Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Not recommended: Michaela MacColl's THE LOST ONES

Right now, in my social media networks, private and public conversations are taking place. People are--to put it mildly--objecting to what Michaela MacColl has written in The Lost Ones. It purports to be a story about two Native children who ended up at Carlisle Indian Industrial School, and is told from the perspective of the girl, Casita.

MacColl's book is due out in October of 2016 from Calkins Creek, which is an imprint of Highlights. It is in their "Hidden Histories" series, which begs a question. Who is this history "hidden" from? The Lost Ones is being marketed as one in which MacColl (she isn't Native) and her publisher, are doing A Good Thing. They are Saving Native People and our history from being hidden.

I wonder, though, is MacColl the right person to write and tell this story? The two children in the book were real children. Does MacColl have what she needs to tell this very delicate story, with the integrity the children deserve?

My short answer is no. The promotional language for the book echoes what I found in the story, too. With The Lost Ones, we have a story about Good White People Doing Good Things for Native Kids. Yuck.

The Author's Note

People may argue that MacColl did her homework. In the Author's Note, she says that she reached out to "Richard Gonzales, Vice Chairman of the Lipan Band of Texas." He met with her and in that meeting, suggested she talk with Daniel Romero, who is "Chairman of the Lipan Band of Texas."

Sounds legit, right? Here's the thing, reviewers and editors, and writers, too! It can be very hard to determine if your sources are ok.

I wonder if MacColl knows, for example, that this "Lipan Band of Texas" is not recognized by the federal government, or the State of Texas, either. The one recognized by the State of Texas is the Lipan Tribe of Texas. See the difference? The first says "Band" and the second says "Tribe." Does that matter? I think so. I may return to that later.

For now, let's read more in the Author's Note.

In the first paragraph in the section titled "Lipan Apache or Ndé," MacColl writes that she uses Ndé in the story rather than Apache, because Ndé is what Casita would have used. That's right, but as I read the story, I saw one instance after another in which MacColl's outsider status was glaring. Using Ndé instead of Apache is an easy "fix" in a manuscript. All one needs to do is use those nifty word processing features that let you replace one word with another, in one fell swoop. I don't think MacColl did that, but when I read Casita thinking of Changing Woman as a goddess, I can't help but see MacColl's use of Ndé as superficial. Here's why.

MacColl uses an outsider word ("occupied") when she says, on page 236, that "Lipan Apache occupied southeastern Texas and northern Mexico." How does a people (in this case, Apaches) "occupy" their own homeland?

In the next paragraph, she writes that the Lipans conducted raids and often killed Texas settlers. She tells us that they "caused an estimated $48,000,000 worth of property damage (measured in today's dollars)" over a ten year period (p. 237). Most people reading this paragraph will be taken aback by that $48,000,000 of property damage. Sympathies will be with the White settlers. Where, I wonder, is her estimate of what the Lipans lost?

MacColl tells us that she's veered from the historical record as follows:

  • Casita and her little brother, Jack, were taken captive in 1877, but there's no record of it, so she uses details from an 1873 event in which the 4th Calvary went into Mexico, destroyed several villages, and took 40 captives.
  • Casita and Jack were taken in by "a military man and his wife, Lt. Charles and Mollie Smith" (p. 239) who traveled from base to base during the three years they had Casita and Jack with them, but for the story she chose to tell, MacColl kept the Smith's (and Casita and Jack) at Fort Clark. 
  • Because so little is known about Mollie Smith, MacColl created her as a Quaker interested in social justice, and writes that in her story "Mollie takes in two Indian children, despite the disapproval of her military husband, to prove the Quaker theory that the Indians can be tamed with kindness" (p. 239).

Quite honestly--I blanched when I read "tamed with kindness." This is in the Author's Note, where MacColl could discredit the "tamed with kindness" theory (I haven't looked it up), but she didn't. She lets it stand. The back cover tells us the book will be promoted at educational and library conferences, which means they plan to pitch it as something teachers can use to teach kids about these two children. As written, the note suggests that Native peoples needed to be tamed.

One could argue that the story itself is more important than the dates of when the children were captured, but would we make that argument about, say, a fictional work about Abraham Lincoln? I think not. And though the Author's Note tells us what MacColl did in writing the story, the language throughout the Note and the story itself, are ones that affirm and confirm a White perspective on Native peoples. In the note, MacColl wonders if Casita ever got to "perform" her "Changing Woman dance." Her use of "perform" is wrong. Our rituals are not performances. We wouldn't say that a girl performed her First Holy Communion, right? It is the same thing.

The Story

I finished reading The Lost Ones last night. As I read, I stuck tabs on pages. My copy has a lot of tags in it, see? I ran out of tabs, or you'd see more. (The different colored tabs mean nothing.)

Some of the tabs point to the places where the text reads "Changing Woman Goddess" or "the Goddess." One of them points to a part where Casita thinks "It seemed impossible that any ritual could really give someone as ordinary as herself magical powers" (p. 21). Because she is captured, Casita doesn't go through the ceremony. It is a recurring plot point in the story and is where the story ends, too, when Casita is at Carlisle. In the final chapter, a Lakota girl named Eyota is sick. The Lipan kids decide they can replicate the Changing Woman ceremony so that Casita can heal Eyota. The ceremony is described, in detail. That, I assume, is why the promotional material characterizes the story as one in which Casita tries to hold on to her Lipan Apache traditions. But there are problems with all of this! Neither "goddess" or "magical power" are appropriate! Remember in the author note, MacColl wrote about using Ndé because that is what Casita would use? I seriously doubt that Casita or her mother would use "goddess" or "magical power" and I strongly believe that the Lipan Apache people, today, would not be okay with the description of the ceremony. See, for example, a proclamation issued by the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas that speaks specifically to ceremonies being done by the Lipan Apache Band. 

On page 27 when Casita's village is being attacked and she sees her mom standing defiantly with an axe, Casita "hollered a war cry" and "felt a thrill of pride; this was what it was to be Ndé!" MacColl, thru Casita, tells readers that fighting is what being Ndé is about?! That is definitely an outsider characterization!

On page 38, Casita "asked Usen, the chief of all the spirits, to bless this place" (the burnt village and bodies of her mother and others who were killed in the attack). I've never seen "chief of all spirits" used by Native people...

I could say a lot more about the book, but will stop. It is deeply flawed.

The book includes a two-page Afterword from Daniel Castro Romero. I wonder if he read the entire manuscript? Is he ok with the story that MacColl created? Did he think it okay, for example, for her to create Ndé women who use the word "goddess"? I hope not. But, as noted above, he's the Chairman of the Lipan Band, which is doing the ceremonies that the Lipan Tribe's proclamation is about. I think that MacColl was on a slippery slope from the very start. She wanted to do something good but there was far too much potential for this story to fail. And, for me, it did.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Debbie--have you seen THE HEART OF EVERYTHING THAT IS: YOUNG READERS EDITION by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin?

A reader wrote yesterday to ask if I've seen that The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin is being released in February of 2017, as a Young Readers edition.

The book became a best seller for Simon & Schuster. There's a critical review of it at Indian Country Today that I urge you to read. I wonder if Kate Waters (she's doing the young readers edition) or her editor at Simon and Schuster read that review?



The review's title captures the problems with the book: The Heart of Everything That Isn't: the Untold Story of Anti-Indianism in Drury and Clavin's Book on Red Cloud and links to a review by Tim Tiago, too.

If I get a copy, I'll be back with a review.

Monday, August 15, 2016

"Spirit Animal" will not appear in future printings of Julie Murphy's DUMPLIN'

Last year, people were very excited about Julie Murphy's Dumplin. It is one of the books that, by word of mouth, I figured I would want to read sometime. Here's the synopsis:

Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . .  until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.  
Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

Last week, Jeanne, who I follow on Twitter, wrote that she was reading the book and had gotten to the page with "spirit animal" on it. The line is "Oh my God," says El. "I think you might be my spirit animal." It is at the bottom of page 361:


Some twitter conversations began. Today, Julie Murphy says, at her Tumblr page, that she's talked with her editor and the phrase will not be in future printings of the book. I wrote about "spirit animal" in 2014 when I saw it on Buzzfeed--and in Neal Shusterman's Unwind series. Murphy's use is one that is easy enough to revise. Same was true with taking "totem pole" out of Out of Darkness. But Shusterman... he'd have to do a lot of rewriting... Plus, that series is loaded with problems.

Thanks, Julie Murphy and Alessandra Balzer (she's Murphy's editor), for hearing and responding to the concerns. Julie has, with her Tumblr post, been very public about the change. I trust that Alessandra Balzer will carry this understanding with her to future projects and that she, too, will initiative conversations about appropriation with her editor peers. I wonder, for example, if she knows who edited One Little Two Little Three Little Children... 

Julie Murphy's decision is another model for those who have learned that something in their book(s) is problematic. Change is possible, as Julie Murphy learned.

A second look at Carapella's TRIBAL NATIONS MAPS

Eds. note, Aug 16, 2016: Scroll down to see comments from others who noted problems with these maps.

Eds. note, Aug 17, 2016: Carapella has threatened legal action if I do not remove this review. I (Debbie) stand by my review. 

Eds. note, Aug 23, 2016: Carapella has written to say he is sorry for saying he would take legal action for my review.  

Back in 2014, I began to receive emails from Aaron Carapella, asking me to promote his Tribal Nations Maps. I took a look and found problems with it. Carapella saw my review and sent me a revision to that portion of the map. But--it still has problems. Because Carapella launched a go-fund-me page to solicit funds to distribute the maps to schools, I'm back with this 2nd look at his map. 

In 2014, Carapella posted links in many places, including the Native American and American Indian Issues group on Facebook. It immediately drew a great deal of conversation. Many people looked at the maps and found problems. Carapella was resistant to their comments. Some are speakers of their own languages and told him he'd made errors in how he represented their specific nations, but he told them that he knew the right names, and that they were wrong. That discussion is gone. (If you're on Facebook, you know that you can delete one of your posts and the entire thread of comments will be deleted, too.) 

This is what Carapella said when he launched his project in 2014:
This map presents every documented, known Native American tribe that was here in pre-contact time, before the arrival of Europeans. All of the tribal nations documented here are in their original locations before the European Invasion affected their movement and displacement. Most of the names of tribes are in their own language, and are not the names given to them either by the invading Europeans or even other tribes. For example, we correctly use the name Numinu for what most Americans would call the Comanche Nation. The Sioux are referred to here in their own language as the Lakota. Unfortunately, many of the tribes here are indeed listed by their given name. Their original names were lost in the War against the Indians which left many tribes numberless, or forced remnant bands to amalgamate into larger, stronger tribes. We seek here to honor those hundreds of tribal nations who existed in their respective territories for millennia unscathed until the encroachment of Europeans. This is a tribute to all of those forgotten tribes whose names had been lost to the wind, but who live in the hearts and minds of modern-day Native Americans who managed to survive the largest full-scale holocaust in Man's history. We also honor the Indigenous Nations of this land by giving them ownership of their own names for themselves. 

That paragraph has since been revised. Currently on his website, Carapella states:
Here you will find the most comprehensive maps of pre-contact and at-contact Native North America to date. These maps use Tribal Nation’s original indigenous names for themselves, and show where Tribes were just before contact with outsiders . The intent of these maps is to instill pride in Native peoples and to be used as teaching tools from a Native perspective. These maps are part of my Tribal Nations Map series-which cover the Nations indigenous to the “United States,”, “Canada”, "Mexico" , "Central America", "South America"  and “Alaska." Your purchase supports multiple upcoming maps.  I credit the many hundreds of Cultural directors, elders, educators and linguists that have helped me centralize these names onto one visual display.

In my review in 2014, I focused on the Pueblo Indian Nations portion of the map. I'm doing that again, because that portion of the map, like the description of the project, has been revised. This review is arranged based on what Carapella said the maps would do. 

Carapella said that his map would show Native Nations and where they were located pre-contact with Europeans. Sounds good, right? But--I'm asking you to look and think critically about that goal. Right now there are over 200 federally recognized nations in the US (not counting Alaska). There were a lot more, pre-contact. How, I wondered, was Carapella going to show the locations of those 200+ federally recognized nations in the hundreds and thousands of years prior to contact, or "at contact"? We didn't all come into contact with Europeans at the same time. 

Let's hone in on an example. 

The place my nation (Nambé O-Ween-Gé) is at right now is where we've been since the early part of the 14th century. If you go back further in time, we were somewhere else. I'm talking about places like Bandelier, Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon... (you might know those places as where the "Anasazi" people lived, but they are now--correctly--identified as ancestral homes of today's Pueblo Indians). On his map, Carapella chose to show us at our current locations, which is fine, but that decision points to a difficulty in the framework for the project. How do you convey thousands of nations in thousands of locations over thousands of years on a single map? How do you tell students which point in time a location on a map represents? That isn't unimportant data. It is vitally important. 

Second, Carapella said that his maps would include nations that he called "numberless" which, he tells us, means ones that no longer exist. How, I wondered in 2014, would his map distinguish between those "numberless" ones and those that are currently recognized as sovereign nations? 

As a Pueblo Indian woman enrolled at Nambe, I know there are nineteen sovereign Pueblo Indian nations in New Mexico right now. There were more, pre-contact. I know the names of some of them. I think it is important to know about them, but it is also important to know they aren't among the nineteen sovereign nations who have nation-to-nation negotiations--today--with the US government. Children in New Mexico should know the names of the nineteen Pueblo Indian nations, and all children should learn about us as we are, today, rather than the tragic and romantic content they learn that confines us to the past. This map shows the nineteen Pueblo Indian nations of New Mexico. Note: 8/18/2016--The pueblo south of Albuquerque is Isleta, not Laguna. Thank you, Danielle L., of Isleta Pueblo, for pointing out that error. I will contact the individual who made that map. It was made to show collectors the locations of the 19 pueblos. My apologies for not seeing the error when I selected it for use, here. 


Source: http://www.medicinemangallery.com/bio/downloads/img/pottery_voices_in_time_1.jpg


When I reviewed the Pueblo portion of his map in 2014, Carapella read my review and wrote to me to say he'd revise it. Last year, he sent me a screen capture of revisions he'd made. He asked me to update my review, but the revisions are just as bad as the original, so, I didn't revisit my older review. 

Here's the screen cap he sent me. It has way more than nineteen. The first map didn't have all of those on there. That makes this one "more comprehensive" but also more confusing! 




Here, I have inserted arrows to show you the "numberless" ones that aren't part of the nineteen:




In some instances, Carapella has made a different kind of error. He correctly lists A:shiwi (Zuni) but beside it he also lists Matsaki, Hawiku, and Halona, but they're villages that are part of A:shiwi. In my earlier review, I wrote that my own village ought to be listed as Nambé O-Ween-Gé, and pointed him to our tribal seal. But as you see above, he chose to use "Nambe Owingeh" instead.

Third, Carapella said his map would provide the names the nations used for themselves, rather than the ones outsiders used for them. That, too, is ambitious for many reasons. How did he find out those names? He tells us he made phone calls and visited people, but he doesn't name any names. His credit is a blanket one which tells us nothing. Because of our nation-to-nation relationship with the U.S. government, you can find a list of the 567 nations, which includes, superceded names (in parenthesis). It would be interesting for librarians/teachers to download that pdf and do some comparisons. How do the nations request they be listed? Does that match with what Carapella did? 

As critical users of information, one of the things we do--and teach students to do--is to ask about the sources for information we're given. Carapella doesn't name his sources for the map, but he provides a "Resource List of Books/Movies/Websites" that he recommends. It, however, has The Education of Little Tree on it. That's a huge problem! That book has been soundly discredited for its content and because its author was faking an identity ("Forrest Carter" is actually Asa Carter--speechwriter for George Wallace--and a member of the KKK, too). 

In short? The revisions to Aaron Carapella's Tribal Nations map of North America are not an improvement. The map is still flawed and, as such, I do not recommend it. 

Update, August 15, 2016 at 11:55 AM:

In 2014, Chad Obiwanishinaabe Uran wrote Aaron Carapella's Tribal Maps Do Not Do Justice to Indigenous Nations and Here's Why. I linked to his post in my first review and am sharing it again, here. 

Today, people on social media began sharing additional resources and comments about problems with Carapella's maps, including the ones of Canada. I'll be adding them as I can.

Eric Ritskes pointed to Maps Are Territories. I looked at the first couple of pages and will be studying it. Terrific info. See Eric's series of tweets, too.

On Twitter, Barbara Low (Mi'kmaq) wrote: He's conflating Mi'kmaq Districts with 'Nations' on his map. Those are the names of our Clan Districts, not Nations. Confusing.

On Twitter, a "deshkan ziibi chippewa in unceeded coast salish territory" wrote that the Canadian version has similar problems and that Carapella failed to detail the Salish Sea places communities by linguistic group.

Pamela J. Peters, a Navajo filmmaker in California, wrote on Twitter that Carapella "has been trying to get money for those maps for years" and that "some of the tribes in Southern California don't like them, and burned them." She shared a map that one of the tribes( Tataviam) did of the LA Basin. And she shared a link to American Indian Cultural Center, which has a copy of the map.

On Twitter, Sarah M. Storm (she's King Island Inupiaq) wrote that she had an email exchange with Carapella in 2014 because he used a photo of her grandmother and great grandmother and had put it in Northern Canada, near Iqaliut, rather than in NW Alaska. He captioned it "Eskimo mother and child" and, she writes, "assumed it was Inuit, & could be placed anywhere." Sarah pointed out a serious problem regarding Carapella's use of that photo and others he used. Did he get permission from the families of those in the photos he used? Sarah wonders where he got the photo, and, she said "We've had so much stolen from us" and that "we continue to have so much stolen from us."

Update, August 16, 2016 at 5:43

These are excerpts from comments submitted to my 2014 review:

Marlette Grant-Jackson, Yurok tribal member and Cultural Resource Coordinator for Humbolt State University in California posted a comment to the NPR story about the maps. She said:
Very Cool Idea, but as I have said to Mr. Carapella before, it is not accurate! Even if you list just the 566 federally recognized tribes in the United States, and use their own language to say their names he has left out MANY! This map of California (http://www.yale.edu/gsp/coloni... would have at least helped him to contact the California tribes to get correct names and placements. Example.... Howunakut is the name of a village site in Northern California's Tolowa territory, not the name of a people. 
Gena Peone, Spokane Tribe of Indians, archivist, wrote:
Overall, I didn't recommend it when asked about a purchase. Especially because our immediate Northern Plateau tribal names and areas were incorrect. 

Update, August 17, 2016, 9:30 AM

On Facebook, Aaron Carapella said that he tried to work with me, collaboratively, on this project. I never received an invitation from him to do that.

The first email I got was one in which he asked me to buy one of his maps. It was a sales pitch. The wording in it was such that I ignored it. Two days later I got that email again. Again, I ignored it. Two months later, I got another one. In the interim, I'd received a lot of emails from others who had also gotten them and wondered if I had seen and reviewed them. When people start to write to me about something like that, I generally respond.

So, I reviewed Carapella's map on June 25th.

I sent an email to him on the 26th that says:
Dear Mr. Carapella,
I reviewed the pueblo portion of your map and found problems with it. A link to my review is below. In it, I suggest that individuals that have bought it do revisions. It is a great exercise in editing for students. And--I hope you can do revisions to future versions of the map. I've also heard from a lot of people that the information you have for their nations is not correct. 
I think the idea is terrific but the actual map needs more work.

He wrote back, saying that had read my review and the comments people submitted.  What I saw and reviewed, he said, was an outdated map and that he had already corrected what I pointed to in my review. He hoped to get the new revised map uploaded soon. He then went on to say that one of the people who commented on the review is a "naysayer" -- which is a term he is now using about me, along with "hater."

I appreciate that he is making revisions all the time, but what about all the people who buy earlier, flawed copies? The maps are expensive. I wonder if they're getting a free update. I wonder if they know that his maps are a "work in progress" that is continually being updated? It seems to me that, at the very least, the maps were released too soon. There are many valid questions being raised about accuracy and about protocol, too, regarding the use of photographs without permission. As I've said, I have questions about the accuracy and whether or not all that he means to convey CAN be conveyed in a single map.

On October 24, 2015, he wrote to me again, with a screen capture of the updates. As I noted above, that screen capture was what I used for the second review.

Some people think that his map is better than nothing and that it is wrong for me to criticize him. I think that although he meant well, he's contributing to the already too massive body of misinformation about who we were, and who we are. I focused on errors on the Pueblo portion of his map. Others are commenting--and continuing to comment on--errors in how he's depicted others.

On Aug 16, 2016, wrote to tell me that he will take legal action if I do not delete my reviews. I replied on Facebook and on Twitter that I stand by my reviews and will not delete them.

Update on August 17, 2016 at 8:15 PM

Kim Patrick Weaver used a series of tweets amongst several people to create a Storify about the Haudenosaunee content of the maps: Printed Maps a Poor Choice for Indigenous History.

There's an active discussion going on at my Facebook post, dated August 16 at 6:29 AM. Many There, several Native scholars, librarians, and educators are sharing their comments with Carapella. See substantive comments from Kara Stewart, Laura Grabhorn, and Deb Krol. Their discussions highlight other dimensions of the difficulties of a map, including federally recognized/state recognized/unrecognized nations. Some reference previously done maps and problems with them, too.

Update on August 22, 2016

Carapella sent me another private message on Facebook, apologizing that he said he was going to take legal action against me. He has decided not to do that.

A 2015 article at Indian Country Today, says:
A documentarian is making a film about Carapella’s project, and Hayden-McNeil, a textbook publishing company, is printing two of the maps in an upcoming book.
Hayden-McNeil is part of MacMillan, which is a major publisher. That prompts many questions. In the threads on Facebook, Carapella writes that he is making revisions all the time, based on input. Revisions are good, but that also means that the maps are not ready for use with children in a classroom, or in a textbook, either. I hope that Hayden-McNeil (MacMillan) is aware of these errors/revisions, and I hope they're aware, too, that it is necessary to get permission to use the photographs on the maps. Some of the photographs may be in the public domain, suggesting that permissions aren't necessary, but taking that approach is problematic, too. Native peoples have been exploited by photographers for so long, that many tribes now have protocols specific to photographs and video recordings.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

A few words about Louise Erdrich's MAKOONS


Louise Erdrich's Makoons came out a few days ago. On August 13th, I took a look at Amazon, and saw that it was their #1 New Release in their Children's Native American Books category.



Erdrich is Ojibwe. The characters in her story are, too, which makes Makoons and the other books in the Birchbark House series an #ownvoices book (the #ownvoices hashtag was created by Corinne Dyuvis).

I love the series. I read the first one, Birchbark House, when it came out in 1999.

Birchbark House began in 1866 when we met Omakayas, a baby girl whose "first step was a hop" (page 5 of Birchbark House). Omakayas is an Ojibwe word that means Little Frog. Makoons is the 5th book in the Birckbark House series. In the 4th one, Chickadee, we met Omakayas as an adult with twin sons, Chickadee, and Makoons. I've got Makoons open and started reading it, but after reading the prologue, I'm pausing to remember the other books and characters.  The books and the characters in them live in my head and heart for many reasons.

When my daughter was in third grade, her reading group started out with Caddie Woodlawn but abandoned it because of its problematic depictions of Native people. The book they read instead? Birchbark House. One of their favorite scenes from the book is when Omakayas has gone to visit Old Tallow to get a pair of scissors and has her encounter with a mama bear and her bear cubs. Indeed, they wrote a script and performed that chapter for their class (and of course, parents!). My daughter played the part of Omakayas. The prop she made for their performance is the scissors in their red beaded pouch. I've got them stored away for safekeeping. They represent my little girl speaking up about problematic depictions.

~~~~~

Chickadee is captured in Chickadee. The story of his capture and his return is what Chickadee is about. Makoons was devastated by that capture. The worry over his brother makes him sick. That sickness is where Makoons opens. In the prologue, Makoons is recovering as he listens to Chickadee sing to him. They spend hours together. Makoons remembers, and tells Chickadee about, a vision he had while sick. Their family will not return to their homeland. They're going to be strong and learn to live on the Plains but they will, Makoons tells Chickadee tearfully, be tested. The two boys are going to have to save their family... but won't be able to save them all.

A gripping and heartbreaking moment, for me, as I start reading Makoons. I'll be back.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Ashley Hope Perez's OUT OF DARKNESS

Last year, Ashley Hope Perez's Out of Darkness got a lot of buzz in my networks. Here's the synopsis:
"This is East Texas, and there's lines. Lines you cross, lines you don't cross. That clear?" 
New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them. They know the people who enforce them. But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive.
Ashley Hope Pérez takes the facts of the 1937 New London school explosion—the worst school disaster in American history—as a backdrop for a riveting novel about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people.
I got a copy and started reading. Then, I got to page 98 and paused at "I'm a low man on the totem pole." Prior to that reading, I'd had very limited--but positive--interactions with Ashley. So, I wrote to her about that line. Was it possible, I wondered, to take out or revise that one line in the next printing? Ashley wrote back, saying that she'd try.

Well... Ashley talked with her editor, and when the next printing was done, the line was changed. Ashley created a photo showing the change and shared it on social media, and she referenced our conversation. With her permission, I'm sharing her photo here:



I was--and am--gripped by, and deeply moved by the story she tells in Out of Darkness. It got starred reviews and went on to win awards. With that change ("Nah, I'm a low man on the totem pole" was replaced with "Nah, no suck luck.", I can enthusiastically and wholeheartedly recommend it.

Here's my heartfelt thank you to Ashley for hearing my concern. For not being defensive. For not saying "but..." or any of the things people say instead of "ok." And of course, a shout out to her editor, Andrew Karre, and her publisher, Carolrhoda, for making the change.

Out of Darkness doesn't have any Native content. I'm recommending it because it is an excellent story, and because it is an example of what is possible when people speak up and others hear what they say.

Is Out of Darkness in your library yet? If not, order it today.

_______________
Please see Sarah McCarrey's post, On Totems, because she, too, listened and responded in a good way.

Debbie--have you seen MacMillan & Kirker's MULTICULTURAL STORYTIME MAGIC?

A reader wrote to ask me if I've seen Kathy MacMillan and Christine Kirker's Multicultural Storytime Magic. Published in 2012 by ALA Editions, here's the description:
Storytime audiences grow ever more diverse, and it s important that the materials used in programs reflect that richness of experience. Multiculturalism need not be an occasional initiative attached to particular holidays. In this book best-selling authors MacMillan and Kirker offer a new paradigm for multicultural programs, one in which diversity is woven into any and every storytime, no matter what the topic. Arranged thematically around dozens of popular storytime themes, the authors
  • Present original and traditional resources from all over the world that will enrich storytimes for ages 2 through 5
  • Offer concrete book recommendations, fingerplays, and other activities that can be integrated into existing storytimes
  • Include download links for flannelboard and stick puppet patterns, and illustrations of American Sign Language signs
With numerous activities and programming suggestions, this book will seamlessly integrate and enhance cultural awareness for children all year round.

On ALA Edition's website, they've provided some of the worksheets for activities in the book. Here's a screen capture of the top half of one page for the "House for Me" guessing game:




Here's another:




This is not ok! I am guessing that the editor at ALA Editions who worked on MacMillan and Kirker's book, and MacMillan and Kirker, too, assumed that using an award winning book--Mary Ann Hoberman's A House Is a House for Me--seemed a good choice, but it isn't.  It wasn't ok in 1978 when Hoberman's book came out, and it sure as heck isn't ok for it to be in a resource book published by ALA Editions in 2012, either.

A House is A House for Me is set in the present day. It shows children in a tree house (which is generally considered something for children to play in), or a cardboard box (which is also considered something for children to play in), beneath a beach umbrella or a table, or in a snow house made on a snowy day. There's a castle for a duchess and one for a king, too. All the other "houses" are for insects, animals, or other items ("a sandwich is a home for some ham").

As the worksheet suggests, there's one other category of houses:



If you haven't been reading articles about the ways that Native Americans are depicted in children's books, that page might seem fine to you. It isn't. For decades, people have written about the problems in using igloo's and tipi's to represent Native peoples. They are real things and are in use by some people today but Hoberman's book moves the time frame to present day. Certainly some Plains Indians use their tipi's today as a home, but most live in houses and use their tipi's for gatherings. Not all Eskimo's today or ever, lived in igloo's. Their use is specific to a geographical location and, in many cases, purpose.

"A pueblo's a house for a Hopi." That is a bit clunky. I have a traditional adobe home. It is not attached to others in the village like the one in Hoberman's book, but some pueblo people live in those villages in some of the pueblos. That sentence could be improved if she wrote "A pueblo's a house for Hopis." Plural. As is, it tells us that the entire village houses one Hopi.

The wigwam for a Mohee? That's not ok. Who are the Mohee? I don't know. Do you? I can find "Mohee" in several sources about a folksong, My Little Mohee. I also find a bit of info about it in a book titled The Lasting of the Mohicans. But really: there is no tribal nation that I know of that is called the Mohee.

Another way to think about this page is the one put forth by Guy Jones and Sally Moomaw in Lessons From Turtle Island (which I highly recommend, by the way). They wrote:
Non-Native children often believe that all American Indian people live in tipis. There is a reason for this erroneous idea. Books, cartoons, and movies typically show all Native people living in the past, most often in the tipi, the traditional abode for the plains Nations. For example, What Can You Do With a Pocket? (Merriam 1964) shows generic Indians in front of tipis. Some teachers try to counter this by studying the historic abodes of various Native Nations. Few teachers or books, however, show the homes of Native peoples today. Books such as A House Is a House for Me (Hoberman 1978), still being sold in bookstores as of this writing, continue to lock Native peoples in houses of the past (p. 13):
An igloo's a house for an Eskimo.
A tepee's a house for a Cree.
A pueblo's a house for a Hopi.
And a wigwam may hold a Mohee.
This stanza is clearly an attempt on the author's part to reflect the diversity of Native Nations, and perhaps to counter the prevalent image that all Native peoples traditional lived in tipis. However, the attempt is flawed because the author portrays Native peoples in the past and not in the present. A House Is a House for Me is a clear example of how a well-meant effort to diversity curriculum can go badly astray if all the factors are not considered.
A third way to think about that page is this: why is there only a page about Native homes? Where's the pages about the kinds of houses that other peoples lived in? I hasten to add that I'm not advocating for those pages, because they'll just do what the one on Native houses does: tell children that a particular group lives in a house that is unlike the ones that children see as the norm. In other words, adding those pages would make other groups exotic, too, and cast them into time frame that may not reflect the houses they live in today.

Last, most of the structures the kids are shown in are places of play, of imagination. It is a bit jarring to think of the Native homes in that framework.

I have no doubt that everyone involved in the making of A House Is a House for Me and Multicultural Storytime Magic had good intentions, but it gets tiring to talk about good intentions, again and again.

When "good intentions" is our default, we're doing a disservice to the children who are on the receiving end of those good intentions, and we are likely contributing to the likelihood that we'll see other books that do the same thing. We saw that very thing, in fact, last year, in Home by Carson Ellis. See what Sam Bloom at Reading While White said about Home and see what I said, too.

We can do better, right?

Friday, August 05, 2016

When We Was Fierce + A Birthday Cake for George Washington + A Fine Dessert...

It has been a landmark year in children's literature. I don't mean the calendar year of 2016. I mean the year marked by August 4th, 2015 and August 4th, 2016, where depictions of African Americans in two picture books and one young adult novel were the subject of conversations that prompted responses from their creators, editors, or publishers.

This timeline is just the key moments. Elsewhere I've curated links to discussions of A Fine Dessert and A Birthday Cake for George Washington. Edith Campbell has links to discussions of When We Was Fierce

August 4th, 2015
Elisa Gall, librarian, posted her concerns about problems in A Fine Dessert. 

November 1st, 2015
Emily Jenkins, the author of A Fine Dessert issued an apology (scroll down; her apology is the 9th comment, submitted on Nov 1 at 9:48 AM).

January 4, 2016
Vicky Smith, editor at Kirkus, pointed to the forthcoming A Birthday Cake for George Washington.

January 17, 2016
Scholastic, publisher of A Birthday Cake for George Washington, announced they were stopping the distribution of the book and that people could get a refund for it if they'd already purchased it.

July 21, 2016
KT Horning, director of the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, gave a lecture in School Library Journal's summer course designed to increase their reviewers skills in recognizing problematic depictions. In it she spoke at length about When We Was Fierce.

August 4th, 2016
Kelly, an editor at Book Riot, tweeted that she'd received an email from Candlewick (publisher of When We Was Fierce) indicating that the book, scheduled for release on August 9th, was being postponed.

I attribute this year to the power of social media. With its many platforms for reaching a wider audience than was possible before, more people are reading, listening--or rather, hearing--and responding. I hope this marks lasting change. We've been here before, many times. In the 1960s, for example, the people at the Council on Interracial Books for Children, pushed publishers very hard. What we've seen in this past year, however, is unprecedented, and I believe it speaks to the power of speaking back to misrepresentations.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Debbie--have you seen THE DRAGON HAMMER by Tony Daniel?

A reader wrote to ask if I've seen Tony Daniel's The Dragon Hammer. Here's excerpts from the review from Publisher's Weekly. In the excerpt I've highlighted a passage...
Beast-men, bitter feuds, and battles are just some of the elements in this epic coming-of-age fantasy, set in an alternate North America populated by Viking-like settlements, Romans who practice blood magic, and mythical creatures. 
and
First in the Wulf Saga, the story is a kitchen sink of fantasy tropes, with elves and gnomes existing alongside animal-human hybrids (who replace a native population in a regrettable worldbuilding decision), and a vaguely explained mythology involving stars and dragons.
Reviews indicate the story is set in the Shenandoah Valley. Shenandoah is a Native word. I assume the author needed some words in order to make this story identifiable as one in "an alternative North America." 

I wonder if Daniel or his editor saw the Publisher's Weekly review? I'm glad their reviewer questioned that worldbuilding! I'm questioning it, too!

The Dragon Hammer was released on July 5, 2016, by Baen, which is part of Simon and Schuster. Here's the synopsis:
Evil from the dawn of time is on the verge of domination—but Wulf von Dunstig figured none of that mattered to him. What could he do about it? After all, he was basically nobody—the sixteen-year-old third son of a duke destined for an uneventful life as a ranger. But when destiny comes calling, it turns out there is only Wulf to answer. After a devastating invasion of his native land, Wulf must rally the peaceful valley of Shenandoah. He must free his family and his land from the grip of intruders controlled by vampiric evil.
Wulf's "native land" is being invaded? I agree with Publisher's Weekly. This story sounds regrettable. 

Update, 5:35 AM, August 5th, 2016: As usual with the "Debbie--have you seen" posts, I'll be back with a review when I get a copy of the book.