Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Video interview: Joseph Bruchac

Scholastic has a video interview of Joseph Bruchac. He's written some excellent books. Among those I hold in great regard is Hidden Roots.

In the video, he is asked what book he'd like to see made into a movie. His answer? Skeleton Man. I really like that book. When I got it, I read it aloud to my daughter. We were engrossed with it, stayed with it till we finished. It is terrific. It would make a great movie!

Bruchac is very important to the work that I do. Some years back, I wrote a chapter called "Native Americans in Children's Books of the Twentieth Century." It was published in Linda Pavonetti's book, Children's Literature Remembered: Issues, Trends, & Favorite Books. I opened that chapter with this paragraph:

If asked to name a Native American (or American Indian) author of children’s books, Joseph Bruchac, of the Abenaki tribe, is likely to be at the top of the list. Readers should note Bruchac’s tribe (Abenaki); Native Americans prefer to be identified by a specific tribe rather than Native American or American Indian when possible. Bruchac has written numerous children’s books about Native Americans. His work spans several genres: The Story of the Milky Way (Dial, 1995) is traditional literature, The Heart of a Chief (Dial, 1998) is contemporary realistic fiction, Arrow Over the Door (Dial, 1998) is historical fiction, Crazy Horse’s Vision (Lee & Low, 2000) is biography, and Bowman’s Store (Lee & Low, 2000) is his autobiography. What is not well known in the field of children’s literature is Bruchac’s role in mentoring aspiring Native authors. Indeed, he is recognized as the single most important force in the nation in publishing and promoting the work of emerging Native American writers (Lerner, 1996). Bruchac was instrumental in establishing the Returning the Gift festival in 1992. Held in Norman, Oklahoma, it was conceived as a gathering at which Native authors could share their work and talk with and/or mentor aspiring Native American authors. It evolved into an annual Returning the Gift festival and the formation of several organizations whose goals are to publish the work of Native authors and provide beginning authors with mentors. Native American authors who serve as mentors include Leslie Marmon Silko (Laguna Pueblo) whose Ceremony is widely used in high school classrooms, and Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d’Alene). Also serving as a mentor is Gayle Ross (Cherokee), known for her picture book retellings of traditional literature and oral storytelling, and of course, Bruchac himself. In addition to the festival, Bruchac established the Greenfield Review Press, a small publishing house devoted to publication of Native authors. Without question, Bruchac has been significant, not only for his own writing, but also for his efforts to mentor and promote the work of other Native authors.

His books are in most libraries, and that is a good thing for all readers. There is a book, based on the gathering, called Returning the Gift: Poetry and Prose from the First North American Native Writers' Festival. In March, Michigan State University will host the next Returning the Gift Native Writers Conference. Click here for info.

And, click here to see the video interview of Joseph Bruchac.

Update: Jan 2, 2008, 3:45 PM---Eliza Dresang did an interview with Bruchac, archived on the CCBC site. To read it, click here.

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

Hi Debbie,
Your readers might be interested to know that Joseph Bruchac gave a portion of his archive (including records related to the Greenfield Review Press) as well as his library of 300+ poetry volumes-- many with his personal inscription, and by Native writers-- to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library a few years ago. There's a post about the acquistion of Bruchac's poetry library here, and more information can be found by looking under Bruchac's name in Yale's catalog or in the Beinecke's Recent Acquisitions database.