Monday, September 25, 2017

Twitter Conversations about Scholastic's THE ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE

On September 22, 2017, a parent in Canada tagged me on a tweet about a book in his child's kindergarten classroom. He asked "What are kids learning about Canadian history? He shared four images from inside a book:



The pages are from The Royal Canadian Mounted Police by Marc Tetro, first published in 1994 by Scholastic Canada, for kids 5-8 years old. The tweet generated a fair bit of interest.

When I retweeted it, I tagged Scholastic:



Earlier today (Sep 25), Scholastic Canada replied:













I don't think there are any mechanisms by which a teacher or librarian would know that Scholastic stopped publishing this book because of the issues with its content. Clearly, it is still in at least one classroom in Canada.

I looked in WorldCat to see how many libraries have it. Given the issues in it, it shouldn't be in a public or school library. It does have use, however, in a university library. Unfortunately, it is in several public and school district libraries. If you've got it in your library, deselect it.





Sunday, September 24, 2017

Not Recommended: SUSANNA MOODIE: ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH, A GRAPHIC NOVEL by Carol Shields and Patrick Crowe

Today, AICL is launching a new feature. I'm calling it Reviewed On Twitter and it will have its own label. Sometimes, I tweet that I got a book. If I have something more to say as I look it over, I send a second tweet, and a third, and so on. I end up with something akin to a review, except that it is in a series of tweets. Too often, I never get a review written and posted. That means that anyone who reads AICL but doesn't follow me on Twitter, doesn't see what I said about the book. I don't know if this new feature is going to work out or not, but, we'll see.


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Not Recommended


On September 17, 2017, CBC News ran a news item by Angela Sterritt. In 'A punch in the gut': Mother slams B.C. high school exercise connecting Indigenous women to 'squaw', Steritt wrote about a worksheet from a guide for a graphic novel being taught in her daughter's classroom. The graphic novel is Susanna Moodie: Roughing it in the Bush. Below are my tweets, as I read through it. I started on September 21.

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In today's mail; not looking forward to rdg ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH.


Page 2. Nothing in the text says anything about Thanksgiving. Why is it there?

Doesn't that look like an American Thanksgiving scene? Set in 1810, this is supposedly a story about going to Canada.

In Ch 1, Susanna meets her man, gets married; in ch 2 they set off for Canada. On Aug 30, 1832, they approach "The New World."

In ch 3, her husband, John, is out hunting. He comes home, sees Indians, aims his rifle at them; Susanna says she's ok.

The Indians (Chief Peter Nogan, his wife, their son) are teachng her their language. They name her, Nonocosoqui. It means Little Bird.

Susanna can draw. She draws a bird. The chief's wife says "your squaw is a much clever woman." 👀

Susanna draws more, there's talk of trading. She gives them pieces of her fancy mirror (it mostly shattered on its way to their cabin).

I gotta say: stories that have Indians staring into mirrors, marveling, enable a "primitive" image. Water surfaces reflect image, too!

Oh... they give her a gift... she looks in a mirror shard.... it is a bone choker (some of my Native friends will get a kick out of that).

A few days later a Black man gives her a cow. He tells her he heard she's a writer. He tells her "this is no country for writing." Damn.

That "no country for writing" is another problem. It suggests Native ppls were primitive and didn't write.

The Black man's name is Mollineux. He knows abt writing (Shakespeare, specifically) because his master on VA plantation let him use library.

I should note that Susanna and John are Elitist Good White People. They don't like lower class men, like the ones in ch 4...

Ch 4 is about a "logging bee." Lot of working men come to work for Susanna and John. The morning they are due to arrive, Susanna's...

... maid ran away. Susanna doesn't know how to cook, but have no choice. The workers give her a hard time.

An American neighbor goes over to Susanna's. But, they're squatters! LOL. Susanna dissing on Americans. She even says that they...

... ""borrow" the land on which are farm now stood!" I guess Susanna and John got their land... legally?! Again: 👀

The American squatter woman gives Susanna heck abt not sitting down with the workers. "You invite the Indians" but not "your helps."

Susanna wants to avoid "Speechifying on Yankee democracy" so changes subject to Mollineux. Squatter woman says he used to work for her...

... and he had "good conduct" but she "could never abide him for being black." Susanna says Mollineux is "same flesh and blood" as...

... squatter woman's "helps" and asks if he sat at their table. "Mercy me, my helps would leave if I put such an affront to them."

I should have noted when I started this thread, that the teacher's guide for ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH is why I ordered this book.

I did a long thread on the guide a couple of days ago.
1. I ordered a copy of ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH (graphic novel adaptation of the 1852 book) in this news item:
2. Question for -- why did you publish ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH as a graphic novel? I'm flipping thru 1852 bk and.. 
3. I see "squaw" a lot. Here's one passage: "a very large, fat, ugly squaw" is the first example.
4. In the original, "squaw" appears 39 times. How many times is it in the graphic novel? Course, even once is not ok.
5. Hmmmm... I searched the original for the word "darkie" that is definitely in the graphic novel, but it isn't in the original.
6. The original has the n word but the author pushes back on racist ideas. See?

7. Is that passage in the graphic novel... with "darkie" used instead?
8. Teacher's guide for bk is here: [It was removed for review.] See disclaimer? Why say "not politically correct" instead of racist? 

9. And, the person who wrote "of that time" is clearly living under a rock. Those prejudices and racist language are still here, TODAY. 
10. This guide is clearly written with White students/teachers in mind.
11. Did its author and publisher not realize Native and Black kids are part of today's society? First suggested activity is to imagine... 
12. ... life as a "pioneer." It is f'ed up to ask a Native child to imagine what it was like to be a "pioneer." 
13. The guide asks students for good definition of pioneer. How about "a biased word for someone who invaded Native lands." 
14. Here's another question from the guide. I don't see a question asking students how an Indigenous person felt...
15. The next question asks if relationships between pioneers and indigenous ppl improved. Guessing the answer is supposed to be yes. 🤔
16. Next activity: build a model of a pioneer village. That kind of thing centers Whiteness. Teachers: don't do this!
17. The third activity is about "politically incorrect" language:

18. Lot going wrong in this activity. In this true/false statement about words that "everyone" used? "Everyone" means White people. 
19. And here's the activity that brought attention to this messed up book and teacher's guide for it. Guide tries to say "don't use... 
20... certain words today" but then uses them in the activity like they're facts kids must learn. 



Where was I? Oh, yeah, the squatter woman and the not squatter woman trying to out-do each other with their imagined superiority.

Well, damn. When I was looking at the guide the other day, I saw that ch 6 is about a "shivaree" but didn't know what that was. I do now.

By ch 6, Mollineux has married an Irish girl. It is nighttime, men have fiddles, drums, masks. They go to his house: "Come on Darkie!"

One calls "string him up". They pour tar on him, feathers... When I first heard of this book, I asked WHY it was published.

It seems to me that the publisher and writers of the graphic novel & guide had NO IDEA that Native or Black kids would be asked to read it.

The graphic novel, published in 2016, has an Intro by Margaret Atwood. Her recent Emmy probably makes the bk more saleable. But...

But I can't see her name anymore and not remember her involvement in the Joseph Boyden messes.

I'll stop for now with this quick look at ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH. If it was assigned to my child, I'd raise hell for sure.

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When I quit last night, I had finished Ch 6, "Shivaree." I didn't share any pain-inducing images from those pages. I'm still aghast at them.

The bk is marked as being for kids in sixth grade and on up. Those "Shivaree" pages are brutal.

Ch 7 is called "John Managhan." John goes to Susanna's house, asking for work. He's hurt but Susanna's new servant won't help him.

He starts to work for Susanna. Kind of heroic. Even tells Susanna's husband how to deliver their 2nd baby when the midwife can't get there.

That's because he's a Roman Catholic. An inset box tells us that enmities between religions ran high "in those days." Not today, I guess?!

Life is getting harder for Susanna. Milk, bread, and potatoes are sometimes all they have to eat. But wait!

Remember the Indian Chief from the start of the book? He comes by from time to time and gives them fish.

Susanna gives most of the food to her family. Husband notices, tells her she has to eat more because he needs her help in the fields.

Susanna cries. She is "reduced to field-labour" but understands why. She steps up but they don't have skills, really, to do this work.

Life gets harder and harder. There's a page where she's grimacing as she skins squirrels for their meals. She's also upset because...

... her sister, who had visited (briefly) in ch 5, has written a book that has "made this wretched wilderness into a fool's paradise."

Susanna's husband tells her to write, again, as she had before they left England. Write the truth of their lives, he says.

Susanna doesn't want to do that. Everyone in England would think of her, living in a log hut, consorting with vulgar ppl & Americans.

But, after a while, she does (write). War breaks out. John has to leave. Oh... here's Indians again as Indian women show her how to fish.

I've looked thru and thru the book. No mention of what tribal nation Susanna was learning words from, or learning fishing techniques...

The thread this tweet is part of is about the graphic novel, SUSANNA MOODIE: ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH that was (is?) being taught in Canada.

It is based on a book with that same title, written by Moodie, published in 1852. In the original, Moodie used "Indian" 118 times.

You can see the original, here: I don't plan to do any analysis of the 1852 one compared to the 2015 one.

Mostly, I just wonder why Second Story thought it was a good idea to make this graphic novel adaptation, for young ppl of today.

I don't recall seeing a disclaimer like this one, inside ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH. See that past tense, "were", in there? (Because text in photo is small, I am inserting it here: "Common prejudices in the nineteenth century resulting from antagonisms between Protestants and Catholics, or racism perpetuated by white Europeans against Blacks and Aboriginals, were reflected in the everyday language people used to describe themselves and each other. Today it is unacceptable to use words such as Indian, squaw, darkie, Negro,Yankee, or Papist.")




There's something like that disclaimer in the teaching guide for the bk, too. That guide got pulled. Will the book get pulled, too?

My guess is, no. It was (is?) being used in classrooms in Canada, which means it was bought in quantities. Just for one class? More?

Not Recommended: I AM SACAGAWEA by Brad Meltzer

Today, AICL is launching a new feature. I'm calling it Reviewed On Twitter and it will have its own label. Sometimes, I tweet that I got a book. If I have something more to say as I look it over, I send a second tweet, and a third, and so on. I end up with something akin to a review, except that it is in a series of tweets. Too often, I never get a review written and posted. That means that anyone who reads AICL but doesn't follow me on Twitter, doesn't see what I said about the book. I don't know if this new feature is going to work out or not, but, we'll see.

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This morning (Sep 24, 2017), I started reading Brad Meltzer's I Am Sacagawea and sharing my thoughts, on Twitter, as I read. I am pasting the text of those tweets, here.

1. Another of my "WHY?" threads. This one is about a new picture book about Sacagawea.
4. I'm looking at resources about Sacagawea. Wonder if Meltzer knows she's controversial?

5. When I start reading I AM SACAGAWEA, will I find anything about that controversial POV in Meltzer's book?

6. In the back of the bk, the author and illustrator thank Carolyn Gilman. She wrote a book called Lewis and Clark: Across the Divide.

7. Gilman's book is available online: I'll look at that, but the bk I am going to rely on is...

8. ... not that one! ANYTIME I see anything abt Lewis and Clark, I remember a mtg I was in with Native historians, several years ago.

9. It was in the years preceding all the big rah-rah events to mark the "200th anniversary" of the expedition. Some planners wanted...

10. ... ppl of the tribal nations along the expedition to participate in re-enactments. Paraphrasing the response; it was something like...

11. 'Why would we wanna do THAT?!' -- In other words, 'no, we will not perform in your story.'

12. Some quick thoughts, now, on Meltzer's I AM SACAJAWEA. First page: "I am Sacagawea." Oh-oh. Did she, in fact, say those words?

13. Does Meltzer have evidence that she said "I am Sacagawea." in the files he put together to do this book? Or... did he make that up?

14. Next page... another 'oh-oh' from me. "What do people expect of you?" she says. I am pretty sure she didn't say that. What we've got...

15. ... is a white guy creating the speech of a Native woman who lived over 200 years ago. He's leaping over differences in...

16. ... identity and language and time and culture. What could go wrong?

17. Next lines are about what people expect of you (reader) and what people expected, in that time, of Sacagawea.



18. Meltzer's Sacagawea has an answer: "In fact, they didn't expect much at all." You should be wondering WHO didn't expect much of her.

19. Meltzer's question, in short, centers Whiteness. He doesn't name it. What he means is that WHITE people didn't expect much of her.

20. Yeah... what can go wrong with Invented Dialog that leaps across time, language, identity... easy to see, so far, right?

21. Oh, Penguin... do we need another messed up book about Sacagawea? WorldCat says there's 268 books (for kids) about her. Yours makes 269.

22. Meltzer's I AM SACAGAWEA is doing exactly what ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH did: telling (white) rds that racism is a thing-of-the-past.

23. Lines like "That's how things were back then." are lies you're telling to kids. Things are like that RIGHT NOW.

24. Hmm. Meltzer has Sacagawea quoting "Chief Meninock of the Yakama Tribe" saying "We can only be what we give ourselves power to be."

25. Did Meninock say that? , help me find it! So far, I've found it in one bk--but I need something more substantive.

26. In the final pages, Meltzer's Sacagawea tells readers: "Make your own path. Shatter expectations." Again, did she say those words?!

27. Next, she says "That's what I've always done." Oops, Meltzer. Didn't you tell us she was considered property that could be given away?

28. Based on what I've shared in this tweet thread, you are right if you're thinking that I will not recommend Meltzer's I AM SACAGAWEA.

29. Not Recommended: Brad Meltzer's I AM SACAGAWEA, published in 2017 by Dial/Penguin. Librarians: save your funds.










Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Recommended: FIRE STARTERS, by Jen Storm; illustrations by Scott B. Henderson, colours by Donovan Yaciuk

Check out the cover for Jen Storm's Fire Starters: 



Who are those two boys on bikes, riding away from that burning building? Are they the fire starters who set that building ablaze?

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Jen Storm's Fire Starters is a graphic novel published by Highwater Press in 2017. Its gorgeous illustrations are by Scott B. Henderson; Donovan Yaciuk did the colours. Here's the description:
Looking for a little mischief after discovering an old flare gun, Ron and Ben find themselves in trouble when the local gas bar on Agamiing Reserve goes up in flames, and they are wrongly accused of arson by the sheriff’s son. As the investigation goes forward, community attitudes are revealed, and the truth slowly comes to light.
In an interview at CBC Books, Storm said that she wanted to:  
..."explore how all the people in a town — the bully, the bystander, the underdog, law enforcement — would react and what their role can be in reconciliation because I think a lot of people hear that word and think really big grand picture and don't see how they can fit into it."
Reconciliation? Some readers of AICL know about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada. For those who don't, here's the introduction, from the commissions's website:
There is an emerging and compelling desire to put the events of the past behind us so that we can work towards a stronger and healthier future. The truth telling and reconciliation process as part of an overall holistic and comprehensive response to the Indian Residential School legacy is a sincere indication and acknowledgement of the injustices and harms experienced by Aboriginal people and the need for continued healing. This is a profound commitment to establishing new relationships embedded in mutual recognition and respect that will forge a brighter future. The truth of our common experiences will help set our spirits free and pave the way to reconciliation.
Storm is Ojibway from the Couchiching First Nation in Northwestern Ontario. With her story, she moves reconciliation from a concept to an on-the-ground example of what reconciliation could mean, in action, in a small community that is predominantly White.

Within a few pages, we know that the building is owned by a Native man. We also know that Ron and Ben, the Native teens, did not set that building on fire. We know that it was done by Michael, the sheriff's son, and we know why he did it. Ron and Ben are being held at the jail. People think they're the ones responsible for the fire. When they're let go, they are taunted on the school bus and at school, they're surrounded by kids who call them fire starters. A fight breaks out. There's more of this kind of thing later, at a hockey game.

Finally, the sheriff figures out that it is his son, Michael, who set the fire. After that, the story shifts to a circle justice gathering. It is a Native system of justice. In the next scenes, we see Michael helping to clean up the inside of the burned building.

Storm's story is a very thoughtful look at the two systems of justice. The Native boys are in the White system, being interrogated and intimidated. It is a stark contrast to what the White boy experiences in the Native system of justice. It points to the path Storm is looking for: how a community can heal, rather than how it could punish and inflict more harm on people.

There are two especially poignant aspects to the story. First is the poster on the wall of the building that was set on fire. It is of a Native woman. She's missing, and the poster is asking for help, to find her. For information about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, I suggest you read the news stories archived at Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). The second is Michael's friend. His name is Jason. Though he keeps it quiet, he is Native, too. He's torn between his friendship with Michael and his own strong sense of doing what is right, especially because he--like the Native boys being mistreated by the justice system and the townspeople--is Native.

I recommend Jen Storm's Fire Starter. There's a lot to study, think about, and of course, talk about.

Some thoughts on Jason Chin's GRAND CANYON

I'll likely catch heck from people who think it is unfair to criticize a book for what it leaves out. In some instances, I'd agree. Sometimes, it isn't fair. Sometimes, though, it is.

If you're an American, you think of the Grand Canyon as a spectacular place. It is that, for sure, but if you're a Native person, particularly one from the tribal nations for whom the canyon is significant as a site of origin or of spiritual importance, you may think of it as a spectacular place, but you are also likely to think of it in other ways that you may or may not feel ok to talk about.

The point of view in Jason Chin's Grand Canyon is not a Native one. Kirkus describes the little girl as Asian American. Other than her and her dad, there aren't any people in the book. They're on a solitary journey into the Grand Canyon. I think it helps readers focus on the land and animals of the present, but of the past, too. There are pages where the little girl is transported to the past. All in all, the book is packed with good information. Science teachers will like it, a lot. It has gotten starred reviews from most of the major children's literature review journals. It may likely be considered for awards this year!


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I'd like to offer some thoughts on how Chin can "kick it up a notch" (remember the Food Network chef who used that phrase?!).

In the closing pages, Chin touches on the Human History of the canyon. He starts with humans of 12,000 years ago and then moves forward from there, saying:
Later, several different cultures settled in and around the canyon, including the Ancestral Puebloans, farmers and skilled potters who lived in multi-room buildings called pueblos. Today's Hopi and Zuni peoples trace their heritage to the Ancestral Puebloans. It wasn't until Hopi guides led Spanish explorers to the South Rim in 1540 that the first Europeans saw Grand Canyon. 
He follows that with a paragraph about John Wesley Powell being there in 1869 and that in 1919, President Wilson designated it a national park. Then,
The park covers more than one million acres of land and most of the canyon lies inside the park boundary, while parts of it are within the borders of the Hualapai, Havasupai, and Navajo Indian reservations. The canyon remains a place of cultural and spiritual importance for many Native American tribes, including the Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, Paiute, Apache, Hualapai, and Havasupai.
If a second printing is ahead of Chin, I suggest he replace "tribes" with "tribal nations." And, it'd be great for kids to see a map of the reservations Chin references in that paragraph. Google includes some on their maps. Here's one of that area that shows Grand Canyon National Park. To the left is the Hualapai Indian Reservation; to the right are the Hopi Reservation, the Navajo Nation Reservation, the Zuni Reservation, and at the bottom, the Fort Apache Reservation.



Another suggestion is to bring Native languages into the book. On that first page, where we see the mountain lion descending into the canyon, Chin could use the borders in the same way he did elsewhere in the book. On this first page, they're blank. He could get in touch with the tribal offices for each of the reservations and ask them what--in their language--they call the Grand Canyon. He could do a small sketch of a Hopi child saying "At Hopi, we call it ___" and so on. And on that page about the Kaibab Formation, Chin could add a note about the word, "kaibab" and what it means.

Another addition could be a paragraph about President Wilson's actions to designate it a national park. How did tribal leaders feel about that, then? How do they feel about it, now?

Wouldn't all that additional information be cool? Do you have additional suggestions?


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Recommended! C IS FOR CHICKASAW by Wiley Barnes and Aaron Long

C is for Chickasaw by Wiley Barnes (Chickasaw) and Aaron Long (Choctaw), published in 2014 by White Dog Press (Chickasaw Press), is definitely an alphabet book that every library in the country should get!

Here's the cover:



And here's the description:
C is for Chickasaw walks children through the letters of the alphabet, sharing elements of Chickasaw history, language, and culture along the way. Writing with multiple age groups in mind, Wiley Barnes has skillfully crafted rhyming verse that will capture and engage a younger child s imagination, while also including in-depth explanations of each object or concept that will resonate with older children. The colorful illustrations by Aaron Long reflect elements of Southeastern Native American art and serve to familiarize children with aspects of this distinctive artistic style. A supplementary section with questions and activities provides a springboard for further discussion and learning.

The figures on the cover are on the C page, but so are these (below) ... which just makes me want to jump up off my couch and do a fist pump! I love books that have illustrations that place Native people in the present day! This one is perfect because the three people are clearly in modern dress, giving readers a strong corrective to the all-too-frequent Native peoples in the past imagery that most books have in them.



The man on the left is holding a Bible. Though many Native peoples practice their own religions, some practice Christianity, or some combination of both. It is great to have that reflected in this illustration. And the book the woman is holding is a Chickasaw dictionary! Way cool, right? And the guy on the right is likely meant to be astronaut John Herrington. If you haven't gotten his book yet, do that right now:



As you turn the pages of C is for Chickasaw you (of course), encounter another letter of the alphabet. For each one, there's a word in English and the word in Chickasaw, too. Here's a close-up of the 'E' page:



Barnes and Long don't shy away from difficult topics either. The 'I' page is about Indian Territory. The illustration is of a family moving across a map that shows Georgia and Oklahoma. The text reads:
The Chickasaws were forced to settle in this new place
The journey was long with many challenges to face
At the bottom of each page is more information:
Indian Territory was land set aside by the United States for the forced re-settlement of Native Americans. It was created by the Indian Intercourse Act of 1834. The Chickasaws, and other tribes, were forced to give up their land in the east and move to land in Indian Territory. Later it became part of the state of Oklahoma.
 A bonus for teachers is the "What did you learn" questions in the back, and a page of suggested activities.

C is for Chickasaw is a rare book, and I highly recommend it! It is also available as an app. More coolness! More fist pumps! Get a copy for your library or classroom shelf.


Monday, August 14, 2017

John Smelcer's STEALING INDIANS a finalist for the PEN Center USA 2017?

To start, a brief Timeline that I'll add to as additional news articles are published. The timeline starts with the PEN Center USA's announcement that John Smelcer's book is a finalist for its award in the young adult category. Several other articles are in-process and will be added when they are published. Beneath the timeline is background, going back to 2008. 


TIMELINE


August 10, 2017

PEN Center USA announced finalists for its 2017 Literary Awards. John Smelcer's Stealing Indians is among the finalists in the young adult category. 

August 11, 11:18 AM, 2017

On social media, people began to talk about his nomination when Marlon James posted the following on Facebook:
If you were at the Wilkes MFA, when I was, then you know full well the living con job that is John Smelcer. This is the man who at our class reading invented a language, claiming that it was an ancient Native American tongue, and he was its last speaker. So a few days ago PEN Center USA (PEN America) nominated his novel "Stealing Indians" in the category of Young Adult. Let's leave the title for another day. This 2016 book has a blurb from Chinua Achebe. Achebe died in 2013. This is the motherfucking fuckery we keep talking about. Why does this alway happen? Why do these people keep making the same stupid mistakes? You werent conned, you were fucking lazy. Seriously, the quotes all over his site from dead people didn't tip you off? The shadiness of his name? You couldn't have done one stinking google search? Nothing? Nothing at all? How can you claim to listen to us, when you keep making the SAME MISTAKES all the time, like the one you made the last 15 times we spoke to you. If this isn't rescinded, I'm done with PEN. Consider my membership over. Real talk.
Kaylie Jones participated in that conversation (more on that below). 

August 11, 12:40 PM, 2017

At its Facebook page, PEN Center USA posted this announcement:
PEN Center USA has become aware of concerns expressed by some within the literary community regarding the nomination of John Smelcer's STEALING INDIANS for the 2017 PEN Center USA Literary Award for YA. Our staff takes these concerns seriously and is investigating them further to determine an appropriate path forward in accordance with our mission to both celebrate literary merit and defend free expression for all.

August 11, 6:25 PM, 2017

Laurie Hertzel of the Star Tribune, published a brief article about the developing story: Marlon James, others join growing backlash against writer claiming American Indian heritage.

August 13, 2:37 PM, 2017

Rosebud Magazine's twitter account posted "Marlon James is wrong. Ahtna is a real language and a real culture. John Smelcer speaks Ahtna, has papers. ANYONE can easily check this out"







Smelcer is an editor at Rosebud Magazine. In his post to Facebook, Marlon did not deny the existence of Ahtna as a language or a culture. His post (see it above) was with respect to Smelcer's claims that he was the last speaker of a language he was presenting at Wilkes. The screen capture below was posted to Smelcer's FB wall at 3:06 PM on August 13:





There was also a second post with a link to an Ahtna 101 video channel, run by "Johnny Savage." Both of those Facebook posts have since been deleted and replaced with this:







August 16, 2017
On her Facebook page, Kaylie Jones posted a statement she provided to PEN USA. It says, in part, 
The James Jones Fellowship submissions are read blind; the judges do not know the identities of the authors who submit. We learned from Smelcer's bio, once the announcement of his win was made, that he was a member of the Alaskan Ahtna Native American tribe. We were, of course, delighted to hear this.
It was not until 2005, when Smelcer was invited to give a reading and participate in the Wilkes University MFA Residency week, that our suspicions about his integrity were brought to the fore. He stated in his bio that he held a PhD from Oxford University. One of our faculty, herself a PhD who had access to an international database of all PhDs granted by universities worldwide, researched his claim and found that Smelcer did not hold a PhD from Oxford. He was immediately dismissed from the Wilkes faculty.
and
In 2015 the James Jones First Novel Fellowship committee voted unanimously to rescind his 2004 Award. We chose not to pursue legal action, as we simply do not possess the funds to do so.
This entire fiasco is a terrible stain on the reputation and integrity of the James Jones First Novel Fellowship, and regardless of the outcome of the PEN Awards controversy, I felt absolutely compelled to take a stand.

August 24, 2017
Writing for The Stranger (a weekly newspaper in Seattle), Rich Smith published Meet John Smelcer: Native American Literature's "Living Con Job." It is a deep dive into many of the claims Smelcer has made. Smith quotes from my posts about Smelcer. I was not interviewed for the article.

August 25, 2017
The Los Angeles Times published Writer's claims to native heritage are questioned after PEN Center USA names his book a finalist, written by Terese Mailhot.

August 29, 2017
On August 28, The Huffington Post published YA Author Accused of Lying About Credentials and his Native Heritage, by Claire Fallon.

Later that same day, Rich Smith at The Stranger wrote about PEN Center USA withdrawing Smelcer's book from consideration for its YA award: John Smelcer's Nomination for a PEN Award Gets Pulled, and More Details about His Past Emerge.

Here's a screen cap I made of PEN's announcement:



August 30, 2017
See Alison Flood article, John Smelcer dropped from YA award amid 'concerns' over integrity, published in The Guardian. 

On its Facebook page, Raven Chronicles writes:
"Raven Chronicles worked with Smelcer in early 90s as our poetry editor for a short time. There became questions about his self-described heritage. These questions and about his adoption still haunt him. The entire matter is sad even given all the awful rationalization posted on his website. In the literary world fakery is only applauded when in a bestseller. Now he is finally getting all the notoriety he has always hungered for."

September 13, 2017
On August 30, Erin Somers, writing for Publishers Marketplace, published "Pen Center USA Withdraws Smelcer's Stealing Indians Amidst Claims of Fraud." It concludes with a statement from LeapfrogPress (Leapfrog published Stealing Indians). I am including the statement below, for those who do not have access to Publishers Marketplace. 
"Leapfrog Press has had no communications from PEN regarding the withdrawal of this nomination, and has no information on the reason for the withdrawal, other than an emphatic statement from PEN that the author's heritage was not in question, and the equally emphatic statement that none of the writers making public accusations are speaking for PEN. Leapfrog has seen no evidence, and no writer or media outlet has been able to provide evidence, to support accusations being made on social and in print. Public charges made, such as that Leapfrog Press was created by this author for his own books, and that the Ahtna language is made-up 'gibberish,' can be debunked so quickly that they call into question all public statements from those individuals. Leapfrog Press does not condone any attack against any writer's ethnicity, or the mocking of Native American languages."

A note from AICL: At some point, Smelcer revised the homepage for his website. Prior to this, it had been a lengthy page of claims Smelcer made about famous people he worked with and edited, and book prizes he was nominated for. That page now consists of a single paragraph that includes none of the previous claims. Several other pages from his site are also gone, including the contact page that had "Johnny Savage" listed as his agent.




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And below, some background:

January 27, 2008

I posted a brief note about Smelcer's The Trap. Within a few hours I heard from several people that Smelcer is not Native. I had taken him at his word (that he is Native) and was taken aback to learn that his claims of being Ahtna were not accurate. (Since then, I've written about him several times at my site. I've tried to be as clear as possible but the sheer depth and breadth of Smelcer's claims are, indeed, a rabbit hole. I've spent many hours trying to verify what he says about his collaborations with other writers. Here, you'll find a list of the posts that are the product of that research. 

Feb 1, 2008

Roger Sutton, of Horn Book, posted White man speaks about Smelcer. On Oct 2, 2011, "Larry Vienneau" posted a comment, saying "If you are interested in the truth please visit ___ (the link no longer works). Vienneau is an illustrator who has illustrated for Smelcer's books. On October 11, 2011, "blackfeet 1954" submitted a comment about adoption rights. On October 16, 2011, "blackfeet1954" submitted another comment.  

October 17-18, 2008

I was an invited speaker at the "American Indian Identity in Higher Education" Conference held at Michigan State University. Upon arriving and talking with Native professors there, I asked if anyone knew Smelcer. I learned he was already well-known in Native writer networks as making questionable claims about his identity. Some of the talks were taped and are online. In the video of my talk, I recount that 2007 encounter with the book, my calls to the Ahtna tribal office, a phone call from his father, and Smelcer's emails to me. 

July 24, 2009

Diane Chen reviewed Smelcer's The Great Death. In her post, she recounts the background research she did on Smelcer. On October 17 at 1:03 AM and 1:11 PM, "blackfeet 1954" and "Edward Crowchild" submitted nearly identical comments. 




December 4, 2010

Amy Bowlan posted to her blog at School Library Journal, pointing her readers to the American Indian Identity paper I delivered in 2008. Comments submitted on October 7, 2011 by "Crowfeather" (I am fascinated by your ability to self promote, your seeming endless options, and your belief that you speaks for all native peoples and cultures.)and October 21, 2011 by "E. Crowchild" (Ms Reese likes to think she speaks for many natives, but she really speaks for herself.) sound very much like Smelcer's writings on his Ethnicity page at his website ("In no way does Debbie Reese represent or speak for all Native Americans. She’s not even a spokesperson for her own tribe.")

January 8, 2015

I received an email from Kaylie Jones, daughter of James Jones, for whom a literary award is named. Smelcer had won the James Jones award in 2004 for Trapped. In subsequent phone calls with her, I learned that she wanted to rescind the award and had taken steps to remove his name from the list of people who received the award. Note there is a winner for 2003 and one for 2005. 

Spring, 2016

Native colleagues began talking online about some of Smelcer's poems that were on the Kenyon Review's website. Soon after, the poems were removed. Here's a note from David Lynn, the editor:




June 18, 2016
Therese Mailhot, writing for Indian Country Today, published John Smelcer: Indian by Proxy.

July 24, 2016

AICL's review of Stealing Indians.

August 14, 2017
  • For some time now I have been periodically checking to see if Smelcer has removed or acknowledged errors he's made in "Setting the Record Straight" -- a document he maintains at his website. Towards the end of it, he says many things about me that are not true

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Note: Because of the nature of this discussion, AICL will not publish unsigned or anonymous comments.