Friday, December 07, 2012


On December 4, 2012, The New York Times published "Books to Match Diverse Young Readers" about books that featured characters who are "black, Latino, Asian, American Indian or Alaska Native." Here's a screen capture of the article:

The first book on the second row is Louise Erdrich's Chickadee. If you click on it, you'll be able to read the first words of the book. On the third row, the last image is Cynthia Leitich Smith's Indian Shoes. I heartily recommend Chickadee and Indian Shoes and am glad to see them getting this attention in the Times. 

I am not familiar with The Year of Miss Agnes, but it was not favorably reviewed in A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children. In it, reviewer Marlene Atleo writes that Miss Agnes is an eccentric and dedicated white teacher of Indigenous children, but that throughout, the message is that "Native people merely survive" and that "white people think..." Atleo's review includes an excerpt:
With Miss Agnes the world got bigger and then it got smaller. We used to think we were something, but then she told us all the things that were bigger than us, the universe and all that, and then all the things that were smaller. To small to even see. So people were sort of in between, not big and small, just in between.
Reading that excerpt, I see the trope of the white teacher rescuing the Indians from their primitive and ignorant ways. It doesn't make one lick of sense to me, though, given that Native peoples view ourselves as part of the world. I'm guessing that Alaska Native children in isolated areas already know that people are "in between." Isn't it, generally speaking, non-Native people who are the ones that need to learn their place in the world as caretakers rather than exploiters of the earth's resources?

If you choose Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things, avoid the other Alvin book, Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties. It features Alvin playing Indian.
I'm uploading this post on December 7, 2012. For those of you looking for holiday gifts, put Chickadee and Indian Shoes on your lists. Both are available from Birchbark Books in their "young adult" link.

Buy books from Birchbark Books! Support independent bookstores!

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