Riley has time-traveled from 1898, London, to present-day London. He apparently looks at Chevie's glossy black hair and thinks he's landed in a Wild West Show and that she's a "savage Injun." Those Wild West Shows did, in fact, tour England, starting in 1887. But what to make of Chevie saying 'Go figure' to people taking issue with being described as savages? Don't we generally use "go figure" to dismiss something we think is a waste of time? Who, I wonder, is speaking at that point? The character, Chevie? Maybe, but I kind of think 'go figure' is coming from the author himself.

Riley continues:
'I saw Buffalo Bill's Extravaganza a while back. You have the look of an Apache.'
Chevie half-smiled. 'Shawnee, if you have a burning need to know.
I'm a bit puzzled by Riley thinking Chevie was Apache. In the Buffalo Bill shows, the Indians were Lakota.

A bit further on, Chevie tells Riley a bit more about herself (p. 188):
'My mom and dad grew up on the Shawnee reservation in Oklahoma. They call it trust land these days. As soon as my dad could afford a motorbike, my mom hopped on the back and they took off across the country. Got married in Vegas and settled in California. I came along a while later, and Dad told me that things were just about perfect for a couple of years until Mom was killed by a black bear over in La Verne.' Chevie shook her head as if she still could not accept this face. 'Can you believe that? A Native American on a camping trip killed by a bear. Dad never got over it. Oh, we were happy enough, I guess. But he drank a lot. When love dies, he told me, there are no survivors.' 
There's a lot to say about that paragraph.

  • What "Shawnee reservation" is Chevie talking about? There are three federally recognized Shawnee tribal nations in Oklahoma: the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, the Shawnee Tribe, and, the Absentee Shawnee Tribe. 
  • That said, "reservation" gives me pause, too. Chevie is 16. Doing some math based on the publication year for The Reluctant Assassin, I think we'd be in the 1960s or 1970s when Chevie's parents were growing up. But, tribes in Oklahoma went through allotment. Their reservations ceased to exist as reservations in the late 1800s. What, I wonder, is Chevie/Colfer talking about when he says "reservation"?
  • But, Chevie tells us, they don't call it that anymore. Now, they call it "trust land." Colfer is taking us into federal law that is hard to understand. I like that he's trying, but it muddies things up more than is helpful. Before allotment, the Shawnee Tribe had been incorporated into the Cherokee Nation, but had maintained their identity as Shawnees. In 2000, the U.S. Congress, working with the Cherokee Nation and the Shawnee Tribe, restored the Shawnee Nation to its status as a distinct entity. The document about it includes "trust land" and "trust responsibility" in it, and I suspect that is where Colfer got "trust land" from. It doesn't ring true for me to hear Chevie say that they call it trust land now, but I'll ask friends who are Shawnee and see what they say. 
  • Why does Chevie expresses disbelief that a Native American would get killed by a bear on a camping trip? Is it because Native people are supposed to be one-with-the-animals? Or, because Native people would know how to defend themselves from animals in the wild? Either one is a stereotypical framework.
  • Chevie's dad drinks. Is that a drunken Indian stereotype? Or just a grieving husband like many who turn to alcohol to self-medicate? My hope is that Colfer had the latter one in mind, but to a Native reader, the first one stands out as that drunken Indian stereotype. 
I think The Reluctant Assassin is the kind of story people clamor for. By that, I mean the people who want diversity but don't want that diversity not to be a factor in the story. A story where the characters are racially diverse, but that the story isn't about racial issues. I understand that desire, but it makes me bristle. Imagine a conversation where a white mother is sitting with me, a Native mother, and the white mother is saying, without saying, "I don't want to know about what the Catholics did to the pueblos, and, I don't want to hear about the pueblos fights for their water rights, either. Just be my friend." Am I being reductive? Unfair? Maybe.

It would be cool for a Shawnee kid to read a story like The Reluctant Assassin, IF the Shawnee parts were accurate. When stereotypes are there instead, though, it kind of ruins the magic for that Shawnee reader, or for any reader who knows a bit about Shawnees or Native peoples. Its kind of like Colfer didn't imagine that a Shawnee kid might read this book. I'm sure Colfer meant well. Writers do. But I think their work would be even better if they had Native readers in mind, too, when they created their stories and characters.

The Relucant Assassin is not that story. Chevie's name... there's a story behind it. This is at the end of the book.

Early in the book, Chevie told Riley that the tattoo she has (of a chevron) is the same one men in her family have had going back to Tecumseh. It marks them as warriors. Turns out not to be true, though. Her dad told her that story, and she believed it. Later, she learned that her dad worked at a Chevron gas station. He got his tattoo just to annoy a guy who owned a Texaco gas station. Here's that conversation. Riley says (p. 331):
"So, no noble warrior?"
"No. And I based my whole life on that story, got the tattoo, told anyone who would listen, became an agent. Last year I meet the Texaco guy, who is broken up that my pop died, and he tells me the truth. I am named after a gas station."
That is a kick in the gut. In pop culture, people have a grand time fooling around with Native names. It is perverse to see it in this story, coming from a character that is supposed to be Native. Definitely not recommending The Reluctant Assassin. 

0 Comments on Eoin Colfer's THE RELUCTANT ASSASSIN (WARP BOOK 1) as of 12/23/2014 3:44:00 PM
Add a Comment
15. A Remembrance of Choctaw Writer, Greg Rodgers

Choctaw writer and storyteller, Greg Rodgers, passed away last night.

Greg Rodgers
1968-2014


Several years ago at a conference, Tim Tingle introduced me to Greg. Like Tim, Greg was a Choctaw storyteller. Tim was excited by the work Greg was doing. Back in April of this year, I celebrated the publication of Greg's Chukfi Rabbit's Big Bad Bellyache: A Trickster Tale. It is a great story. Here's the cover:



Reading it was a delight. I wanted others to read it, too. When the We Need Diverse Books team was preparing for its summer reading series, I made sure Greg's book was part of it. Here's the image they used:




Just a few days ago, I listed Chukfi as one of AICL's Best Books of 2014. Greg was a new voice in children's literature. I looked forward to what else he'd be giving us.

Earlier today, I was shocked to learn that Greg passed away last night. Below are Tim Tingle's thoughts, used with his permission:

Here are some thoughts beginning that strange piece of writing we call “obituary.” 


As a writer Greg Rodgers authored three books, “The Ghost of Mingo Creek and Other Spooky Oklahoma Legends,” “One Dark Night in Oklahoma,” and the highly popular children’s book, “Chukfi Rabbit’s Big, Bad Bellyache,” plus dozens of yet-to-be-published stories. Over the holidays Greg intended to focus on his upcoming novel, a powerful and difficult piece of Choctaw historical fiction, the story of Hotema, a protestant preacher who died in prison. 


As an oral performer Greg was a quiet genius, ushering the audience down a path of faith and fear and always ending in triumph of the good. Those fortunate enough to have seen him perform his Trail of Tears story, “Harriet’s Burden,” will never forget the experience. A tragic tale of heinous cruelty concludes with a depth of Choctaw spirituality rarely seen onstage.


With a mark of Choctaw humility, Greg was much more proud of his teachers than his own accomplishments. Among his favorite instructors were Joy Harjo, N. Scott Momaday, Geary and Barbara Hobson, LeAnne Howe, Clara Sue Kidwell, and Rilla Askew, a Who’s Who of American Indian authors.


Greg recently created a term, a “brand” which he hoped to promote: The Choctaw Literary Renaissance. He planned to discuss the emergence of contemporary Choctaw writers at a series of conference panels and discussions in the Spring of 2015.


I know in my heart that Greg will be with us for many years, as a Rabbit Trickster, a protective Panther, and a spirit Canine, with a friendly and supportive look for those who need one. He will arrive and be with us when we least expect him, at times described in the preface to his first and yet unpublished novel:

“Our Choctaw homelands speak to us in many voices. They are mostly soft and caring––summer rain dripping through a forest of tall pines, wind whistling across a mountain lake, rippling the waters––but on the worst of nights the land emits a terrible scream. Our places can feel pain, deep and connected to all. They know of death, and life, and death again.” 

We already miss you more than you will ever know, Brother Greg. Too soon, you left us staggering far too soon. But we forgive you, on the sole condition that you work your magic through the fingers of young Choctaw writers, doing their best to continue your work. You are family to thousands of Choctaws, and Nahullos, too.


My thoughts are with those who knew Greg personally, who worked with, and cared for him.

0 Comments on A Remembrance of Choctaw Writer, Greg Rodgers as of 12/22/2014 5:28:00 PM
Add a Comment
16. Neal Shusterman's UNWHOLLY and UNSOULED

On September 25, 2014, I uploaded my review of Shusterman's short story, UnStrung. It is part of his UnWind Dystology, set in the future, after a civil war.

In UnStrung (published in 2012), most of the action takes place on an unnamed "Hi Rez" reservation. "ChanceFolk" live there. They are rich, as opposed to "Low Rez" tribes that didn't spend/invest their money well. We learn that Indigenous peoples are called ChanceFolk instead of Indians and that some people call them SlotMongers (yes, that is seen as a slur).

The civil war was fought over abortion. The outcome was that abortion was replaced by "unwinding" -- a process by which parents can, at age 13, send their unwanted kids away to be unwound. That means that 99.44 percent of their body parts will be used as transplants. They will, of course, cease to exist, but somehow, they are said to be alive in a "divided state" due to that transplanting of their body parts. In addition to unwanted 13-year-olds being unwound, some couples choose to conceive and birth a child that is a tithe. At age 13, they, too, will sent to be unwound, but everyone see their lives and unwinding as a blessing and sacrifice for their specific religious group. This unwinding takes place at Harvest Camps (pretty disgusting premise, eh?).

In addition to this government sanctioned unwinding, there are "parts pirates" who sell body parts on a black market.

Below is my brief synopsis of UnWind, key points in UnStrung, and a more detailed review of UnWholly and UnSouled. The fourth book, UnDivided, is not part of this blog post.

Unwind (Book 1, published in 2007)

We're introduced to Lev in UnWind, the first book of this series. He was conceived by his parents on purpose as a tithe who will be unwound when he is 13. On the way to the harvest camp, he is kidnapped by an older kid named Connor who is determined to un-do all this unwinding stuff, but things don't go as planned and Lev ends up becoming a clapper. Clappers are kids whose blood is infused with chemicals so that loud clapping will cause them to explode. As UnWind draws to a close, Lev is supposed to clap, thereby detonating himself at a harvest camp, but he chooses not to do that. Instead, he pulls people to safety and will, later, need to have his blood cleansed.

UnStrung (a short story published in 2012 that fills in gaps between UnWind and UnWholly)

When UnStrung opens, we find Lev at a reservation. He sought refuge at this reservation because he'd heard that ChanceFolk didn't sign the Unwind Accord. Rather than use human body parts, their scientists have perfected a way to use animal parts instead, but the parts have to be from their particular spirit animal. They find out their spirit animal on a vision quest. At this unamed rez, Lev is nursed back to health by a Native doctor. She and her lawyer-husband have a son named Wil (he's older than Lev) who has a special musical gift. They call Lev "Mahpee" which means "sky faller" and is the name they use for people who climb the rez wall and drop down, into the reservation.

When Lev is feeling better, he and Wil are out with a group of kids on a vision quests to learn what their spirit animals are. But, they are attacked by some parts pirates, who want Native people because their parts are much desired. Wil sacrifices himself for the group. The story ends with his family and the tribe making Lev leave (Wil's family had tried to get sanctuary for Lev, but the tribal council said no to their request), and, they don't know what has happened to Wil. They know he was taken by parts pirates, but they don't know if he was unwound.

There's lot of stereotyping of Native peoples in UnStrung. Read my review for details on that, and see what Shusterman said in response.


UnWholly (Book 2)


Shusterman's second book in the series is titled UnWholly, published in 2012. An important character (in addition to Lev and Connor) is Cam (short for Camus). He is a "Rewind" -- a creature that is put together from the parts of others. His hands were once Wil's hands. That's Cam to the right. See the patterns on his face? It, too, is put together from several different people. Here's the part in the book where he looks at his face for the first time in a mirror (p. 58-59):
That face is a nightmare.
Strips of flesh, all different shades, like a living quilt stretched across the bone, muscle and cartilage beneath. Even his head--clean-shaven when he awoke, but no filling in with peach-fuzz hair--has different colors and textures sprouting like uneven fields of clashing crops.
The doctor who is helping Cam learn who he is, is a woman named Roberta. She's got a faint British accent. Cam is her creation. She found specific people to unwind and use to create him. His body is made of the best runner, swimmer, etc. that could be found. The left frontal lobe of his brain is from seven kids who were geniuses in math and science; the right frontal lobe is from almost a dozen poets, artists, musicians. His language center is a hub of nine languages. Studying the scars on his face, Cam realizes that (p. 61):
They are not as random as he had thought. They are symmetrical, the different skin tones forming a pattern. A design.
Roberta says (p. 61-62):
"It was a choice we made to give you a piece of every ethnicity. From the palest sienna-Caucasian, to the darkest umber tones of unspoiled Africa, and everything in between. Hispanic, Asian, Islander, Native, Australoid, Indian, Semitic--a glorious mosaic of humanity! You are everyman, Cam, and the truth of it is evident in your face."
Roberta goes on about how the scars will heal and he'll be "the new definition of handsome" and "a shining beacon" that will be "the greatest hope for the human race."

Frankly, I find this very unsettling. It means, of course, that faces were cut up to make his. And goodness! The stereotyping in it: "unspoiled Africa"?! As opposed to what? Spoiled Africa? Spoiled, how?!

Cam is unsettled by it all, too. At an event designed to show him off to VIPs, he malfunctions, calling out "I am more than the parts I'm made of!" (p. 144) He tries, unsuccessfully, to call that line out again and again but the words don't come. The big moment is ruined and Roberta whisks him off stage.

Lev, meanwhile, is serving as a counselor at a harvest camp after he's had the chemicals that made him into a clapper cleansed from his body. Those chemicals have damaged his body. He'll forever have the body of 13-year-old, and the only thing that will grow is his hair. He's staying with his adult brother, Marcus, but a clapper finds them and explodes herself. Marcus is badly hurt. Lev goes to the hospital with him and hopes his parents will see him (they kind of disowned him when he didn't go through with being tithed in the first book). They don't want anything to do with him. He's hurt by their rejection and goes back to his own hospital room (he was injured, too, in the blast). He curls up in bed, thinking back on his life (p. 191):
He thinks back to the days after he left CyFi, and before he arrived at the Graveyard. Dark days, to be sure, but punctuated by a bit of light when he found himself on a reservation, taken in by People of Chance. The Chance folk had taught him that when you have nothing to lose, there's no such thing as a bad roll of the dice."
I rolled my eyes as I read that! Come on, Shusterman (and your editors)! Didn't those Chance folk teachings throw up any red flags?! You create a tribe of Native people in the future whose teachings are related to their identity as casino Indians, as though casinos are a part of their value system?! (Shaking my head.) Since Lev can't stay with his brother anymore, he accepts an offer to go to the Cavanaugh mansion in Detroit which turns out to be a refuge for tithes. When he gets there, Mr. Cavanaugh greets him and tells him about the place. A woman calls out (p. 195):
"Mr. Cavenaugh, the natives are getting restless. Can I let them in?" 
Now see... I bet most people (like Shusterman and his editor) didn't give that phrase a thought! But if you're reading (as I am) through the lens of people who are dehumanized by white writers, well, FACEPALM.

Lev stays at that mansion for awhile but by the end of the book, he's reunited with Connor.

Roberta--who created Cam--looks for and finds a companion for Cam (p. 290):
...the young man with multiple skin tones that are exotic yet pleasing to the eye. 
Exotic and pleasing to... whose eye? This is the white fascination with 'other' taken to an extreme. I don't like it. As readers, I think Shusterman doesn't want us to like it either, but I'm not sure it works. Is there enough in the narrative that tells the reader that this gaze is problematic? If you see this taken up in a review, please let me know in the comments.

The companion that Cam ends up with is Risa. She's been a major character ever since Book 1. She was/is in love with Connor (also from Book 1) and doesn't like being manipulated into being Cam's companion for a public relations tour. Previously, she was in a wheelchair but Roberta gets her a new spine so she can walk. Then, there's a creepy thing that happens, and it appears later, too: the part of Cam that knows algebra is from a kid who had a crush on Risa. Cam has that memory--of the kid having a crush on her. When he tells her, she is horrified. Eventually the two slip into a friendly relationship and Roberta is thrilled with their interviews. But! At the end of the book at the last interview, Risa says its all been a farce. She takes off; Lev and Connor are headed east to Akron, on Route 66, to find a woman named Sonia.  


UnSouled (Book 3, published in 2014)

Picking right up, Lev and Connor are on the highway headed to Akron. They have an accident, get split up, captured, and then reunited when Connor (who has escaped in a sheriff's car) runs into Lev, who has leapt in front of the car. Of course, Connor recognizes him, and puts him in the car. He's bleeding internally and tells Connor and Grace, who is tagging along with Connor, to (p. 72):
"Get me to the Arapache Rez. West of Pueblo, Colorado."
Connor knows Lev must be delirious. "A ChanceFolk reservation? Why would ChanceFolk have anything to do with us?"
"Sanctuary," Lev hisses. "ChanceFolk never signed the Unwind Accord. The Arapache don't have an extradition treaty. They give asylum to AWOL Unwinds. Sometimes."
"Asylum is right!" says Grace. "No way I'm going to a Slot-Monger rez!"
Ok--so now that unnamed tribe from UnStrung has a name! For those who don't know, there is no "Arapache" tribe. My guess? Shusterman made it up by combining Arapahoe and Apache.  Connor does as Lev asks. They get to the Arapache rez, which is gated and has a sentry (p. 73):
In spite of all the literature and spin put forth by the Tribal Council, there is nothing noble about being a sentry at an Arapache Reservation gate. Once upon a time, when the United States was just a band of misfit colonies, and long before there were fences and walls marking off Arapache land, things were different. Back then, to be a perimeter scout was to be a warrior. Now all it means is standing in a booth in a blue uniform, checking passports and papers and saying hiisi' honobe, which roughly translates to "Have a beautiful day," proving that the Arapache are not immune to the banality of modern society.
Ah, shucks. This poor sentry. He isn't liking his job. He's rather be a noble warrior, scouting the perimeter of their land (Stereotype! Noble stereotype!). And here we go with some more made up language! I saw that in the short story, too. And remember that Mel Gibson did it, too, for Apocalypto? Here's more from the rez gate (p. 73).
At thirty-eight, the rez sentry is the oldest of the three on duty today at the east gate, and so, by his seniority, he's the only one allowed to carry a weapon. However, his pistol is nowhere near as elegant and meaningful as the weapons of old, in those times when they were called Indians rather than ChanceFolk... or "Slot Mongers," that hideous slur put upon them by the very people who made casino gaming the only way tribes could earn back their self-reliance, self-respect, and the fortunes leeched from them over the centuries. Although the casinos are long gone, the names remain. "ChanceFolk" is their badge of honor. "SlotMongers" is their scar. 
I get that Shusterman is trying to tell readers that colonization was a bad thing for Native peoples, but that message goes hand in hand with stereotyping... That poor sentry, wistful for being able to carry a "weapon of old" ---what might that be?! A bow and arrow? Or... a spear?! Those weapons of old have more "meaning." But why?! What gives a weapon meaning? I don't get it.

Well. When Connor and Lev and Grace get to the gate, there are lots of carloads of parents who want to take photos and buy ChanceFolk crafts. Crafts! Because that's what Indians do. Indians! Crafts! In the American imagination, they go together. Anyway, the tribe is very careful about who gets in (p. 73-74):
Not every tribe has taken such an isolationist approach, of course, but then, not many tribes have been as successful as the Arapache when it came to creating a thriving, self-sustaining, and admittedly affluent community. Theirs is a "Hi-Rez," both admired and resented by certain "Low-Rez" tribes who squandered those casino earnings rather than investing in their own future.
Interesting that Shusterman is creating this binary, of Hi/Low rez tribes. Why? Will it matter later? And... about those reservation gates (p. 74):
As for the gates, they didn't go up until after the Unwind Accord. Like other tribes, the Arapache refused to accept the legality of unwinding--just as they had refused to be a part of the Heartland War. "Swiss Cheese Natives," detractors of the time had called them, for the ChanceFolk lands were holes of neutrality in the midst of a battling nation.
Yes! You read that right. "Swiss Cheese Natives." I'm trying to recall swiss cheese being used to represent pockets of resistance in other books. Doesn't it strike you as, well, silly? There's more info about that (p. 74):
So the rest of the country, and much of the world, took to recycling the kids it didn't want or need, and the Arapache Nation, along with all the rest of the American Tribal Congress, proclaimed, if not their independence, then their recalcitrance. They would not follow the law of the land as it stood, and if pressed, the entire Tribal Congress would secede from the union, truly making Swiss cheese of the United States. With one costly civil war just ending, Washington was wise to just let it be.
Shusterman's "American Tribal Congress" must be his reworking of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). It is a membership organization, not a union of sorts that would "secede from the union" if it wanted to do so. I wonder what Shusterman knows about NCAI? And he used "swiss cheese" again! But there's more (p. 74):
Of course, court battles have been raging for years as to whether or not the Arapache Nation has the right to demand passports to enter their territory, but the tribe as become very adept at doing the legal dance. The sentry doubts the issue will ever be resolved. At least not in his lifetime.
This passport stuff is, for some current tribal nations, real. The Onondaga Nation issues passports. Prior to 9/11, they were accepted at international borders, but heightened security put a stop to that, preventing the Iroquois national lacrosse team from an international competition. I guess Shusterman read up on that, a bit.

Back to the story. The sentry suggests that Connor take Lev to a hospital in Canon City because it is closer than "the reservation's medical lodge." He doesn't want to let them in, but then he hears Lev say "Friend of Elina Tashi'ne," which surprises him (p. 75-76):
"The medicine woman?" There are many thousands on the rez, but there are those whose reputation is well known. The Tashi'ne family is very highly regarded--and everyone knows about the terrible tragedy they endured.
The tragedy is what happened to them in UnStrung (when Wil sacrificed himself to parts pirates; some blame Lev for what happened)Lev asks the sentry to call Elina. She wants a name, and when Connor tells him Lev's name, the sentry recognizes both Connor and Lev:
As for Lev, he was infamous on the rez before he became "the clapper who wouldn't clap." You can't speak the name of poor Wil Tashi'ne without also thinking of Lev Calder and his involvement in that tragedy. And his friends here probably don't even know. 
The sentry is right. Connor doesn't know. Skipping ahead, Lev recalls being at the Arapache reservation the first time, watching kids climb up and down rope ladders, worried that they'd fall. Wil told him (p. 150):
"We built America's great bridges and skyscrapers," Wil had told him proudly. "For us, balance is a matter of pride."
With that, Shusterman is referencing a fact, but giving that identity to his made-up tribe. Shusterman's tribe is in Colorado. The real ironworkers? Mohawks. As I said in my review of UnStrung, I think Shusterman had Pueblo Indians in his head as he created this tribe. Pueblo peoples used ladders at Mesa Verde and similar places, but in the modern day, we didn't do the ironwork that Mohawk's did. This cut/paste of identity is what makes the fictitious tribe move Shusterman did problematic.

Recall from UnStrung, the ChanceFolk have spirit animals that they use for their replacement body parts when they need parts? Well... guess what? Lev is able to get a spirit animal, too. On page 158, he figures out that his spirit animal is a kinajou. They live in the tropical rain forests of Southern Mexico and Brazil. The "spirit animal" stuff... that's not real either. It is another thing that outsiders to Native tribes use all the time.

Connor, Lev, and Grace have been on the reservation at this point for two weeks. Connor is tired of being there, and notes contradictions in Arapache lifestyle, austere but pointedly opulent. He thinks (p. 187):
With one hand they rebuke creature comforts, but with the other they embrace it--as if they are in a never-ending battle between spiritualism and materialism. It must have been going on so long, they seem blind to their own ambivalence, as if it's just become a part of their culture.
I want to think through this for awhile, but for now, I'll say this: this kind of judgement of Native nations that have casinos is common. A good bit of it is from people who think that Native peoples are "better" than other human beings and disappointed with casinos and what tribes do/do not do with profits from those casinos. It is the "noble savage" who is akin to the "model minority"--- but who disappoints the gaze because... we're human!

There's some strategizing happening, over Connor and Lev and what they'll do next. They want to leave but they'll need to throw the media off their tracks in some way. The plan? Bring in another tribe. But this time, it is a real one: the Hopi. Elina's husband, Chal, is a lawyer and he'll put the word out that he's going to represent the Hopi in a land dispute case, and that in return, they will give Connor and Lev asylum.

Up to this point in the book, I've read (re-read, actually)--but not commented on--the chapters told from Cam's point of view because they've not been specific to Native aspects of who he is, or about the Chance Folk either, but that returns on page 214. Cam signs his name on a document Roberta gives him. But then she asks him to flip the paper over, look at her, and sign his name again as he looks at her. He does, and when he looks back at the paper, he sees Wil Tashi'ne's name rather than Camus Comprix. Why?

Because, Roberta tells him, he has Wil's hands (p. 214):
"It's his neural connections and muscle memory that allow you to play guitar and accomplish a whole host of fine-motor skills."
As you might suspect, Cam is taken aback by this development, making him wonder who he is. This muscular memory is going to appear later, again.

At this point, Cam is definitely in love with Risa, misses her, wants to find her, and thinks he can impress her by bringing down Roberta and her company. She was/is in love with Connor, and of course, Cam is jealous but thinks that Connor is dead. He's feeling conflicted over a lot of things (like being treated as property) and starts wandering around alone. Roberta doesn't like him doing that.

After one outing, Cam goes to his room and starts playing the guitar. Remember--it is Wil's hands and muscle memory that drives his playing. Earlier, he'd learned that Connor wasn't, in fact, dead. As he plays the guitar, fragments of memory come together and he recognizes Lev, via Wil's memories, as someone who he (Wil) had healed with his music. He plays more and pulls together a much more complete memory of Lev. He figures he's got to get to the  When he'd been out earlier that evening and saw that Connor was in the news, he also saw the photo of Lev, and as he plays the guitar, he digs till he finds a memory of Wil playing for Lev on the Arapache reservation. He figures that's where Risa is and takes off to find her.

On page 252, he's found her, on the reservation. He's gotten past the gates, Wil's memories guide him to Una's house. We met Una in UnStrung. She was Wil's girlfriend. Cam finds that his hands know just where she keeps a key, hidden, and uses it to go in her house. He finds one of Wil's guitars and starts playing it.

Of course, Una hears the music, goes to investigate and sees Cam. She listens to him play for awhile, and then knocks him out with a guitar, ties him up, and carries him to an old sweat lodge where youth went to do a vision quest when they were of age. A vision quest. Safe to say all of this is another face palm. Both are common in books outsiders write about Native peoples. Both, a sweat lodge and a vision quest, are specific to certain tribes--not all of them--but they get put forth as one of those "Indian" things that has to be in ANY book ANYONE writes about Native people.

In that lodge, she ties him up between two poles that are six feet apart. The description of its size makes me wonder what Shusterman is talking about. I don't think a sweat lodge is big like this one, and they aren't made of stone. I'm thinking Shusterman is thinking about a kiva. Remember--the "Arapache" village is Puebloan in style. We use kivas, and some are made of stone. And they're big. Anyway! Moving on.

Cam stays unconscious as she ties him up between those two poles. He slumps, and looks like "a supplicant Y" (p. 256). Una leaves for the night, and returns the next morning..... with..... a chain saw.

Noting the seams/scars where his various parts have been assembled. She says (p. 258):
"Up and down and around--those lines go everywhere, don't they? Like an old shaman's sand drawings."
As with the sweat lodge/vision quest, the "sand drawings" stopped me. Here, Shusterman is dipping into sand painting (not 'drawing') most commonly done by Navajos in ceremony and today, in art. With this, we have an "Arapache" tribe whose homes are Puebloan in style, whose people scale heights like Mohawks, who use what is generally a Lakota sweat lodge, and whose medicine includes methods done by Navajos. I know that Shusterman is creating fiction, but Native and non-Native people have been, for years and years, saying "do not do mash ups of tribes" because that contributes to misunderstandings of who Native people are. Una continues (p. 258):
"The shaman's lines are meant to trace life and creation--is that what your lines are for too? Are you a creation? Are you alive?"
and
"Are you that man-made man I've heard tell of? What is it they call you? "Sham Complete'?"
Una does not like Cam. So what does this rez girl plan to do? She knows he has Wil's hands, so, she's going to cut them off with that chain saw! At the last minute, she cuts his jacket (that's what she used to tie one of his arms with) and hurls the chain saw across the room ('room' doesn't work if this is really a sweat lodge). With that free arm, he reaches up and unties the ribbon in her hair. She backs away, freaked out by that because that was something that Wil used to do. He tells her about memories he has via Wil's parts, now his. Then she cuts his other arm free and asks him to show her (with his hands) what Wil's hands would do to her. He touches her neck, her lips, her cheek, wrist... and then, she knocks him out again. And ties him back up.

Pretty intense scene, isn't it? And creepy. Very creepy and unsettling, too. It is violent, and it is a violation. It is perverse.

On page 270, Connor (he, Lev, and Grace are staying with Una) becomes suspicious of why/where she goes each day with a guitar and rifle. He decides to follow her to a structure he says is shaped like an igloo. Connor climbs on top of it, peering down as Una repeatedly asks Cam what her name is. He can't remember. They've been having this 'what's my name' conversation for a few days already. Connor can see that Cam has been urinating in his pants. He smells horrible. Her interrogation of him over, she unties him and at gunpoint, makes him play the guitar.

That, and the previous scene, are ones of torture. Una is torturing Cam. It is sadistic. While there have been sadistic acts throughout Shusterman's series, especially with regard to the creation of Cam, Shusterman has never been this graphic. I wonder if he sees that he saved up the most grotesque behaviors for the Native character? Does he see that he's created the savage Indian?

From his perch atop the lodge, Connor knocks some stones loose. Una sees him, aims her rifle at him, he falls down, she runs out with her rifle, points it at him... and then Cam bolts. She runs after him, dropping her rifle to tackle him, and Connor picks it up. Now he's in charge. He tells Cam that Risa is not there. Una wants to tie him up again but Connor insists on taking him back to her apartment. With the rifle, he's got control of the situation. Back at Una's, they see a press conference at which a spokesman for the Hopi tribe will neither confirm or deny a rumor that Connor and Lev are on their reservation. This creates the distraction that Lev and Connor need to take off. Elina arranges a car.

But, we learn that Lev doesn't want to go with Connor because he thinks he can "make a difference" (p. 317) because "they need to start listening to outside voices" (p. 318) and he can be that voice. The tribe has provided them with IDs. Both are now Arapache. Lev's name is Mahpee Kinkajou, and Connor's is Bees-Neb Hebiite Elina says Connor's name means stolen shark (he has a shark tattoo on the arm that used to belong to someone else). Connor and Grace leave, taking Cam with them.

Recall that in UnStrung, Lev's outsider status meant more to Wil's grandfather than Wil's perspective did? This is another slice of that, and it bothers me. Shusterman is making sure we all know that Lev is a white savior. He knows best.

Life for Lev, on the Arapache Rez, is peaceful and calm, but he feels compelled to do something about what is going on outside. He talks with Elina, but he finds that she has a "passive, fatalistic view of the world" that "too many people on the rez share" (p. 347).

I find that "fatalistic view" to be much like the stereotype of primitive Indians with no agency, just living life. No worries, no cares, like children.

On page 348, Lev is thinking:
There's an expression among ChanceFolk. "As go the Arapache, so go the nations." As the most financially successful, and arguably the most politically important ChanceFolk tribe, policy that's put in place here often spreads to other tribes. While the Arapache are still the most isolationist, instituting borders that require passports, many other tribes--particularly the ones that don't rely on tourism--have made their territory harder to access as well, taking their lead from the Arapache.
He thinks that, if he can convince the Arapache to do something, the other tribes will follow. But, a lot of the Arapache don't like him, so he needs a pretty good plan. A few days later, he goes into town to a concert. He gets onstage and tells people the names of the parts pirates who took Wil away, and that he's going to track them down and bring them back to face justice. Then, "in perfect Arapache," he calls out (p. 350):
"Who will help me?"
His question is greeted by silence. He repeats it, and then hears a response, also in Arapache. It is Una saying she will help him. Slowly the crowd starts to clap for Lev and his plan, and that's the end of the Native parts of UnSouled. 

Shusterman's fourth book, UnDivided, will have its own blog post. Thus far, I've found the series unsettling. I know--that's what a dystopia is supposed to do--but the use of stereotypes and the mishmash of elements of various tribes--mean the book doesn't work for me as a Native reader. There's too much wrong. In his comment to my review of UnStrung, Shusterman said he worked hard not to stereotype, but that he didn't want to be "politically correct" either, because that is as bad as stereotyping. What, I wonder, would this series have looked like if he'd been "politically correct" in his treatment of Native culture and characters?




0 Comments on Neal Shusterman's UNWHOLLY and UNSOULED as of 12/21/2014 6:50:00 PM
Add a Comment
17. A CHILDREN'S GUIDE TO ARCTIC BIRDS by Mia Pelletier, illustrated by Danny Christopher

When my daughter was in college, one of the elective courses she took was about birds. It contrasted with the readings she was doing in philosophy and history. For years we'd talked about philosophy and history. Talking about birds, however, was new. She learned a lot of fascinating information that she passed on to me.

I was reminded of that as I read A Children's Guide to Arctic Birds, written by Mia Pelletier and illustrated by Danny Christopher. Here's the cover:



And here's a page from inside:



See that gorgeous art? That's one of the strong points of this nonfiction book, but so are the facts provided about birds.

The information provided for each of the twelve birds is shared in these categories: Where to Look, What they Eat, Listen for, Nest, Egg, Chick, and During the Winter. Very useful for people in the arctic, but useful, too, for kids who are doing bird studies anywhere. And the endcovers! Gorgeous! One in the front depicts eggs for each of the birds inside, and, the one in the back shows them, in scale, flying in silhouette. The twelve, from smallest to largest are: snow bunting, red phalarope, rock ptarmigan, thick-billed murre, arctic tern, long-tailed duck, common eider, red-throated loon, gyrfalcon, snowy owl, raven, and, tundra swan. In addition to double-paged spreads about each bird, there are stand-alone pages about feathers, bills, and feet.

Of particular interest to AICL is that the Inuktitut word (a dialect spoken by the Inuit people) for each bird is included on each page, just beneath the English name for the bird. Here's a look at the page above:



I love seeing Native languages in children's books! I would have liked to see another category that addresses how the bird is viewed amongst the Inuit people, or a stand-alone page about the language and people, but I do like and recommend A Children's Guide to Arctic Birds. It is a 2014 nonfiction title from Inhabit Media. 


0 Comments on A CHILDREN'S GUIDE TO ARCTIC BIRDS by Mia Pelletier, illustrated by Danny Christopher as of 12/14/2014 12:58:00 PM
Add a Comment
18. CRAZY HORSE'S GIRLFRIEND, by Erika Wurth

The setting for Erika Wurth's Crazy Horse's Girlfriend is Idaho Springs, Colorado. The characters in her story all feel real. Their stories, their lives? Real. Something seemingly simple, like this line, for example, is like an echo:
He came in for some coffee and asked me what tribe I was and we got to talking.
By echo, I mean that reading Wurth's writing sounds like listening to a Native person. The main character of Crazy Horse's Girlfriend is a 16 year old girl named Margaritte. As the story opens, Margaritte and her cousin, Jake, are at a party. Two guys laugh when Jake says he and Margaritte are cousins. Jake asks them what they're laughing at (p. 9):
...but he knew. We both knew. My family is Apache, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and white, but my auntie and her husband adopted Jake when he was a baby. He's Nez Perce, Arapahoe, Cheyenne, and black.
That moment leads to a fight. And a visit to a hospital. Wurth opens the story with grit and gripping characters that fly in the face of mainstream expectations. These aren't mystical Indians. With the range of her character's identities, she gives readers a look at who we are: mixed and not, experiencing good and bad of life lived in cities, towns, and reservations, with Native life affirmed, celebrated, and denigrated, too.  

As Wurth's story unfolds, Margaritte meets a guy named Mike who, like her, is a reader. His parents are white. He is Indigenous from a tribe in Columbia. Their relationship is a roller coaster of hope and pain. There's a gay character in here, too, from Pine Ridge. His name is Will. Reading about Will, there are times when I want to cheer, but the way he's treated breaks my heart.

It is easy to see why it garnered praise from leading writers like Sandra Cisneros, who said:
"I found myself wanting to cover my eyes and shout, 'Girl, don't go there' while reading."
And Susan Power said:
"Wurth made me care for everyone in these pages, singing a powerful honor song on behalf of our young people who are fighting their way through difficult times in order to survive."
n many places, Crazy Horse's Girlfriend is unsettling, but the story Wurth tells is ultimately about the perseverance of Native people in the face of great obstacles. Published by Curbside Splendor in 2014, I highly recommend it.

0 Comments on CRAZY HORSE'S GIRLFRIEND, by Erika Wurth as of 12/11/2014 8:14:00 PM
Add a Comment
19. "True Blood Brothers" in NBC's production of Peter Pan

In an earlier post, I wrote about how NBC had hired a Chickasaw man to rework the "Ugg-A-Wugg" song, replacing that phrase with a word used by the Wyandott people. Other musical changes were made, too, he said. That song was replaced with a new one, called True Blood Brothers. NBC's live production of Peter Pan aired last night (December 4, 2014).

So how did it turn out?

As Tiger Lily stands before Peter Pan for this song, she says something like "O a hay" instead of Ugg a wugg. The music that plays during this song? Classic Hollywood fakery. Below are some screen captures from the video available on YouTube. At the very bottom is the video itself.

Tiger Lily steps back from Peter and crosses her arms in front of her:



Tiger Lily and her tribe begin to dance. Note their attire:



Here, they sing "Beat on a drum!" And I will come and save our brave noble warrior." With their hands, Tiger Lily and Peter Pan 'play' the drum (the backs of the men on whom they stand). Because they're both singing, I guess Tiger Lily is saying Peter is a brave noble warrior, and he is saying it of her, too:



Everyone dances to that Hollywood Indian music, and then John and Michael start singing "Hickory Dickory Dock" (rather than O-a-hay o-a-hay o-a-hay). They're pretending to be Indians at that point. See that blue feather? And that loin-cloth-thingy?



More Hollywood Indian music, more dancing, a dummy meant to be Captain Hook, and the number ends with Tiger Lily and Peter Pan singing they'll be blood brothers to the end.

As I watched the clip, I didn't see any Indian women. Just Tiger Lily. All the rest of her "tribe" are men.

The take away? Lot of stereotyping:

Indians with crossed arms: check
Scantily clad Indians: check
Playing drum with hands: check
Kids playing Indian: check
Hollywood Indian music: check
Overrepresentation of men: check

So--a question.

"O-a-hey" is supposed to be a Wyandotte word. Does that make this all better? No. Not at all.

I wonder how many kids are at school today singing "o-a-hey o-a-hey o-a-hey" as they prance about with their arms crossed? I wonder about the Native kids at school today. Are they looking at their peers doing this silly song and dance?

Here's the video:




Did you tune in? It is getting slammed by reviewers this morning. What do you think about it?

0 Comments on "True Blood Brothers" in NBC's production of Peter Pan as of 12/5/2014 2:47:00 PM
Add a Comment
20. Rebecca Heller's FALLING ROCK

Sometime in November I received an email from Rebecca Heller asking if I'd review her book, Falling Rock. What little I saw of it suggested it was stereotypical. Because it was a self-published book, I chose not to review it. But I'm hearing from others who have been asked to review it, so decided to take a look.

The main character is a boy named Falling Rock. Because there are tipis in the illustrations, I think the author and illustrator (Joyce Robertson, the author's mother) would like us to think the story is about Plains Indians. The boy loves his horse, Runs Like Thunder. But one day, the horse is stolen by men from another tribe. The boy, distraught, is told by his grandmother that his ancestors will give him a sign when it is time for him to go find his horse.

He has a dream about a coyote and takes that as the sign to go off in search of his horse. His grandma gives him a feather before he goes, that will "help guide you." So off he goes in search of his horse. As Heller's story continues, there's an eagle, and a canoe and a turtle--all of which come to mind when a lot of people think about Native people.

As he travels, more and more people hear about his search and want to help him. Here's what they do:

They wanted to help Falling Rock know where he had already looked, so they placed large yellow signs with his name in big black letters at the bends in the roads, high in the mountains, and down in the valleys--anywhere that the boy searched for his horse.
The art for that page is this (it is also the cover of the book):


Yes--that's a road sign. You've seen it before. I've seen it before. This story was in trouble before I got to that page.

As the boy continues his search he comes across a group of people (unstated, but they are Native people) traveling. Falling Rock asks them why they're sad. One of the men says:
"We are being taken to a reservation."
Suffice it to say that I'd been growing more and more frustrated with this story, and on reading "being taken to a reservation" -- well, I was appalled.

In the end, the boy finds his horse. Here's what the author says at the very end of her story:
There are many written and oral versions of the story of Falling Rock, which are often told when a sign is passed on a long and windy mountain road. This tale is told with respect and honor to all of them. 
In interviews, Heller says that she heard this story as a child, at camp, and that it stayed with her:
The concept of the story of Falling Rock is not a new one, it has been told around the campfire hundreds of times in many different forms. It was first told to me as a camper by my camp counselor. I was probably around eight years old, and can vividly remember hiking through the woods in Northern California while my counselor unfolded the tale. He told me that whenever you see a road sign that reads "Falling Rock" it is because a Native American named Falling Rock was spotted in that place. I don't remember if he told me any other details, but that idea always stayed with me. I love the magic of something so ordinary meaning something extraordinary. I think even at eight years old, I knew it wasn't true, but I loved the idea just the same. Even as an adult when I pass one of the signs, I still think, "Falling Rock was here." - See more at: http://www.wanderingeducators.com/best/stories/falling-rock.html#sthash.aojlceNf.dpuf
The concept of the story of Falling Rock is not a new one, it has been told around the campfire hundreds of times in many different forms. It was first told to me as a camper by my camp counselor. I was probably around eight years old, and can vividly remember hiking through the woods in Northern California while my counselor unfolded the tale. He told me that whenever you see a road sign that reads "Falling Rock" it is because a Native American named Falling Rock was spotted in that place. I don't remember if he told me any other details, but that idea always stayed with me. I love the magic of something so ordinary meaning something extraordinary. I think even at eight years old, I knew it wasn't true, but I loved the idea just the same. Even as an adult when I pass one of the signs, I still think, "Falling Rock was here." - See more at: http://www.wanderingeducators.com/best/stories/falling-rock.html#sthash.aojlceNf.dpuf
The concept of the story of Falling Rock is not a new one, it has been told around the campfire hundreds of times in many different forms. It was first told to me as a camper by my camp counselor. I was probably around eight years old, and can vividly remember hiking through the woods in Northern California while my counselor unfolded the tale. He told me that whenever you see a road sign that reads "Falling Rock" it is because a Native American named Falling Rock was spotted in that place. I don't remember if he told me any other details, but that idea always stayed with me. I love the magic of something so ordinary meaning something extraordinary. I think even at eight years old, I knew it wasn't true, but I loved the idea just the same. Even as an adult when I pass one of the signs, I still think, "Falling Rock was here." - See more at: http://www.wanderingeducators.com/best/stories/falling-rock.html#sthash.aojlceNf.dpuf
It was first told to me as a camper by a camp counselor. I was probably around eight years old, and can vividly remember hiking through the woods in Northern California while my counselor unfolded the tale. He told me that whenever you see a road sign that reads "Falling Rock" it is because a Native American named Falling Rock was spotted in that place.
I want to be kind to Ms. Heller, but again, I'm appalled. That she turned a camp story into this story, and that she's contacting Native people, asking us to read her story leaves me staring at my screen, fingers hovering over my keyboard, wondering what to say!

For now I'll say this: camp stories are often campy. And they're often stereotypical with regards to Native peoples. This one about "Falling Rock" is not campy. It is a mockery of names, and with the "taken to a reservation" page, Heller weaves horrific history into this mockery. (I found one similar to it here at a scout page, with a character named Falling Rock in a story called "The Story of Running Deer.")

How did she not know this would be problematic?

My thought? Her story, well-meaning and well-intentioned, shows just how ignorant the American public can be about Native peoples. The one good thing? She couldn't get it published. I'd like to say that editors were turning it down because they saw its many flaws, but similarly bad things have been published--and have done very well, too.

Need I say: Rebecca Heller's Falling Rock is not recommended.

  

0 Comments on Rebecca Heller's FALLING ROCK as of 12/8/2014 2:17:00 PM
Add a Comment
21. Oliver Herford's THE PETER PAN ALPHABET

A colleague in children's literature, Perry Nodelman, has been sharing his collection of images of Indians in Peter Pan books illustrated by various authors over the last 100 years. If you want to see them, search twitter using #EthnographicInaccuracy.


Among them is Oliver Herford's The Peter Pan Alphabet, published in 1907. Here's the cover:



Here's the title page:



You can read the whole thing if you want to: The Peter Pan Alphabet.  I'm interested in two pages. Here's the page for the letter I:



And here's the page for the letter R:



Some of you might be sighing with relief, thinking that the 1907 publication year of this book means that such things are of-the-past. They aren't.

In the ever-popular Caddie Woodlawn a "scalp belt" figures prominently. The townspeople fear being scalped. And I trust readers of AICL are well aware of a professional football team in Washington DC that is named "Redskins." Setting aside that word, note Herbert's "What a Treat to see "Injuns" sit up and Behave!" Why did he put Injuns in quotation marks? The "sit up and behave" indicates he thought that Native people were... Lazy? Wild? Out of control? Naughty?!

Interestingly, that "wild Indian" appears in Caddie Woodlawn! Caddie is a tomboy. People ask her mom when she's going to make a "young lady" out of this "wild Indian."

My point in sharing these two pages from Herford's 1907 book? To note that those sentiments are still very much a part of today's society. 

0 Comments on Oliver Herford's THE PETER PAN ALPHABET as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
22. Concerns with McGraw Hill's "Reading Wonders" Curriculum

Do you remember the books you used in elementary school? The ones you used for Reading? Maybe your kids are in elementary school and their Reading books are in your home, right now. I certainly remember mine!

During November, I began to hear about the McGraw Hill "Reading Wonders" series. Or rather, I began to hear about four books in that series that people in Juneau had concerns about. The four are supplemental materials in the Reading Wonders series for 4th graders. In response to concerns, the district asked Paul Berg, a cross-cultural specialist to analyze the books. He found problems in them, as indicated in his report: Assessment of Reading Wonders Publications. The book about the Trail of Tears was evaluated by education specialists, Gloria Sly and Joseph Erb, with the Cherokee Nation. In their analysis, they stated that none of the historical information is correct.

There were meetings at the school about the books, the outcome of which is that the superintendent has set the four books aside and written to McGraw Hill about them. The four books are:

  • The Visit, written by Terry Miller Shannon, illustrated by Joanne Renaud. Historical fiction. Parents visit their daughter in a boarding school.
  • Continuing On, written by Terry Miller Shannon, illustrated by Dan Bridy. Historical fiction. Young Cherokee boy recounts the Trail of Tears.
  • Our Teacher the Hero, written by Terry Miller Shannon, illustrated by Gina Capaldi. Historical fiction. Biography of Sarah Winnemucca, Paiute woman who founded a school.
  • History Detectives, written by Sandy McKay. Nonfiction. Students learn about the work of archaeologists at digs of Native sites. 

I've read the analysis Mr. Berg did, and, having read the books, concur with his findings.

No doubt that McGraw Hill meant well. No doubt, Terry Miller Shannon did some research and meant to provide children with information they may not otherwise have seen. To an outsider to Native culture or to someone who doesn't study it for a living (example would be a non-Native professor in American Indian Studies), the information that Shannon provides seems good. But to a Native person for whom the content of the stories is part of family life, past and present? The books rub salt in wounds that are still raw.

In their January 2010 report for the UCLA Civil Rights Project, Education professors Faircloth and Tippeconnic studied data from the National Center for Education Statistics and called the drop out rates of Native students a crisis. This, they wrote, is not new. Native students didn't do well in the 20th century either. Here's a chilling line from their report (p. 27):
As Reyhner and others (e.g. Rumberger, 2004; Brandt, 1992) have argued, the process of dropping out or being pushed out of school is a cumulative process often precipitated by academic and personal difficulties causing students to detach from school."
Pushed out. Detached from school. Those thoughts stand out for me as I think about the McGraw Hill books. These four books are supposed to be used in the 4th grade classroom. That's one year out of a 12 year education. I wonder what is in the books for children in the grades K-3?

Most people like reading something set in their home town, or that is in some way, about them, personally or culturally. If it is well done, it feels good! Makes you smile and want to share it with others. But! If it isn't done right, it is infuriating. Some will write to the publisher or author. Some people will set that material aside and move on.

For the non-Native kids across the country who are being assigned these books, they're getting biased and incorrect information. You and I might argue about bias but I think we'd agree: incorrect information is not good. Period. In a school, there is no room for incorrect information.

Let's think now about the Native kids across the country who are reading those books and asked to respond to the questions in them. In The Visit, one question students must answer is this:
What does chatter on page 13 mean? What other word could the author use instead of chatter
A Native kid who has heard stories from his parents or grandparents who went to boarding school is likely going to be working pretty hard to set aside the whitewashing in the story so that he/she can focus on the word chatter. The "paired text" for The Visit is several pages of expository text about boarding schools. Here's a line from there:
During the 1800s, the government wanted Native Americans to learn the ways of white people.
A more accurate way to say that is this:
In the 1800s, the government wanted Native Americans to stop being Indians and be like White people. 
An even more accurate way to say it is this:
In the 1800s, the government established an educational policy for Native Americans designed around an intent to "Kill the Indian and save the man."
See the difference? All three are accurate but what they convey is different. Later, the expository text reads (p. 18):
Girls learned how to cook, sew, and do laundry.
Are McGraw-Hill and Ms. Shannon telling us that Native girls didn't know how cook, sew, and do laundry?! Think about that for a moment... Does it fit with your ideas that Indians were primitive people who lived primitive lifestyles? If so, it isn't true! You were miseducated, and kids who are reading this text are learning the same thing you did.

All four of those books cast Native people in a past tense framework. As such, the four echo and confirm misconceptions that we are not part of the present day. McGraw Hill would be taking a huge step in the right direction by including realistic fiction that shows us in the here-and-now.

Is your district using the McGraw Hill series? Should it be using these four books?

The superintendent for Juneau School District indicated that new materials will be developed to replace these. I'd love to see them. I hope they are sent to McGraw Hill, too, and that McGraw Hill steps away from well-meaning writers and turns to those with expertise on the subject. We'd all be better off.

The McGraw Hill response (quoted in Alaska Dispatch News), however, to the superintendent doesn't make me optimistic. Brian Belardi, director of media relations said that McGraw Hill is:
"respectful of the feelings of the Native communities and mindful of sensitive issues raised in these books. We are confident they are appropriate at a fourth-grade level as starting points for discussion around the experience of Native Americans."
Mr. Belardi? You are wrong. The books are not good starting points. The Native community said as much. The superintendent said so, too. You really don't sound "respectful" at all.

_____________________________________

A sampling of news stories on the meetings:
November 2, 2014: Emotions high over school curriculum, Juneau Empire.
November 11, 2014: Questioned books came as a surprise, Juneau Empire.
November 26, 2014: Decision due soon on 'distorted' school texts depicting Native tragedies, Alaska Public Media.
December 4, 2014: Juneau superintendent removes 4 Native history books from 4th-grade curriculum, Alaska Dispatch News (Note: the books are historical fiction, not history books.)

0 Comments on Concerns with McGraw Hill's "Reading Wonders" Curriculum as of 12/9/2014 5:23:00 PM
Add a Comment
23. Open Letter to VoWac Publishing Company

December 10, 2014

VoWac Publishing Company
P.O. Box 75
Faulkton, SD 57438-0075
info@vowac.com

Dear VoWac,

From your website, I see that you've been developing and providing curriculum materials for schools for 32 years. I read that you take pride in providing teachers with effective teaching tools.

Katelyn Martens, a Literacy Media Specialist, shared a page from one of your workbooks that I'd like you to reconsider. Martens received her Masters of Library and Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin. She was part of the Tribal Libraries, Archives, and Museums Project there, where she, along with a great many people, received training in the accurate depiction of Native peoples. Such programs are vitally important because they prepare young people to work with an increasingly diverse US population. This is the page she shared with me:



The bottom half of that worksheet (and the first line, too, "The Indian___...") reflect a monolithic view of Native peoples. By that, I mean that children who use this page come away associating "Indian" with a feathered headdress, a tipi, a drum, moccasins, and a peace pipe. In fact, there are over 500 federally recognized tribal nations in the US, and there is tremendous variety in language, stories, and material culture. The headdress you use, for example, is crudely rendered but similar to what Plains Indians wear, but nothing like the headdresses worn by other men of Native Nations in other parts of the country.

The other problem is that Plains men who wear such headdresses are esteemed amongst their people for their diplomatic and spiritual leadership, and peace pipes are items of diplomacy. The way that you've shown this "Indian" not only misinforms the children completing the worksheet, it demeans Native people overall by showing that Indian in this maze activity. It may be helpful to think of other esteemed leaders in a similar maze activity. Like, perhaps, the Catholic Pope, looking for his sceptre.

With this in mind, I encourage you to remove that page and look throughout your materials for ones similar to it. These are the sorts of things that a Native child may have trouble with because it throws that child into cognitive dissonance. That dissonance may cause the child to perform poorly on that page--not because he doesn't know the rule being taught--but because Native heritage is being misrepresented and demeaned. Because there is such a high drop out rate amongst Native children, I'm sure you want to do everything you can to help, rather than hinder, their success in school.

With this worksheet, you are not providing teachers with an effective teaching tool.

Sincerely,
Debbie Reese
American Indians in Children's Literature
cc: Facebook, Twitter

0 Comments on Open Letter to VoWac Publishing Company as of 12/10/2014 5:34:00 PM
Add a Comment
24. AICL's Best Books of 2014

Lists! People love lists. I do, too. For those of you looking for a list of Best Books published in 2014, by American Indians/First Nations writers, and by writers who aren't Native but got-it-right, here's AICL's incomplete list. A few reviews are still in-process. Links to those reviews will be added as reviews are completed and posted. If you think I've missed something, please let me know!

Age levels are always slippery. I'm using rough categories, with the understanding that older readers can get a lot out of picture books, and because what you/I deem appropriate for any given reader depends on the reader, younger kids can read books intended for middle or high school students.

BOOKS BY NATIVE WRITERS

Comics:



Picture Books


For Middle Grade



For High School

  • Dreaming in Indian edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Leatherdale, published by Annick Press
  • Feral Curse by Cynthia Leitich Smith, published by Candlewick Press
  • House of Purple Cedar by Tim Tingle, published by Cinco Puntos Press
  • Crazy Horse's Girlfriend by Erika Wurth, published by Curbside Splendor Publishing


BOOKS BY NON-NATIVE WRITERS 

During 2014 I read a few books that have a fleeting reference to Native culture, or, a more in-depth one, that I want to include on this post about Best Books. They are:



Yes, just two. I'm sure there are others out there. If you know of one, let me know!

0 Comments on AICL's Best Books of 2014 as of 12/11/2014 5:34:00 PM
Add a Comment
25. Tim Tingle's HOUSE OF PURPLE CEDAR

Tim Tingle's House of Purple Cedar is one of the best books I've ever read. Here's the cover:



As is the case with Tingle's other books, his storytelling voice radiates from the printed words in his books. Here's the first and last lines in the first paragraph of House of Purple Cedar:
The hour has come to speak of troubled times. It is time we spoke of Skullyville.
The character saying those words is a Choctaw woman named Rose Goode. She's speaking in 1967. The troubled time she speaks of is the late 1800s when she was a young girl. The troubled times themselves? There are many. A boarding school for Choctaw girls burns down, killing 20 girls inside. At the train station, a racist town marshall attacks an elderly Choctaw man in front of his grandchildren, striking him with a plank, for no reason. There's domestic abuse in the story, too.

Lot of troubling things happen, but the ugliness that births such horrors does not suck the air or life from the story Tingle tells. Instead, his story is peopled with goodness like the traveler at the train station who helps that elderly man to his feet, and Maggie, a shopkeeper in town who will play a big part in the story.

There's goodness in endearing characters like Rose's grandparents, Amafo and Pokoni. Amafo is the elderly man at the train station. News of what happened to him at the train station ripples out to Choctaws for miles around. Rose and her brother get him home. People gather there. What will they do? The school is not the only thing that was set afire. Many homes were also burned down. People are angry. Others are afraid.

There's lot of talk as the night wears on. Amafo listens quietly. Rose and Pokoni have been busy all evening cooking and feeding the people who have come to help them, to be with them. After midnight, Pokoni sits to rest. Amafo gets up and makes her some cocoa. It is one of the many moments in this book, of kindness and caring, that warms my heart. Then, Amafo talks to the Choctaws gathered there in his home. He says:
"Marshall Hardwicke expects me to stay far away from town. And if I did, this would all be forgotten. But I will never forget this day and my grandchildren will never forget this day."
Amafo has a plan. He will not show fear. He will go back to town.

Tingle's story is engrossing and inspiring. His characters will linger in your mind when you set his book down and move about your day. There's Choctaw spirituality and Christian hymns, too. There's Choctaw words, and English words. Throughout, there is a confidence in humanity.

I highly recommend House of Purple Cedar. Published in 2014 by Cinco Puntos Press, it received the kind of praise that writers hold especially dear. Gary Hobson, an esteemed scholar of Native literature, called Tingle's book a "crowning achievement" of excellence amongst Choctaw writings of the last fifteen years. Saying again: I highly recommend House of Purple Cedar.  

0 Comments on Tim Tingle's HOUSE OF PURPLE CEDAR as of 12/11/2014 5:34:00 PM
Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts