Monday, June 16, 2008

Debbie's thoughts on Tanya Landman's APACHE: GIRL WARRIOR

A colleague wrote to ask if I know anything about a book called Apache: Girl Warrior, by a British writer named Tanya Landman. The book was recently shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in Literature, an award given annually in the United Kingdom. I don't have a copy of the book yet (it is en route), but my reading of Landman's webpage makes me think it is one of those tragic Indian stories that people love. Not all people, though... As readers of this site know, American Indians object to those romanticized books that confine us to the past, and, that provide readers with factual errors and biased stories about who we were, and who we are.

I wrote to Beverly Slapin of Oyate, to see if she's read the book. She has. And, she uses it in workshops as an example of a problematic text. First published in the UK, it is sold in the United States under a different title: I Am Apache.

Peter Hollindale (reviewer for "Books for Keeps") highly recommends it, but he also says this:

"Apache life may not have been like this, but few readers will doubt that it probably was. To write a compelling adventure story which is also a moving portrait of a doomed civilization and its values..."

May not have been like this?! Does he sense inaccuracies? And "doomed civilization" dovetails with Landman's discussion of the book and how she thinks about the Apache people. From my perspective, the "doomed" theme is really grating. For those who don't know (Hollindale and Landman, perhaps?), the Apache people are vibrant, strong, and very much not doomed.

Given Landman's book is shortlisted for the Carnegie award, I'm going to write about it here in the coming days. Check back for updates!


Debbie Reese said...

Hmmm... THE INDEPENDENT (A UK newspaper) says "A magnificent account of life in a doomed tribe..."

There's that word again!!! Doomed.

Debbie Reese said...

"Siki" is Landman's protagonist. She is "Black Mountain Apache."

There is no such tribe. There is a place called Black Mountain, but no tribe named that. I'm guessing that is error number 1.

k8 said...

Ick! That sounds terrible. I'm really upset that it has been shortlisted for a Carnegie. I'm fond of many of the books that have been given that award or been shortlisted, so that makes this extra upsetting. The blurb on the shortlist web page describes it as "well researched." I guess not.

k8 said...

I didn't know if you had seen the link for the shadowing site where you can read reviews written by kids for each shortlisted title so I thought I should provide the link:

It can also be accessed from this link:

jpm said...

It looks to me (having read it) as though the author did some research and used at least one reliable historical source, but still gets it wrong in fundamental ways.

Magnificent and doomed -- the noble and tragic savage. Argh. And in this book, we also have the ignoble, cowardly, and yet somehow ascendant "Bad Mexican". Not a good combination of stereotypes for any novel, especially a young adult book about to be released in the US.