Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Reader responds to Seale/Dow review of DARKNESS UNDER THE WATER

The review I posted yesterday prompted a comment that I've decided to place here rather than as a comment. The person (writing as "Durable Goods") said:

While it is troubling that this author had resources available to get things right, most Americans and Canadians outside of northern New England and Quebec have never heard of this happening. What I would appreciate from these essays is at least some sort of nod to the fact that this book will at least inform readers, educators and librarians of the eugenics travesty! Instead, it simply reads as a nitpicking polemic against Beth Kanell.

Once again, what could be a very useful blog presents itself as an angry, spite-filled harangue of anything "outsider".

What this blog offers, in items written by myself (Debbie) or guest writers/reviewers, is a perspective not readily available in mainstream publications. I gather Durable Goods reads this blog, at least on occasion, because he wants to see what I (or a guest writer/reviewer) has to say about a certain book he is interested in.

I'm also guessing that he comes back because sometimes he finds the material here useful. Sometimes, though, he does not like what he reads. Hence, he says what could be a very useful blog presents itself as an angry, spite-filled harangue of anything "outsider."

He is feeling.... assaulted, perhaps? by the words Seale and Dow wrote? I invite him to imagine what it is like to be a Native child who too-often reads words in children's books that assault his or her self esteem and identity. And, imagine, too, the non-Native child whose misperceptions of American Indians are affirmed by those same words.

I am not sorry or sympathetic, Durable Goods, that you're upset by the review. I hope that, when you are less emotionally reactive, that you will revisit the review and consider what Seale and Dow offer.

I know some review journals rate books on the basis of the topic, and no doubt, this book will get a higher rating than it deserves because there are few books for children on this topic, but I suggest librarians pass on DARKNESS UNDER THE WATER and get multiple copies of Joseph Bruchac's HIDDEN ROOTS instead.


jpm said...

"Durable Goods" wishes that the negative review of the young adult eugenics novel could have at least included a nod toward the (ostensible) public service of putting the horrible historical situation out there in a work of fiction.

At one point I would have suggested the same kind of "slack" for authors, but realized eventually that as a teacher and parent, I just want the historical/cultural details to be accurate even in fiction, and ESPECIALLY when the author is writing about a situation that's unfamiliar to so many of us.

Anonymous said...

Both "Darkness Under the Water" and "I Am Apache" are from the same publisher. What's up with that?

Neither book is particularly well written. Both feel forced and overly dramatic. I think that teens would sense this right away and be turned off by it. Let's hope that neither book wins a big audience.

Beverly Slapin said...

Are you ready for this? Candlewick Press rejected Joe Bruchac's manuscript for the awesome YA novel about the eugenics program, HIDDEN ROOTS and chose to publish instead DARKNESS UNDER THE WATER.

Also, APACHE GIRL WARRIOR (which Candlewick published as I AM APACHE), was a big hit both with reviewers and with young readers in the UK; and was shortlisted for a major award there.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe that you are criticizing this book without having read it.

Debbie Reese said...


On this particular thread, the discussion is about the remarks made by Durable Goods, not the book itself.

On the thread that starts with the review by Seale and Dow, my remarks there are also not about the book, but about the authors comments regarding the review.

Anonymous said...

It is still a big problem that you defend the reviewers and dismiss the author's response without having read the novel in question. In fact, even if you are absolutely right about the book, it is unethical for you recommend that libraries not buy it without your having read it.

Anonymous said...

I also find it worrying that you would potentially damage the sales of an author's book, by leaving a comment on Amazon that in effect leads people to material that suggests the book is not acceptable to native people, without having read it. Once you've read it, go for it! Is it that urgent to step in prior to waiting a week or so until you've got the book yourself? There's the Seale/Dow review for now, and I'm sure most of us will be very interested to read your own when it comes.

I think the Seale/Dow review is considered and has merit, but it is up to these authors to advance their ideas, based on their reading, publicly. As you're able to obtain the book, there's just a need to wait until you've read it to add strength to your comments and encouragement for people not to use the book in schools etc. Until then, the Seale/Dow comments need to speak for themselves.

It's not scholarly practice to denounce something you've not yet read, but it's fine to point to critique that already exists by those who have.