Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Alexie and Gayle Ross on "Best of our Knowledge"
When Ten Little Indians came out in 2004, Alexie did an interview with Wisconsin's Public Radio program "To the Best of our Knowledge." Click here to listen to it. Ten Little Indians is a terrific collection of short stories.
The segment also includes an interview with Gayle Ross. She's a storyteller and writer. I really like her books. One is The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale, which she did with Joseph Bruchac. Illustrations for that book are by Virginia A. Stroud. The beauty and importance of this book begins with Stroud's "Illustrator's Note" and Bruchac and Ross's "The Origin of the Story," both of which precede the story. In these notes, readers learn how illustrators and writers can prepare their work in a way that conveys a fundamental respect for Native peoples, their histories, and their stories.
Equally important is the first page of the book. On the left is a full page illustration of a grandparent and two children. They aren't in some fake tipi... They're in a living room, much like yours, with a fireplace and a big comfy chair. This opening visually grounds the story and Native people in the present day. The first line is "This is what the old people told me when I was a child." None of that "many moons ago" or "in the days of the ancients" kind of prose that too many non-Native writers use!
Note, too, that it is tribally specific, right up front in the title. It says "A Cherokee Tale."
The closing page returns to the present day, with the grandparent and two children outside looking up at the stars of the Milky Way.
This book is far better than Rodanas's Dragonfly's Tale, or Pollock's Turkey Girl. If you recently bought one of them, take it right back to the store and get your money back. You were cheated. Ask, instead, for The Story of the Milky Way. This is one you can count on.
Posted by Debbie Reese at 10:48 AM