Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving, 2009

In this morning's "Google Alert" email (the one I set up using "Debbie Reese" +blog), I learned that Carol Rasco, the CEO of Reading is Fundamental, had blogged about Thanksgiving on her RIF blog. There, she wrote about American Indians in Children's Literature, and how it has impacted her thinking about Thanksgiving. (I must say, though, that as I read the excerpts she used from my site, I saw how unpolished my writing can be.)

Some time ago, I was invited to be on the Reading is Fundamental Literature Advisory Committee. Prior to that, I had come across the RIF's page for November and was, frankly, pretty upset. As I recall that day (this is a two-year-old memory), I was multi-tasking on my computer. I had several websites open in my browser, moving from one to the other. (As I compose this particular post, I've got seven pages open. This morning I watched the Cherokee Nation's video "What is a real Indian Nation? What is a fake tribe?" and I read an article on Slate about book trailers.) That morning, I went to the RIF page for November. It was garrish in appearance, with cartoon Indians and a mish-mash of elements of different tribes.

While I was studying that page, a song started playing. It was a Pueblo song that I know and listen to often because of its meaning for me. I quickly started looking around my computer, wondering how I had managed to turn it on with realizing it. (Think absent-minded professor.) None of the ways that I listen to the song were activated. I realized it was coming from the RIF page. Something there, with good intentions, had created that November page using stereotypical images and a Pueblo song. It was a grab-bag. Anything Indian, slammed together. Good to go. Of course, it was not good to go.  Through my work with RIF, they took that page down.

And so this morning, one week before Thanksgiving Day, reading Carol's blog, I am heartened to learn that my interaction with RIF is making a difference in Carol's views. Among other things, she wrote:

"I hear you, Debbie, and have several copies of The Good Luck Cat and Jingle Dancer among other titles in the “to be wrapped pile” for the coming holidays for presentation to special young friends."  

Saying "awesome!" to those words doesn't begin to capture how I feel.

1 comment:

JCD said...

A lot of people hear you. I hear you and you're words have changed the way I view things and raised my awareness level. Just last night I was reading an advance reader copy of a YA book set to be released early next year. Part of the book is set in the late 18th century during the Revolutionary War. There was a mention of Indians fighting on both sides - so far so good completely neutral. But then there was the (obligatory?) scene where the hero was threatened by an Indian "warrior" (also "brave") who was wielding a tomahawk. There was even a preliminary illustration of this particular event (of only 7 in the book).I'm not sure what to think - I don't know how accurate the illustration or the description of the war paint is but I did raise an eyebrow at the description of the "terrifying face slathered with war paint, his eyes blazing through the rain..." Before your blog, before Oyate - I wouldn't have thought twice. Not anymore.