Monday, January 26, 2015

"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?

__________________
Update, 5:03 PM, January 26, 2015

In addition to the article I linked to above, please see the conclusion of Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's Indigenous Peoples History of the United States. Irony abounds within military activity. At one point in time, US soldiers dehumanized Native peoples so they could destroy us, our homelands, and our ways of life. Kyle's framing of Iraqis as savages is a present-day manifestation of that.

Dunbar-Ortiz documents the flip side of that stance, quoting Robert D. Kaplan, a military analyst who Foreign Policy magazine named as one of the top 100 global thinkers in 2011:
"It is a small but interesting fact that members of the 101st Airborne Division, in preparation for their parachute drop on D-Day, shaved themselves in Mohawk style and applied war paint on their faces."
She cites other instances of that sort of thing. Get her book, if you can from Teaching for Change

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.

Update, 2:04 PM, January 26, 2015
A couple of people have written to tell me that the cover of the book shows the girl with the "warpaint." Here is a screen capture of the girl on the cover. Though the image is pixelated, you can see the "warpaint."


Someone else asked if I could elaborate on why this "warpaint" is problematic. The protagonist is, according to the review, part Cherokee. As a part Cherokee person, she applies "warpaint" to her face when she needs it to overcome something. It plays into stereotypical ideas of Indians "on the warpath." Frankly, I don't know any Native person--Cherokee or otherwise--who would use lipstick in this way, in this pattern, in this day and time, to overcome adversity. 

It suggests to me, that the protagonist is clueless about her Native identity. Is that part of the storyline? That she is ignorant about her Cherokee heritage? Does she, along the way, learn that what she is doing is goofy? Inappropriate? Stereotypical? 

Update, Tuesday Jan 27, 8:18 AM

Reaction to the "warpaint" from Cherokee librarians, writers, and parents:
  • "Sigh. Just once I wish they would pick on someone else."  
  • "Part Cherokee? Which part?" 
  • "Slowly bangs head against desktop."

People who really are Cherokee are weary of their nation being used over and over and over and over and over, and misrepresented over and over and over and over... 


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

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 Arnold'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. 






Tuesday, January 20, 2015

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.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

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?

Thursday, January 08, 2015

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

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. Here's how they compiled that list (adding this info a couple of hours after I loaded this post):
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. 

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 of young adult books, and here's my analysis of their top 100 children's books.

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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

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.







Saturday, December 20, 2014

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.