Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Debbie Reese's Open Letter Regarding USBBY's 2017 "Indigenous Experience" Panel in Seattle

A few days ago, I was invited to join USBBY's page on Facebook. I accepted the invitation and saw posts there about its 2017 conference. Because it will take place in Seattle, I decided to take a look and see what they had planned.

I was--quite frankly--furious to see Nancy Bo Flood's name on the "Indigenous Experience in Children's Literature" panel. As regular readers of AICL know, I've been studying the ways Native peoples are depicted in children's literature for decades. In that time, I've come to know the work of many people who--like Flood--are not Native, but write books about Native peoples. Amongst that body of White writers, there are many instances in which the writer has done particularly egregious things.

Undermining Native identity and nations is one of those egregious violations.

That happens in Flood's book, Soldier Sister, Fly Home. When that book came out, I wrote two posts about it. One was about the Hopi content, the other was about the Navajo content.

The main character is Tess, a thirteen year old girl. Her father is white. A theme of the book is Tess trying to understand her mixed identity. Her Navajo grandmother has a key role in Tess's efforts to understand who she is.

As a child, this Navajo grandmother went to boarding school. U.S. government boarding schools (residential schools in Canada) were created in the 1880s by Richard Pratt. The goal was to 'kill the Indian and save the man.' Tess's grandmother didn't like what they did to her there, and so, she ran away.

She tells Tess about running away part way through Flood's story when Tess pulls a book of Emily Dickinson's poems off her grandmother's shelf and turns to a marked page. Her grandma asks her to read it aloud. Before she reaches the end, her grandmother joins her, reading the last stanza aloud together. She tells Tess that it is a good poem and says:
When I was in school, I thought, I am Navajo. I should not read that poem. It was written by a white woman. She could speak of death. We could not. But I read and reread that poem.
There are several ways to interpret that passage. The goal of the boarding schools was to "kill the Indian and save the man." I guess it worked on Tess's grandmother. She no longer observes Navajo teachings about speaking about death.

And now--as a grandmother--she's asking her granddaughter to read that poem aloud. Essentially, she's continuing the "kill the Indian" goal.

My guess is that most readers think that Tess's grandmother is really nice, kind, and helpful. But is she, really?

Is Flood -- the White writer who created that character -- a modern day Richard Pratt?

One of the other people on the Indigenous Experience panel is Margaret Pokiak-Fenton. With her daughter-in-law (who is White), she's written three stories from her childhood in boarding school. The stories are wrenching.

Do you see why having THIS particular White writer (Nancy Bo Flood) who created that kind of grandmother, sitting beside Margaret Pokiak-Fenton is just plain wrong?

***

I strongly urge Nancy Bo Flood to step down from the panel. This is not her place. I understand why she accepted the invitation but she should not have done so. In the conversation on the USBBY Facebook page, I asked for details as to why she is on the panel. Did they deliberately create a seat for a White writer was my specific question. Ed Sullivan, Chair of the planning committee, answered my question:
"The answer to that is no. I invited Nancy Bo Flood long after the other panelists were invited. She was already registered for the conference and presenting a breakout session on another topic, so I asked her if she would be willing to participate. Since cultural appropriation will be a topic of discussion for the panel, having someone who has been criticized for that can offer an interesting perspective to the conversation. When I invited Nancy, she stressed she was not Native American, and I am sure she will be quite clear about that on the panel when she speaks, too. I hope that answers your questions."
His answer prompted other questions. There is also a panel on Asian American Experience (both session titles use the singular "experience" which is also an error). It has one moderator and three Asian American writers. Why, I wonder, did Sullivan decide that the Indigenous panel needed a fourth person--a White writer--on it?

This is one of many similar confrontational conversations I've had with people in children's literature. Dominated by White people, they work pretty hard at defending the right to write whatever anyone wants to write. In the abstract, I support that concept, but on the ground, things are very different.

Our lived realities as Native people today, and those of our parents, grandparents, and ancestors, is one where White people were intent on taking and destroying our land, our lives, our languages, our ways of worship, and... our stories. The initial invasion has been followed by wave after wave of invasion.

With this panel, USBBY is continuing that invasion.

_____
See Naomi Bishop's Open Letter Regarding the "Indigenous Experience" Panel at USBBY's 2017 Regional Conference. 

 

Naomi Bishop's Open Letter Regarding the "Indigenous Experience" Panel at USBBY's 2017 Regional Conference

Eds. note: For context on this post, see the extensive conversation on USBBY's Facebook page

_________

The United States Board on Books for Young People's (USBBY) 2017 Children’s Literature Conference is happening this October in Seattle at my alma matter, the University of Washington. It is a prestigious event, but I am not happy. 

One of the general sessions (that everyone attends) is titled: The Indigenous Experience in Children’s Books. The presenters on this panel include four Canadians (Lisa Charleyboy, Christy Jordan-Fenton, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, Sarah Ellis -moderator) and one American, Nancy Bo Flood. In an email to me, the USBBY President stated that Nancy Bo Flood is not Native. 
“Nancy Bo Flood is the fourth speaker. She has written a number of children’s books several of which have Native American themes.  She is not Native American.”  

The problem with Nancy Bo Flood is not just that she is non-native, but that she appropriates Navajo culture. She states that she lived on the Navajo reservation, taught college students there, and writes books about Navajo’s, but she is not Navajo. It is disappointing to see Nancy on this panel because there are so many wonderful Native American authors and illustrators publishing awesome books here in the US. I am pleased to see First Nations writers on the panel, but wonder why the organizers did not select any writers from U.S. Tribal Nations?

US Native American children’s authors deserve to be on a panel for speaking about the Indigenous Experience in Children’s Literature!

Here are some names that should have been considered for the panel at USBBY: Joseph Marshall III, Tim Tingle, Evangeline Parsons Yazzie, Joseph Bruchac, Eric Gansworth, Anton Treuer, Louis Erdrich, Jonathan Nelson, John Herrington, Arigon Starr.

When will the publishing community reach out to the American Indian Library Association (AILA) for Indigenous Children’s Literature? AILA has advocated for Native Children’s literature for decades.

When will the library community and organizers of conferences on youth literature listen to Native voices and let our stories be heard?

Our libraries, schools, and communities deserve to have stories from Indigenous authors on bookshelves and in classrooms all across the United States and the world. We are still here and are still telling our stories through picture books, easy readers, young adult books, graphic novels, oral histories, songs, art, film, theater, dance, and other mediums. There is no excuse for the USBBY conference planning committee to not listen to our stories and voices. Native authors, illustrators, and publishers are here in the US providing opportunities for everyone to learn, read, and enjoy. 

If you are looking for authors to invite to your conference, library, or event take a look at those authors listed above. These writers are some of my favorite authors and deserve to be acknowledged for their amazing books!

Naomi Bishop, MLIS
Akimel O’odham, Member of the Gila River Indian Community

 


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Recommended: LOLA LEVINE AND THE VACATION DREAM by Monica Brown; GHOSTS IN THE CASTLE by Zetta Elliott

Yesterday (July 21, 2017), I did some work with teachers on evaluating materials about Native peoples. In the Q&A, someone asked if there were some topics that ought not be given to young children. In the years since I've been studying children's books, that has often been a heated discussion. Some people argue that certain topics are "too hard" for children. There's an effort to "protect" them from "harsh" realities of the world.

Who, though, is being protected?

Today's post is about two books--both of which have characters who speak the truths of history to the children in the books. First up is Monica Brown's Lola Levine and the Vacation Dream. 

I read Monica Brown's Lola Levine and the Vacation Dream this morning.



Lola Levine and the Vacation Dream is the 5th book in her very popular Lola Levine series of chapter books (see her post at Latinx in Kid Lit for some background on why she created this series featuring mixed race characters).

In Brown's story, Lola, her brother, and their parents are going to Lima, Peru, where her Tía Lola lives, and where that aunt and Lola's mom grew up.



Lola's little brother is in kindergarten. Lola is in second grade. Their age is one reason I began this post with the question about appropriate content for children. Their aunt doesn't hesitate to talk with them about their Indigenous ancestry and that history in the matter-of-fact way that happens in many Native families.



See that (p. 68)?:
"But around five hundred years ago, Europeans from Spain came and wanted to conquer the indigenous peoples and take their gold and use their land."
"That's not nice!" says Ben. 
"No, it isn't," says Tía Lola. "But even though many died, and the Spanish destroyed this temple and stole the gold, Indigenous people are strong, and we found ways to survive. We're still here. Some are like us and have a mix of Spanish and indigenous backgrounds. But not all are mixed. There are many indigenous groups in Peru who speak their native languages and maintain their traditions."
That page and ones like it in Lola Levine and the Vacation Dream make this book a stand-out. It is definitely going onto my Best Books list.

Lola's aunt is awesome! She reminded me of Aunt Jocelyn--or, Aunt Joss, as Zaria (the main character) calls her--in Zetta Elliott's The Ghosts in the Castle. 



The Ghosts in the Castle is also an all-too-rare series that features Native or children of color. Here's one page from Elliott's book that I am taken with:



At that point in the story, Aunt Joss, her son, and Zaria are in a museum. Aunt Joss hears a father tell his son that the diamonds in that display were from a country that Britain owned, and that they were a gift. Aunt Joss tells the boy:
"If I invite you into my house, you are a guest. Right?"
The boy nods and Aunt Joss continues. "If I don't invite you into my house--if you break into my house--what does that make you?"
"A burglar!" cries the boy, proud to know the right answer. 
The boys father takes him away before Aunt Joss can start talking about empire, invasion, stolen artifacts and words like "savages."

See what I mean? Through these two aunts, Brown and Elliott are telling truths that empower children who too often see their heritage denigrated or misrepresented. Click over to Cynsations and read an interview, there, of Elliott.

And then either buy these two books, or get them from your local library. And if they're not on that library shelf, speak up--like Tía Lola and Aunt Joss! And tell others about these books, too. They're terrific!

Lola Levine and the Vacation Dream is a 2017 book from Little, Brown; The Ghosts in the Castle is a 2017 book from Rosetta Press.





Recommended: YOU HOLD ME UP by Monique Gray Smith

Due out in October of 2017 is Monique Gray Smith's You Hold Me Up. Published by Orca, it is a picture book about ways that people can hold each other, and hold each other up, by helping each other, or playing together, or singing, or cooking. 

Smith's text is heartwarming! And the illustrations, by Danielle Daniel's, reflect Native people in the present day. 



Like My Heart Fills With Happiness, this new book by Smith is one that parents, grandparents, pre-school and elementary teachers, and librarians, will want to have on their shelves, but I encourage everyone to read Smith's note in back and -- if you don't already know about it -- learn all you can about residential schools in Canada, and boarding schools in the United States.



Friday, July 21, 2017

Not recommended: TWISTED TRUE TALES FROM SCIENCE: MEDICAL MAYHEM

This morning, I read Elisa Gall's review of Medical Mayhem, a book in the "Twisted True Tales from Science" series published by Prufrock. She shared these two images:







At 5:06 AM on July 21, 2017, I used twitter to thank Elisa for that review. I tagged the publisher.





At 10:14 AM, Prufrock replied, saying
"We should never have allowed these images in a book by Prufrock Press. We are deeply sorry."



At 10:16 AM, Profrock said
"This is inexcusable. We are in the process of destroying that inventory and replacing it with a corrected edition."


I assume they know that it is not just the images, created by Eliza Bolli, that are a problem. The text, by Stephanie Bearce, also needs attention.

The editor, Lucy Compton, did not see the problems in text or illustration. Neither did any of the "experts" who reviewed it at the Prufrock page for the book. Elaine Wiener, a gifted education communicator, missed it. So did Terri Schlichenmeyer, of New York Parenting, and Lori Cirucci of NSTA Recommends (NSTA is the National Science Teachers Association), and Paula Young of Science-Nook, and Muhammed Hassanali of the Seattle Book Review. If you go over to the Goodreads page for the book, you'll see lot of praise there, too.

Prufrock is an educational publisher. Looking at their products, I see page after page of materials for teachers. There's other children's books, too. There's one on the Wild West and one on the Civil War. What, I wonder, lurks in those two books--and the professional materials, too?

I'm glad that Profrock is going to destroy this inventory and replace it. For that--this post about the book and their response is going on to the Revisions to Racism page here on AICL.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

First look at PURITAN GIRL, MOHAWK GIRL by John Demos

John Demos has a book coming out in October of 2017 from Amulet Books (an imprint of Abrams). Some of you who read history books may recognize his name because of his book, Entertaining Satan, or because of his Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America. Demos is a history professor at Yale, but I don't know if he's teaching there or not on a regular basis.

In doing the background work for my review of his Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl, I see that he did another book for young readers, back in 1995. That one is The Tried and the True: Native American Women Confronting Colonization. I'll see if I can find a copy of it.

The story Demos tells in this book is about Eunice Williams. Its audience is children who are 8 to 12 years old. Here's the description at Amazon:

In this riveting historical fiction narrative, National Book Award Finalist John Demos shares the story of a young Puritan girl and her life-changing experience with the Mohawk people.
Inspired by Demos’s award-winning novel The Unredeemed CaptivePuritan Girl, Mohawk Girl will captivate a young audience, providing a Native American perspective rather than the Western one typically taught in the classroom.
As the armed conflicts between the English colonies in North America and the French settlements raged in the 1700s, a young Puritan girl, Eunice Williams, is kidnapped by Mohawk people and taken to Canada. She is adopted into a new family, a new culture, and a new set of traditions that will define her life. As Eunice spends her days learning the Mohawk language and the roles of women and girls in the community, she gains a deeper understanding of her Mohawk family.  Although her father and brother try to persuade Eunice to return to Massachusetts, she ultimately chooses to remain with her Mohawk family and settlement. 
Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl offers a compelling and rich lesson that is sure to enchant young readers and those who want to deepen their understanding of Native American history.

Eunice Williams was a real person, born in September of 1696. As a child, she was captured in a raid. The story Demos tells in Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl is described (on the back cover of the ARC) as a historical novel inspired by The Unredeemed Captive. His Unredeemed Captive is cataloged as biography.

Todays "First Look" is the first in a series of blog posts I'll do on Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl.

The Cover 

The words "PURITAN GIRL" are in black font. They're easy to see. The words "MOHAWK GIRL" are in a tan font. They're harder to read. I don't know what the cover designer was going for with the two different colors but I find the tan one less prominent. Visually, that makes Puritan more visible than Mohawk.

Look, too, at the 'R' in the first use of Girl and the R in the second use. See the difference? This reflects a design element in which font style is used to signal "other." You may have seen this on some book covers--where the shape and design of letters are used to visually signal "other." The R in the Puritan girl is what most would recognize as the way R's look, but the R in the Mohawk girl is angular. Visually, this different treatment of the R signals difference in how we're to think of these two peoples. Some would see the difference as good; others would not.

What are your thoughts on these visual ways of setting Puritan apart from Mohawk?



Preface

The first line in the preface is
When Christopher Columbus and other explorers got to America from Europe, they found millions of people already living there. 
Right off the bat, I see problems there.

First,"explorers" is the default word for Columbus and other "explorers." That idea--of exploration--is generally seen as a good, or, something positive. The word 'explore' means to investigate, study, analyze, become familiar with.  The word "explorer" means one who explores. But, I think we all know there is more to Columbus's voyage than "explore." He was looking for something that would make him, those who sponsored his voyages, and others, too, wealthy (and wealthier).

Second, Demos used "America" to describe a place that wasn't--at that time--called America. The millions of people who were living there when Columbus arrived had their own words for it. The word "America" -- according to the Oxford dictionary -- dates back to the early 16th century and is believed to be a derivation of the name of Amerigo Vespucci, who sailed along the west coast of South Africa in 1501.

In the 2nd paragraph, Demos writes
They saw America as a "new world." They settled on the land and claimed it for themselves. They started farms, villages, and towns. They organized "colonies" that belonged to their home countries in Europe. They didn't ask permission from the Indians; they just went ahead with their plans. They viewed Indians as inferior to themselves--as "savages" living in a primitive way. 
Demos is following a well-trod way of depicting this "new world." By that, I mean he fails to note that Native peoples had farms, villages, and towns before Europeans got here. In the next paragraph he says that the two groups had certain advantages over the other, which is accurate, but what he says pretty much affirms the "primitive" and inaccurate imagery so many people have. More about that, later.

I'm also curious about using the idea of "asking for permission" to characterize what happened. It doesn't work, right? Let's bring it to something of the present day. Say you have some acreage that someone thinks you're not using. Let's say someone from Spain comes over, sees it, and thinks they'll build something there. They knock on your door and say "with your permission, I'd like to build my house on that spot over there." See why the idea of "permission" doesn't work?

I gotta dash off for now to do some other work. I welcome your comments on what I've said so far about this book.

Debbie--have you seen BLACK SHEEP WHITE CROW by Jim Kristofic?

A reader writes to ask if I've seen Jim Kristofic's Black Sheep, White Crow.

Published in 2017 by the University of New Mexico Press, I'm hoping that anyone who buys it will read the preface carefully and then set it aside. By that, I mean--I hope they choose not use it with kids, as-is.

Here's why. In the preface, Kristofic writes:
Some stories were told to me while I was growing up on the Rez. Some stories are blends of my own imagination with the traditional ideas of the Animal People and the lessons they can teach.



That passage in the preface prompts several questions. For starters...

Did Kristofic have permission from the tellers to publish the stories told to him? If yes, how did he get that permission? Did he use the tired and exploitative "if we don't do this, the stories will be lost forever" approach?

Does Kristofic realize that--in blending his imagination with those stories--he is, in effect, assuming that he has the right to tinker with the religious stories of another peoples' traditions? Of course, that's been done a lot, so he may think it is fine. I do not, and neither do a lot of Native people. Too many writers think they can just add, willy nilly, to our creation stories. That they can come up with their own stories, based on ours. That's disrespectful to us. Maybe Kristofic would do that cherry picking sort of thing to the Bible, too, but would he then label the stories as "Bible Stories"? I think not. They wouldn't be Bible stories. They'd be his fictions.

Because of the preface alone, I'm tagging Kristoff's book with a not-recommended. I know I'll catch heck from some people for saying "not recommended" before I've "read the whole book" but that's ok. I stand on what I said.

When someone who is not of the people a book purports to be about, the act of rewriting and adding to that peoples stories and then labeling them as stories of those people, is not ok. It is, in my view, misleading to the reader and disrespectful to the people who shares stories with the writer.

In summary: I do not recommend Jim Kristofic's Black Sheep, White Crow. 

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Debbie--have you seen THE QUEST FOR Z: THE TRUE STORY OF EXPLORER PERCY FAWCETT AND A LOST CITY IN THE AMAZON by Greg Pizzoli?

A teacher wrote to ask if I've seen The Quest for Z: The True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon by Greg Pizzoli. Out in June of 2017 from Viking Books for Young Readers, it is getting starred reviews. Here's the description:

British explorer Percy Fawcett believed that hidden deep within the Amazon rainforest was an ancient city, lost for the ages. Most people didn’t even believe this city existed. But if Fawcett could find it, he would be rich and famous forever. This is the true story of one man’s thrilling, dangerous journey into the jungle, and what he found on his quest for the lost city of Z.

Rich and famous. Explorer. British. Why the starred reviews for another in a long line of stories that celebrates exploitation, colonization, and, well, capitalism?!

Page one (and the title, too) tell us that this story is about the Amazon rainforest:
Less than one hundred years ago, maps of the world still included large "blank spots": distant and dangerous lands that mapmakers and scientists had not yet explored.
Critical readers will ask--right away--about the point of view of this story. That land was not "distant and dangerous" to the people that lived there. And it was not unexplored by them, either. Here's one possible rewrite of that sentence:

Less than one hundred years ago, British maps of the world still included large "blank spots": distant and dangerous lands that British mapmakers and British scientists had not yet explored. 

Here's another:
Less than one hundred years ago, British mapmakers and scientists, imagining themselves superior to all other peoples of the world, called the homelands of those peoples "distant and dangerous" and could not imagine that those peoples also had mapmakers and scientists. Those British people were racist. 

It is frustrating to see books like this one... Do you have a copy? How might you re-write it? Might you do a re-write of it--with kids? It would be an excellent exercise in point of view, racism, and the ongoing refusal to decenter Whiteness.

I may be back, later, with more to say...

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

A Native Perspective on the Upcoming Total Solar Eclipse


Eds. note: American Indians in Children's Literature is pleased to share this open letter about the upcoming total solar eclipseWritten by Naomi Bishop (Gila River Indian Community), currently serving as President of the American Indian Library Association, we think teachers and librarians -- and parents, too -- will find it useful. 


____________________

July 5, 2017

Dear librarians and teachers, 

Eclipse viewing glasses and library programs are big in social media and libraries right now. It is a great opportunity to share STEM programs with the public. However, some cultures view an eclipse differently. While I can’t speak for all cultures impacted, I can speak for some Native American communities. In Navajo culture the shadow that is made by the sun is very important and viewing the eclipse is not encouraged. Many Native American families visit our libraries, attend our programs, read our books and view us as part of their community. 

If you decide to host an eclipse program, please be aware that some families might not be receptive. If a family does not want to participate, respect their choice. Please avoid placing children in a position where they need to explain their beliefs or identify themselves as Native American. Give them a safe way to back out, or to decline participation. 

If you would like to learn more about Navajo Astronomy there is a great book you can order for your library called Sharing the Skies : Navajo Astronomy by Nacy Maryboy and David Begay. 

Sharing the Skies : Navajo Astronomy.
Author: Nancy C Maryboy; David Begay; Indigenous Education Institute.; World Hope Foundation. Publisher: Tucson, Ariz. : Rio Nuevo Publishers, ©2010.

Sharing the Skies: Navajo Astronomy was published by a Navajo scholar and educator. David Begay is one of the founders of the Indigenous Education Institute. He lives on the Navajo Nation and works with UC Berkeley, Space Science Labs in the areas of Western and Indigenous science with support from NASA and the National Science Foundation. Nacy Maryboy is a Cherokee/ Navajo scholar and focuses on Indigenous science and astronomy. She is President and Executive Director of the Indigenous Education Institute. This book was published as a resource for teachers and families. It is a beautiful book and an excellent collection to any library.  The authors note in the beginning of the book has this important cultural information: 
"Although this book is available year round we encourage teachers to be sensitive to the cultural protocol and use this book primarily during the winter months." 

Here are some more resources for teachers and librarians focused on Indigenous STEM programs. 

Indigenous Education Tools - University of Washington

Implementing Meaningful STEM Education with Indigenous Students & Families

Teaching STEM In Ways that Respect and Build Upon Indigenous Peoples' Rights

Indigenous Education Institute

The American Indian Science and Engineering Society 

Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science


I hope this information is helpful and encourages more learning and discussions among educators and librarians. Feel free to contact me with any questions. 

Sincerely,

Naomi Bishop, MLIS 
Member of the Gila River Indian Community 
AILA President 2017-2018
Northern Arizona University Cline Library 
Teaching, Research, and Learning Services
Science and Engineering Librarian 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Debbie, have you seen JUAN PABLO AND THE BUTTERFLIES by JJ Flowers?

Today, a reader asked me about Juan Pablo and the Butterflies, by JJ Flowers. Out this year (2017) from Simon and Schuster, today's question rings a bell. I think someone asked about it before. Anyway--here's the description:

After facing a vicious drug cartel in Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly sanctuary, Juan Pablo and his best friend Rocio risk everything and try to escape the cartel’s henchmen—determined to pursue them at all costs—by following the butterflies’ migration all the way to California.

I did a quick look-inside and see three passages with the word "Indian" in them. Here is the first one:


The text is this: "Following his abuela's suggestion, he and Rocio had built an Indian tepee in the forest just beyond the meadow." This tepee is a secret. There, Juan Pablo and Rocio play imaginary games... like Indians. Rocio plays "the chief" and Juan Pablo plays "the brave. Like many of you, I'm wondering if kids in Mexico play Indian in the way that kids in the US do.

In the second passage, Juan Pablo and Rocio are on "an old Indian path." He thinks that Indians lived there after the Aztecs and before the Spaniards. I wonder who he's thinking the "Indians" were, exactly? There's a lot of Native nations in California... still there... not gone...

There's one more passage... about an "old Indian" prediction about spider webs.

If I get a copy of the book, I'll be back with a review. If you've got it and want to say a bit about it, please submit a comment.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Max of WHERE THE WILD THINGS--as a Native kid

People in children's literature are familiar with Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. I read it to kids many times.

I'll never read it the same way again, though, thanks to Steven Paul Judd's imagining of Max as a Native kid!



The t-shirt is available today at 11:00 Central Time (6/24/17) in limited quantities from The NTVS.

Oh! I learned about the shirt this morning, from Rebecca Roanhorse. She's got a book in the works! Its title is Trail of Lightning. It'll be out in 2018 from Simon & Schuster's Saga imprint.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Debbie--have you seen BLOWBACK '07 by Brian Meehl?

A reader writes to ask if I've seen Blowback '07 by Brian Meehl. I haven't but will look for it. Here's the description:

Clashing teenage twins Arky and Iris have one thing in common: an ancient musical instrument left to them by their mother. When Iris plays the strangely curved woodwind, the trouble begins; Arky's friend, Matt, the school's star quarterback, disappears.

Transported to 1907 and the Carlisle Indian School, Matt is forced to play football for Coach Pop Warner as the Carlisle ''Redmen'' revolutionize Ivy League football. Matt's struggle to ''play his way home'' is complicated when he falls in love with an Indian girl.

Meanwhile, Arky and Iris discover a cache of secrets that might bring Matt back, and lead to the ultimate rescue: their mother, trapped in the past.

Blowback '07 launches a century-spanning trilogy to be continued in Blowback '63 and Blowback '94. Books two and three propel Arky and Iris to the illuminating past, and transform them in ways they never imagined. After all, as their mother once cautioned, ''Every road to the future winds through the past.''

Published in 2016 by Mill City Press, I'm wary of Meehl's book--not because of the publisher, but because of the content. Any stories that delve into the boarding schools Native children were forced to go to must be done with extraordinary care and research, lest they come out like Ann Rinaldi's disastrous My Heart Is On the Ground.

Why, I wonder, did Meehl select Carlisle as the place his character would go?

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

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Highly Recommended: Cherie Dimaline's THE MARROW THIEVES

I first came to know Cherie Dimaline's writing last year, when I read "Legends are Made, Not Born" in Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An LGBT and Two-Spirit Sci Fi Anthology. The character she writes about in that story is named Auntie Dave. 

I wrote, then, that I had to "just be" with Auntie Dave and that story for awhile. There's a quality in Dimaline's writing that reached from the page, into my being. 

That's the case, too, with The Marrow Thieves. I paused again and again as I met and came to know 16 year-old French, and then the people who would become his family: Miig, Wab, Zheegwon, Tree, RiRi, Minerva, Chi-Boy, and Slopper. 

Later, French will meet and fall in love with Rose. On page 32, there's a line about her that squeezes my heart. "We had a future and a past all bundled up in her round dark cheeks and loose curls." 

French (sometimes called Frenchie; his given name is Francis) and the rest are on the run, running away from "the Recruiters." Here, I'll share the description from the back cover:
Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The Indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. 
In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden.... but what they don't know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves. 
The hunters in Dimaline's story are "the Recruiters." They're the ones French and all the others are hiding from, running from. The Marrow Thieves begins when French is 11, being chased by those Recruiters who want to take Indigenous people to schools to take their marrow. That's a specific reference to the residential schools of the past, where so much was taken from Native children. It is one of many points in The Marrow Thieves where--painfully or with exquisite beauty--Dimaline's story resonates with me. It will resonate with other Native readers, too, especially those who are Anishinabe. Several tribal nations are mentioned in here, too.

One moment that made my heart swell is when the group has come to an abandoned hotel. After months of sleeping on the ground in tents, they cautiously enter the hotel, and then later, enthusiastically say good night, each in their own rooms, on beds. For the first time, French and Rose are curled up together. They're startled when they hear little Ri say "French, can I sleep with you guys?" and then a minute or two later, Slopper (he and Ri are the two children in the group) appears and says "Move over, French. I can't sleep." They drift off to sleep. That's how it is.

There's a passage in The Marrow Thieves that, for me, embodies what matters for any society. French thinks about how, when a people don't have their youngest and their oldest, they are without deep roots, and without an acute need to protect and make things better.

That's a key piece of why this story is one I'm carrying. It is about caring, about love, about how people can continue, and will continue.

There's so much more to say. About... song. About Miggs and Isaac, about Ri, about Minerva, about French.  But I'll stop and let you be with these achingly dear characters.

I highly recommend The Marrow Thieves. I ordered my copy from Canada. Published by Dancing Cat Books (an imprint of Cormorant Books), it isn't available in the US till later this year.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Doris Seale, 1936-2017

Back in the early 1990s when I started graduate school, I learned of the work of a Santee, Cree, Abenaki woman named Doris Seale. I read her writings about the ways that Native people are depicted in children's books. Those words were fierce. I learned a lot from her. She also wrote two books of poetry: Blood Salt, and Ghost Dance. 

In 2001, she won the American Library Association's Equality Award for the work she'd been doing, for over 40 years. That year, ALA's meeting was held at a Marriott Hotel in San Francisco that was in a labor dispute with its workers. Rather than cross a picket line to accept her award, Doris Seale joined that picket line.

Source: http://libr.org/juice/pics/4.23/Marriott.html 

Doris started her work as a librarian a year before I was born, in the children's department of the Brookline Public Library, in Brookline Massachusetts. She passed away this year. That marks 60 years, or so, of her words, doing work, for children.

She founded Oyate, too.

In her honor, I'm going to start compiling a bibliography of her writings. It will be on this page. At this point in time, people in the fields of education and library science point to me as an important voice in understanding the ways that Native peoples are depicted in children's books. I learned a lot of what I know from Doris Seale. I invite you to read her work. Cite it, and share it. And let me know of ones I've missed, too.

***

Doris Seale's Writings about Native Peoples in Children's Literature

Seale, D. (1981). Bibliographies about Native Americans—A mixed blessing. Interracial Books for Children Bulletin12, 11-15.

Seale, D. (1984). Indians without Hope, Indians without Options--The Problematic Theme of Hatter FoxInterracial Books for Children Bulletin15(3), 7.

Slapin, B., & Seale, D. (1988). Books without bias: Through Indian eyes. Oyate.

Seale, D. (1991) 1492-1992 from an American Indian Perspective. In Lindgren, M. V. The Multicolored Mirror: Cultural Substance in Literature for Children and Young Adults. Highsmith Press, W5527 Highway 106, PO Box 800, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538-0800..

Seale, D. (1992). Let us put our minds together and see what life we will make for our children. Slapin and Seale, Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children, 7-12.

Slapin, B., & Seale, D. (1992). Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children. New Society Publishers, 4527 Springfield Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19143.

Slapin, B., Seale, D., & Gonzales, R. (1996). How to tell the difference: A guide to evaluating children's books for anti-Indian bias. Berkeley, Calif.: Oyate.

Seale, D. (2001). Parting Words: The Works of Paul Goble. Multicultural Review10(1), 120-120.

Slapin, B., & Seale, D. (2001). Presenting the Wounded Knee Massacre in Books for Children: A Review Essay on Neil Waldman's Wounded KneeMultiCultural Review10(4), 54-56.

Seale, D., & Slapin, B. (2006). A broken flute: The Native experience in books for children. Rowman Altamira.

Seale, D. (2007). Navajo: Visions and Voices Across the Mesa. Review at American Indians in Children's Literature

Dow, J., & Seale, D. (2009). Tomie de Paola's The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush. Review at American Indians in Children's Literature _________

See: 
Doris Seale: In Memorium at Dawnland Voices
Doris Marion Seale (obituary at The Boston Globe)



Sunday, June 04, 2017

About DANNY AND THE DINOSAUR

Last month, Harper Collins celebrated the 60th anniversary of its I Can Read books. I wondered if they would remove this page from the new edition of Danny and the Dinosaur, by Syd Hoff. The book was first published in 1958.




I went to the Harper Collins website and saw that they've got worksheets up for some of the I Can Read books. They had some for Danny and the Dinosaur, including this one, which told me that they clearly had not revisited that page. I did a screen capture of it, added the red arrow, and tweeted to Harper Collins, asking them about that page.



They wrote back to me that same day (May 9, 2017), saying:

"We appreciate your valuable feedback and sincerely apologize that this activity was offensive. It has been removed from the site."

It is, indeed, gone, and when I pressed them about the page in the actual book, I got a DM (direct message) that said "We are reviewing the book and will be in touch in the future." I thanked them. When they get in touch, I'll be back with an update. Let's hope they're getting rid of that page.

Some thoughts on Chelsea Clinton's SHE PERSISTED

Chelsea Clinton's picture book, She Persisted, was released on May 30, 2017. Parents and teachers will buy it. So will activists. Published by Philomel Books (an imprint of Penguin), it is already marked as a best seller at Amazon.

The title, as many AICL readers will likely know, is based on Mitch McConnell's remark about Elizabeth Warren, who persisted in trying to read Coretta Scott King's words on the Senate floor in February of 2017. Some of you may recall that I've written about Warren before, when she persisted in making a claim to Cherokee identity. That persistence showed a lot of willful ignorance. I don't want to get sidetracked, though, in this post that focuses on one page in Clinton's She Persisted. 

I like the concept: a picture book about women who push back on those who want them to be quiet, to sit down, to go away... that's a great idea. But the execution--with respect to the page about Maria Tallchief--fails to push back on the ways that most people think about Native peoples.

Here's a screen capture of the text about Maria Tallchief. It says:

"After MARIA TALLCHIEF's family moved to California, partly to support Maria's dreams of becoming a dancer, she was teased by students in school for her Native American heritage and later was encouraged to change her last name to something that sounded Russian (since many professional dancers at the time were from Russia). She persisted, ignoring all the taunting and poor advice, to become to first great American prima ballerina."



At first glance, that info about her sounds great, doesn't it? It is based in fact. An Entertainment Weekly interview points to the autobiography Clinton read (Maria Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina). Here's that part from Tallchief's book. This took place in 1933:
Some of the students made fun of my last name, pretending they didn’t understand if it was Tall or Chief. A few made war whoops whenever they saw me, and asked why I didn’t wear feathers or if my father took scalps.
When you hear "Native American" or "American Indian," what image comes to mind? For a lot of people, it will be a large feathered headdress, some war whoops, a tomahawk, a tipi, and maybe a herd of buffalo. In other words, the same things that Tallchief had to deal with in 1933.

It is way cool that Clinton is showing us a Native person as a ballerina. That image counters the other imagery that comes to mind, but calling her a Native American leaves the generic or monolithic "Native American" term itself, intact.

In other words--I wish Clinton had written in there, somewhere in those 60 words, that Maria Tallchief was Osage. It is a missed opportunity for Osage kids to see the name of their nation, in print, in a picture book that millions of children are going to read.

That bit about her name is interesting, all on its own.

Clinton tells us the ballet company wanted Tallchief to change her last name to something so that it sounded Russian. In her autobiography, Tallchief wrote that they wanted her to add an 'a' to Tallchief and swap that 'f' for a 'v' so it would be "Tallchieva." Sheesh! She didn't want to do that, but did agree to use "Maria" rather than her given name, Betty Marie. 

If I was teaching She Persisted, I'd substitute "Osage" for "Native American." And of course, I'd talk about the Osage Nation. I've not studied how Clinton writes about the other women in the book. If you have, let me know in the comments.

Book cited:
Tallchief, Maria. Maria Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina. Henry Holt and Co.