Monday, July 27, 2015

Native Writers and Illustrators on Twitter

Do you have a Twitter account? Do you follow or want to follow Native writers and illustrators? Here's a list! Some tweet a lot, some a little. Some tweet about books, some tweet about their nations, and some tweet about a wide range of topics.

If you know of Native writers/illustrators who I haven't listed here, submit their name/Twitter ID in a comment and I'll add them to this list. These are primarily Native writers or illustrators whose work has been discussed on AICL.

Sherman Alexie
https://twitter.com/Sherman_Alexie
@Sherman_Alexie

Shonto Begay
https://twitter.com/shontobegay
@shontobegay

Roy Boney
https://twitter.com/royboney
@royboney

Joseph Bruchac
https://twitter.com/JosephBruchac
@JosephBruchac

Margaret Bruchac
https://twitter.com/MargaretBruchac
@MargaretBruchac

Nicola I. Campbell
https://twitter.com/NicolaCampbel20
@NicolaCampbel20

Lisa Charleyboy
https://twitter.com/UrbanNativeGirl
@UrbanNativeGirl

Art Coulson
https://twitter.com/UpWithTheMooses
@UpWithTheMooses

Heid Erdrich
https://twitter.com/HeidErdrich
@HeidErdrich

Julie Flett
https://twitter.com/julie_flett
@julie_flett

Joy Harjo
https://twitter.com/JoyHarjo
@JoyHarjo

Daniel Justice
https://twitter.com/justicedanielh
@justicedanielh

Marcie Rendon
https://twitter.com/MarcieRendon
@MarcieRendon

Cynthia Leitich Smith
https://twitter.com/CynLeitichSmith
@CynLeitichSmith

Arigon Starr
https://twitter.com/superindun
@superindun

Kara Stewart
https://twitter.com/artinphotgrphy
@artinphotgrphy

Drew Hayden Taylor
https://twitter.com/TheDHTaylor
@TheDHTaylor

Tim Tingle
https://twitter.com/tim_tingle
@tim_tingle

Anton Treuer
https://twitter.com/antontreuer
@antontreuer

Richard Van Camp
https://twitter.com/richardvancamp
@richardvancamp

Richard Wagamese
https://twitter.com/richardwagamese
@richardwagamese

Daniel Wilson
https://twitter.com/danielwilsonpdx
@danielwilsonpdx

Erika Wurth
https://twitter.com/etwurth
@etwurth



Thursday, July 23, 2015

POPCORN by Frank Asch

Dear Editors at Aladdin/Simon & Schuster,

A reader of AICL wrote to ask me about Frank Asch's Popcorn. It is an older book (pub year 1979, from Parents Magazine Press) that I haven't written about before. As a former elementary school teacher, I do remember one of the books about Sam (the bear). Not this one, though. Perhaps I saw it and decided not to use it. With good reason. In it, Sam (the bear) is having a Halloween party. Here he is in his costume:

Source: http://i.ytimg.com/vi/_RDXFS33SaM/maxresdefault.jpg


Here's the old cover:
Source: https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5474/10652326993_4d45e9c8a1_b.jpg



And, here's the new one, published in 2015 by Aladdin/Simon and Schuster. The synopsis at Amazon tells us "This refreshed edition of a beloved classic features the original text and art with an updated cover." 




It must have made a fair bit of money for you, Aladdin, to be giving it to us again in 2015, with this "updated" cover---but it has outdated material! Do you not follow any of the national conversations around stereotyping of Native people? Or, about mascots?

Giving children this book, in 2015, suggests that either you're ignorant of those conversations and the research studies about the harm of such imagery, or, you know about it and don't care.

It is definitely a Book to Avoid. And, it is definitely another book for AICL's "Foul Among the Good" page.

Any chance you can 'stop the presses' so to speak? Or maybe recall what you've already sent out?

Sincerely,
Debbie Reese
American Indians in Children's Literature





Set One: Links to Oyate's BOOKS TO AVOID pages

A few years ago, Oyate removed its Books to Avoid page. A great many people miss that page and write to me asking if I saved those reviews. I didn't--but they aren't gone forever! They're available on the Wayback Machine.

In order to fit within the 200 character limit on "Labels" (the labels are on the right and serve as an index of what is in the post itself), I am creating several pages of the links, arranging them alphabetically. This post includes B thru I.

I'm also going to save a pdf of each one, just in case the Wayback Machine goes down.

Banks, Lynne Reid, The Indian in the Cupboard (and The Return of the Indian)
Cooper, Michael L., Indian School: Teaching the White Man's Way
Dalgliesh, Alice, The Courage of Sarah Noble
Edmonds, Walter D., The Matchlock Gun 
Jeffers, Susan. Brother Eagle, Sister Sky
Irbinskas, Heather, The Lost Kachina

See also:
Set 2
Set 3

Set two: Links to Oyate's BOOKS TO AVOID pages

A few years ago, Oyate removed its Books to Avoid page. A great many people miss that page and write to me asking if I saved those reviews. I didn't--but they aren't gone forever! They're available on the Wayback Machine.

In order to fit within the 200 character limit on "Labels" (the labels are on the right and serve as an index of what is in the post itself), I am creating several pages of the links, arranging them alphabetically. This post includes M through T.

I'm also going to save a pdf of each one, just in case the Wayback Machine goes down.

Marrin, Albert, Sitting Bull and His World and additional comments
Martin, Bill and John Archambault, Knots on a Counting Rope 
Mikaelsen, Ben. Touching Spirit Bear
Rylant, Cynthia. Long Night Moon 
Speare, Elizabeth George. Sign of the Beaver
Taylor, C.J., Peace Walker: The Legend of Hiawatha and Tekanawita
Turner, Ann. The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow: The Diary of Sarah Nita, a Navajo Girl

See also:
Set 1
Set 3

Set three: Links to Oyate's BOOKS TO AVOID pages

A few years ago, Oyate removed its Books to Avoid page. A great many people miss that page and write to me asking if I saved those reviews. I didn't--but they aren't gone forever! They're available on the Wayback Machine.

In order to fit within the 200 character limit on "Labels" (the labels are on the right and serve as an index of what is in the post itself), I am creating several pages of the links, arranging them alphabetically. This is the last set.

I'm also going to save a pdf of each one, just in case the Wayback Machine goes down.

Waldman, Neil. Wounded Knee
Wargin, Kathy Jo. The Legend of the Petoskey Stone
Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little House on the Prairie 

See also:
Set 1
Set 2

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

About Jane Resh Thomas and Hamline University's Writing Program

This week, Hamline University's MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults is holding its one week residency. On July 13th, Jane Resh Thomas gave a lecture there.

Based on what I read at On Kindness, On Intention, and On Anger in Children's Writers by V. Arrow, Thomas's remarks were primarily about race. As I read responses--online and privately--to what she said, I have several thoughts.
One: she gave voice to concerns of white writers who feel threatened by the new (to some) and renewed interest in the accurate representation of people who are not white.
Two: she gave voice to concerns of white writers who feel threatened by the new (to some) and renewed interest and commitment to publish writers who are not white.
Discussions on social media are evidence that people were clearly uncomfortable with what Thomas said. Was she, herself, uncomfortable as she delivered that lecture? Does she, today, feel unfairly criticized by what people are saying? Are you a white writer who agrees with what Thomas said? Do you think the criticism directed at her, today, is unfair? Mean, perhaps?

As a Native woman and mother, I ask that you set aside your feelings of discomfort. Instead, I'd like you to think about the millions of children of color, and Native children, who've read horrible things about themselves in the thousands of books that white writers have written.

Did you know, for example, that Little House on the Prairie has "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" in it three times? Can you imagine how a Native child feels reading that line?

Let me tell you. A few weeks ago, a young Native boy visiting me saw that book on my table. His eyes widened and his voice rose as he said:
Is that Little House on the Prairie? I had to quit that book. 
He shook his head a bit as he talked about the Indians stealing furs. And then his voice got even louder when he said
That part where it says 'the only good Indian is a dead Indian? That's when I really had to quit that book!!!
It is for that child, and millions of other children like him, that I do the work I do on my site and in my lectures and workshops.

It is uncomfortable for writers who read criticism of their work that points out that ideas and words they've carried in their head all their lives is problematic. These ideas and words appear on the page as a norm for one of their characters. For some, having it pointed out to them generates a huge feeling of embarrassment. For others, there is a defensive reaction, too.

As I read V. Arrow's post, knowing that she was in that room as a student--that she is someone who wants to be a writer of children's books--I knew that she took a great risk in writing her post. As I read through twitter conversations about what she shared, I was glad to see established writers like Anne Ursu and Laura Ruby thanking her for that post. Later, Mary Rockcastle (the director of the program) issued this statement:
Our MFAC program at Hamline is committed to creating a truly diverse and inclusive community. Where ALL of our students can create and do their best work without the noise and pain of ignorance, intolerance, and denial in the larger world that gets in the way.
A faculty member's words yesterday sent the absolute wrong message about how we should deal with each other's anger and pain--as a community and as a culture. It is unacceptable to deny, denigrate, minimize or otherwise deepen this pain.
Our goal is to educate each student about how this happens, how we purposefully or unintentionally get it wrong, so it does not happen again. So the community we've been building learns, grows, and prevails.
I gather that everyone was required to attend Thomas's lecture and that there were others that they could choose from. I hope that the program selects someone to deliver a required lecture each residency term--a lecture that takes up this moment at Hamline. It was one moment--one hour in a day--but it was far more than that. For Hamline, the stakes are high right now. I read tweets from people who said they were crossing Hamline off the list of writing programs they're applying to.

The stakes are high for Hamline, but they're far higher for the children and young adults who will read the books Hamline students write. It is 2015. For over one hundred years, people have been objecting to the ways that people of color and American Indians are portrayed in children's books. This is not new to me and others who have studied children's literature, but to far too many people, it is a new discussion because it is beyond the spaces they spend their time in.

Hamline can bring it into that space.

Every intervention individuals and institutions make is absolutely vital so that we all get to a point in time when all children can read books that are free of the noise and pain of ignorance, intolerance, and denial in the larger world that intentionally, or not, denies our existence and humanity.

_______________

For further reading:

MFA vs POC, by Junot Diaz, April 30 2014
On Being a Person of Color in an MFA Program, by Justine Ireland, July 13 2015



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Dear Writers Who Think You're Cherokee

Over the last few weeks, people in American Indian, Native American, or Indigenous Studies have been deeply engaged in discussions of identity, trying to help people understand what it means to be a member or citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

This discussion was prompted when the identity of a key person in this area of research and teaching was featured in an article in The Daily Beast on June 30, 2015. The person is Andrea Smith. The identity she claims is Cherokee.

Several years ago, Smith asked David Cornsilk of the Cherokee Nation to help her verify her belief that she was Cherokee. In an Open Letter at Indian Country Today Media Network, David goes into great detail on his findings (bottom line: she's not Cherokee). Many people knew about this and hoped that Smith would 1) stop saying she is Cherokee, and, 2) that she would take steps so that people would stop calling her Cherokee when they introduce her at lectures she is invited to deliver.

She didn't do either one. It was only a matter of time before her misrepresentation of her identity would become more widely known.

The article at The Daily Beast pulled heavily from a Tumblr page that documented a long history of Smith's efforts to get her claims verified. This led to many blog posts and discussions on social media and at Native news sites.

I wrote a post (on July 3, 2015), too, because lack of knowing what it means to be Cherokee results in a lot of problems in children's literature. They range from:
1) claims that are, in fact, empty (when will every copy of "Forrest Carter's" The Education of Little Tree be moved from autobiography to fiction, if not removed entirely from the shelves?).
2) ignorance in portraying Cherokee culture, as seen--for example--in David Arnold's Mosquitolandor Francesa Lia Block's Weetzie Bat series, or P.C. and Kristin Cast's House of Night series, or Gail Haley's Two Bad Boysor Martina Boone's Compulsion
3) mis-identifying people as Cherokee when they say otherwise, as was done in Alko's The Case for Loving
As I packed for a family trip to North Carolina on Thursday, July 9, 2015, my head was filled with what I'd been reading about Andrea Smith.

Our first stop was in Atlanta. Along the walls in the passageway from Terminal B to Terminal A is an exhibit of Atlanta's history. It includes panels on the Cherokee Nation. I stood there looking at the exhibit and thought about Cherokee people I know, and what their ancestors have been through. Sometimes, my Cherokee friends and colleagues are furious over another instance in which they are misrepresented or when someone on a national level (like Elizabeth Warren) says they're Cherokee. Other times, they are weary.

Like their ancestors, they persevere.

On Saturday morning, David Cornsilk was out and about in Tahlequah, the capitol of the Cherokee Nation. Being out with family and friends in the Cherokee Nation isn't unusual for David. Later that day, he wrote about it on his Facebook page. With his permission, I share some of what he said, here:

Today seemed different though. Every Cherokee I came into contact with gave me a heightened sense of what it means to a part of the Cherokee community. At breakfast I saw cousins and old friends, all Cherokees. When I went to the estate sales I saw and visited with Cherokees. And again, at the theater, the room was filled with the people I and my family associate with, Cherokees. As I looked around the room I saw the faces of Cherokees laughing, joking and socializing. These are spaces that fill my memory from childhood to the present.
As these contacts built in my minds eye on what is just another Saturday, I was suddenly struck by a profound truth in the context of the Andrea Smith controversy. Even if she could prove some smidgen of Cherokee ancestry, of course she can't, but if she could, what I experienced today, in just four short hours, was more Cherokee community and culture than someone like Andrea will experience in a lifetime.
After the movie and the see-Ya-later hugs from my grandchildren, their innocent little Cherokee selves facing a world that wants nothing more than to take everything away from them, I became more resolved to fight harder for their future as citizens of the Cherokee Nation, to defend their tribe's sovereignty from all comers. Because like the saying we hear so often, the land is not ours, it's only borrowed from our children, so too is our sovereignty.
When someone says they are Cherokee without any concern for the rights of the tribe, they erode the sovereignty and self-determination that rightfully belongs to our children and grandchildren. As the current defenders of that sovereignty, our generation must do all we can to defend what is not really ours, but our grandchildren's.

David knows what it is to be Cherokee, what life is like for someone who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

What he shared brings me back to you, Writer Who Thinks You Are Cherokee. Are you an Andrea Smith? Did someone in your family tell you that you're Cherokee? Did you use that story to identify yourself as Cherokee? Does that identity inspire you to create stories to "honor" Cherokees? Or some other Native Nation?

If the answer to those questions is yes, hit the pause button. If you're not living life as a Cherokee, you're likely to add to the pile of misrepresentations Cherokee people contend with, day in, and day out. Do you really want to do that?

But returning to Andrea Smith, and speaking now, to my friends and colleagues in activist circles: please reconsider inviting Andrea Smith to deliver a keynote lecture at your conference or workshop. My request may sound mean-spirited or unfair to her, but consider the Cherokee Nation itself. Consider the Cherokee children David speaks of. Do you want to, as Smith is doing, thumb your nose at their sovereignty? Their rights to say who their citizens are? Do you really want to do that?

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Curious George and his... tomahawk

Over 2000 libraries have H. A. Rey's Curious George Learns the Alphabet on their shelves.  The book was first published in 1963 by Houghton Mifflin. Here's the bottom of the 't' page:




With that foot in the air, I think it is fair to say that George is doing what he (Rey, really) thinks is some kind of Indian dance. Regular readers of AICL know that I find this sort of play problematic because it immediately lapses into stereotyping.

As noted above, the book was first published in 1963. But, it has been published again and again... most recently (I think), in 2013, with a set of flashcards. That year (2013) was the 50th anniversary of the book, hence, a special 50th Anniversary edition. The local library doesn't have it. I wonder if the 't' page was revised? Do you have that version on your shelf? If yes, I hope you'll take a look and let me know.


Update: Thursday, July 9, 2015

A librarian at the Homewood Library sent me a photo of the 't' page. Here are the two pages, side-by-side:



In 1963, George was using that tomahawk and his tepee to play Indian. In 2013, we don't know how he is using it. He takes it with him outside. Readers are invited to fill in the gap as they imagine what George does with that tomahawk once he gets outside.

I'm glad the revisions were done. I would love to have access to the conversations that took place about the page and how it ought to be changed, and I'd love to know how children fill in that gap.

Here's some things that might cause a child to imagine George playing Indian with that tomahawk:

  • The child attended/attends a summer camp or event that invites kids to play at being Indian.
  • The child attended/attends a birthday parties where playing Indian is the theme.
  • The child goes to sports events where the mascot is meant to be an Indian.
  • The child chooses an Indian costume for Halloween.

What would your child, or the children in your library, imagine?

Monday, July 06, 2015

KAMIK'S FIRST SLED by Matilda Sulurayok and Qin Leng

Two years ago I read--and recommended--Kamik: An Inuit Puppy Storya delightful story about a puppy named Kamik and his owner, a young Inuit boy named Jake. In it, Jake is trying to train Kamik, but--Kamik is a pup--and Jake is frustrated with the pup's antics. Jake's grandfather is in the story, too, and tells him about sled dogs, imparting Inuit knowledge as he does.

Today, I'm happy to recommend another story about Kamik and Jake. The author of Kamik: An Inuit Puppy Story is Donald Uluadluak. This time around, the writer is Matilda Sulurayok. Like Uluadluak, Sulurayok is an Inuit elder.



As the story opens, the first snow of the season has fallen. Jake thinks that, perhaps, he can start training Kamik to be a sled dog, but Kamik just wants to play with the other dogs. Of course, Jake is not liking that at all! Anaanatsiaq (it means grandmother) sees all this going down. She reminisces about her childhood, telling Jake how her dad taught her to train sled dog pups--by playing with them:




In her storytelling of those memories, Anaanatsiaq is teaching Jake. Then she fastens a small bundle on Kamik and suggests Jake take Kamik out, away from the other dogs, for a picnic. They set off walking.

After awhile, Jake opens the picnic bundle. Inside, he finds things to eat, but he also finds a sealskin and a harness.

Playtime training, then, is off and running!

Things get tense, though, when Kamik takes off after a rabbit in the midst of a darkening sky, and Jake realizes he hasn't taught him the command to stop. The rabbit, as you can see, gets away.

Jake is scared, but in the end, Kamik gets him home, where he learns a bit more about sled dogs and their sense of smell.

Through Kamik, Jake, and his grandparents, kids learn about Inuit life, and they learn some Inuit words, too. A strength of both these books is the engaging, yet matter-of-fact, manner in which elders pass knowledge down to kids. Nothing exotic, and nothing romanticized, either.

I highly recommend Kamik's First Sled, published in 2015 by Inhabit Media.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Claiming, Misrepresenting, and Ignorance of Cherokee Identity

Some books that we give to young children carry enormous weight. The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage is one example. It is about the Supreme Court's decision in 1967, in which they ruled that people could marry whomever they loved, regardless of race.

Richard Loving was white. The woman he loved.... is misrepresented in The Case for Loving. The author, Selina Alko, echoed misrepresentations of who Jeter was when she wrote that Jeter was "part Cherokee."

Jeter didn't say that she was part Cherokee. What she said was misrepresented

Indeed, her marriage license says "Indian" and when she elaborated elsewhere, she said Rappahannock. I wrote about this at length back in March of 2015.

Yesterday morning (July 2, 2015), I read Betsy Bird's review of Alko's book. This part brought me up short:
A side issue has arisen concerning Mildred’s identification as Native American and whether or not the original case made more of her African-American roots because it would build a stronger case in court. This is a far bigger issue than a picture book could hope to encompass, though I would be interested in a middle grade or young adult nonfiction book on the topic that went into the subject in a little more depth.
Actually, saying that it "brought me up short" doesn't adequately describe what I felt.

First, I knew that Betsy was referencing my post. I took her use of "side issue" as being dismissive of me, and by extension, Arica Coleman (who I cite extensively), and by further extension, Native people who speak up about how we are represented--and misrepresented--in society, and in children's books.  On one hand, I felt angry at Betsy. As a teacher, though, I understand that we're all on a continuum of knowing about subjects that are outside our particular realm of expertise.

Representation, and misrepresentation, of Native identity is important.

Because so many make that (fraudulent) claim, it strikes me as a significant wrong to see, in The Case of Loving, words that say Jeter was Cherokee when she did not say she was. It unwittingly casts her over in that land in which people claim an identity that is not really theirs to claim.

Here's another reason that Betsy's review (posted on July 2, 2015) bothered me. I read it within a specific moment in my work as a Native woman and scholar who is part of a Native community of scholars.

Andrea Smith misrepresents herself as Cherokee

On June 30, 2015 (two days before Betsy's review was posted), The Daily Beast ran a story about Andrea Smith, a key figure to many academics and activist who are committed to social justice, especially for women, and in particular, women of color. The focus of the article is Andrea Smith's identity. For years, she claimed to be Cherokee. She said she was Cherokee. But, she wasn't. She is amongst the millions of people who think that they have Cherokee ancestry. Some do, some don't.

I met Andy several years ago (most people know her as Andy). At the time, she said she was Cherokee. I had no reason not to believe her. I don't remember when I first heard that she might not be Cherokee, but I did learn (not sure when) that she had been asked by the Cherokee Nation to stop claiming that she is Cherokee. I don't know what she personally did after that, and she has not said anything (to my knowledge) since the story appeared in The Daily Beast.

Things being said about Andy, about being Cherokee, and about claims to being Cherokee, reminded me of David Arnold's Mosquitoland. There's so much ignorance about being Cherokee! That ignorance was front and center in Arnold's book. I'm deeply appreciative that he responded to my questions about it, and that he is talking with others about it, too. Those conversations are so important!

I view Andy's failure to address her claim to Cherokee identity as a dismissal of the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation. It is a dismissal of their nationhood and their right to determine who their citizens are. Andy knows what the stakes are for Native Nations, and for our sovereignty. She knows what she is doing.

Jeter was adamant about who she was. My guess is that she knew what the stakes were, for her personally, and for the Rappahannock who, as of this writing, are not yet federally recognized as a Native Nation.

From Ignorance to Knowing

Betsy doesn't have the knowledge that Andy has. Few people do. Betsy is listening, though, as evidenced by her response to me this morning (see her comment on July 3). I am grateful to her for that response. She has far more readers than I do, and our conversation there will increase what people know, overall.

In that response, Betsy notes that Alko probably didn't have the sources necessary to get it right. Let's say ok to that suggestion, but, let's also expect that the next printing of the book will get that part right, and let's hope that editors in other publishing houses are talking to each other about this particular book and that they won't be releasing books with that error.

That error may not matter to a non-Native child or her parents, but it matters to a Cherokee child and her parents. It matters to a Rappahannock child and her parents. It should matter to all of us, and it will (I say with optimism and perhaps naively, too), because we're having these conversations.

By having them, I hope (again, optimistically and perhaps, naively), that we'll move to a point in time when the majority of the American population will understands what it means to claim a Cherokee (or Native) identity, and a population that ceases to misrepresent Cherokee culture and history. In short, we'll have a population that is no longer ignorant about Cherokee people specifically, and Native people, broadly speaking. Children's books are part of getting us there. They carry a lot of weight.

For now, I'll hit upload on this post, post the link in a comment to Betsy's review, and respond (there) to other things Betsy said. I hope you'll follow along there.

__________

Further readings about Andrea Smith's claim to Cherokee identity: