Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Jodi Picoult and Native Mascots

My daughter and I read aloud to each other, something we've done since she was little (she's now a senior in high school). Last week we picked up Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper and started reading.

One of the characters in the novel is a lawyer named Campbell. On page 116, he says:

  • I'm remarkably calm, really, until the principal of Ponaganset High School starts to give me a telephone lecture on political correctness. "For God's sake," he sputters. "What kind of message does it send when a group of Native American students names their intramural basketball league "The Whiteys'?"
  • I imagine it sends the same message that you did when you picked the Chieftains as your school mascot."
  • "We've been the Ponaganset Chieftains since 1970," the principal argues.
  • "Yes, and they've been members of the Narragansett tribe since they were born."
  • "It's derogatory. And politically incorrect."

Reading that passage gave me pause.

Obviously Picoult knows something about mascot issues. I looked up her website, and on the Q&A page, there is a question about her research. She says she is meticulous about it, and mentioned that, for Vanishing Acts, she "went to the Hopi reservation to attend their private katsina dances." So now, I'm curious about that book, and have many questions about her trip to the Hopi reservation, and what/why/how she used what she learned in the book. The mascot material in My Sister's Keeper is fine, but the subject matter of Hopi dance.... I'm not sure. If anyone has read that book and is willing to share, please do!

[I was reading aloud to Liz while she worked on a pictorial beading project. A few weeks ago, the guest artist at UIUC's Native American House was Teri Greeves, whose beadwork is internationally acclaimed. If you want to see some of her work, go here. It is not what you'd expect when you hear "Native beadworker."]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've never read any of Ms. Picoult's books, but I read recently that one of her newest, called "Second Glance", deals with the Vermont Eugenics Project. i know it's not exactly children's literature, but I'd be interested to hear your take on it, especially how you think it compares to the treatment the subject received in "Darkness Under the Water".