Saturday, January 24, 2009

News from the American Indian Library Association

The Winter 2009 newsletter of the American Indian Library Association is out. I want to share some of it with you...

Chief Joseph Medicine Crow, author of Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond, was awarded the U.S. Bronze Star and the French Legion of Honor on June 25, 2008. Also in June, he was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Naomi Caldwell, chair of their Youth Literature Awards committee said that Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian will be coming out in paperback, and that its publisher (Little, Brown and Company) will provide free copies to every tribal library in the United States.

Friday, January 23, 2009


On page 3 of Gina Capaldi's A Boy Named Beckoning: The True Story of Dr. Carlos Montezuma, Native American Hero is her Author's Note. As I read through her words, I pause again and again. For example: she calls him a civil rights activist, but he was an Indian Rights activist. There is a difference. In her note, Capaldi tells us that this book is based on a letter Montezuma wrote. That letter was sent to a professor at the Smithsonian who was working on a book about American Indians. The first paragraphs of that letter are on page 5 of Capaldi's book. But, wait! Are those first paragraphs from Montezuma's letter? The last paragraph of Capaldi's note reads:

"Montezuma would later reveal other, more complete versions of his life through interviews, newspaper and magazine articles, speeches, and letters--all of which have been saved in various libraries in museums throughout the United States. These documents were my source for Dr. Montezuma's own words, which I interwove into the original letter to more fully present the doctor's life. I have made every effort to be true to the original sources and have only added brief phrases to make the text flow smoothly."
Hmm... I'm not sure about that... Combining his words from various places to "more fully present" his life story. Those details would definitely have been fine if they'd been part of the information she provides, but, presenting them as if they're part of the letter he wrote, the words he chose to share about who he is? That doesn't feel right.

Information provided on page 4, left side of the page reads:

"The Yavapai Indians have lived in central and western Arizona for centuries. In the days that they roamed the deserts of the Southwest, the men were mainly hunters and gatherers and the women were known for their intricate woven baskets."

They "roamed" the deserts? I bristle at the use of that word. Indians roam. Just like the deer and the antelope in the song Home on the Range... " Did the pioneers or the cowboys roam, too?

Curious, I did a few searches using Google:

On the web---
  • Search phrase: "Pioneers roamed": 129 hits
  • Search phrase: "Cowboys roamed": 938 hits
  • Search phrase: "Indians roamed": 9,910 hits

I repeated the search in Google books---
  • Pioneers roamed: 23 hits
  • Cowboys roamed: 135
  • Indians roamed: 688 hits

Interesting numbers, eh? Given the ubiquitous image of roaming Indians, it is not surprising that Capaldi did it, too. But that doesn't make it ok.

And the illustrations that accompany the text on that page?

Above the text that says "roamed" is a black and white photograph that "shows a Yavapai family in the 1880s." The boy in the photograph is wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt. The girls and women are wearing what look like calico dresses. Capaldi's illustration, which spans the double-paged spread, depicts a barefoot man and boy wearing breechclouts. The man carries a spear. To my eye, Capaldi's illustration of the man screams stone-age caveman.

Overlaying the illustration is the opening paragraphs of the letter that Capaldi uses as the frame to tell this story. But again, are these the words he actually wrote in that letter?

Ah, yes, some of you may say "HE used the word "roamed" in his letter..." In fact, he may have. Some Native people adopt(ed) words use(d) by white writers, but because of what Capaldi said in her Author's Note, we don't know if "roamed" is Montezuma's word or hers.

I'm searching for a copy of that letter. When I find it, I'll be able to make some comparisons.

To be continued...
Update: March 14, 2009

Capaldi's book was discussed two other times:
Monday, January 28
Sunday, Feb 1, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Beth Kanell: Remarks on Jan 19

Yesterday, I posted a bingo card about cultural appropriation. A few minutes ago, Beth Kanell, author of DARKNESS UNDER THE WATER, posted a comment to a blog that starts out

"Don't sweat the Seale/Dow review..."

She follows that dismissal with "...Dow, whose standing as an Abenaki in Vermont is significant..." But then she goes on to blame Dow for the problems in the book! Kanell said

"....she [Dow] chose not to say a word back when her thoughts could have been incorporated in the story."

With those words, she suggests that she would have actually listened to Dow back then. But, her repeated dismissal's of Dow, Seale, myself and others who are critical of her book speak volumes about what she chooses to hear. If what we say has not affected her speech right now, I seriously doubt it would have mattered "back when" the book was in manuscript.

This writer's behavior is the perfect illustration of white privilege, but a particularly nasty form of white privilege. One that seeks to benefit from Native peoples, that tries to say she's rescuing or helping Native peoples, but then reaches out to tell us we're wrong to object to her.

Kanell's arrogance is stunning.

[Note: The blog she commented at is called Swiftly to the Top, at a post on historical fiction. In the event the owner of Swiftly to the Top takes down his blog, I've copied comments submitted there to the end of this post. See them below.]

Update, 2:17 PM, CST

Kanell just replied to my comment on Swiftly to the Top, saying:

I listen, and I learn, always. But if I failed to stand up for the generous and kind people who invested research and thinking in this book, I'd be doing them a great disservice.

Thanks again, Pepe, for the review. I appreciate it, and I'm glad you gave your opinion. Read on!

Kanell's audacity is beyond words.

UPDATE, 8:45 PM, Jan 19, 2008

Just in case Pepe (the owner of the Swiftly to the Top blog) decides to take down his site at some point, I'm copying (below) the entirety of the discussion from his site and will paste additional comments as they appear there.

Blogger Debbie Reese said...
Doris Seale and Judy Dow, both women with Abenaki identity, wrote an essay that is highly critical of DARKNESS. Their review is on my blog.
December 7, 2008 3:48 PM
Blogger Beth Kanell said...
Great to see historical fiction on your blog -- thanks! M. T. Anderson rocks, and I'm definitely a Sarah Vowell fan. Don't sweat the Seale/Dow review too much; Dow, whose standing as an Abenaki in Vermont is significant, was one of an armful of Native Americans who saw the book while in manuscript, and she chose not to say a word back when her thoughts could have been incorporated in the story. But thanks to some other great folks behind the scenes, who helped me test both the history and the emotional truth of the story, The Darkness Under the Water came through. If you feel like looking at some more of the amazing Vermont history -- and wider! -- behind the story, take a peek at And thanks a lot, Pepe, for mentioning the book. Sorry it took me so long to catch up with you!
January 19, 2009 8:37 AM

Blogger Debbie Reese said...
"Don't sweat the Seale/Dow review..." I'm stunned at Kanell's words! By now, I would think she'd have taken feedback from myself and others to heart. She has not, as evidenced by these words. They only add to my impression that you really have no insight into what you've done. There's been lengthy discussion of Kanell and her book --- not favorable --- in many places. Please visit my site to see some of it. And there's a great deal happening, too, on livejournal. I'm at
January 19, 2009 8:51 AM
Beth Kanell said...
I listen, and I learn, always. But if I failed to stand up for the generous and kind people who invested research and thinking in this book, I'd be doing them a great disservice. Thanks again, Pepe, for the review. I appreciate it, and I'm glad you gave your opinion. Read on!
January 19, 2009 12:14 PM

Blogger Debbie Reese said...
You're listening to Seale, Dow, myself and our critiques of your book? If you were, it seems to me you would not be saying "don't sweat" the Dow/Seale essay. You fault Dow for not providing feedback on your manuscript. That's a bit odd, considering she didn't have your manuscript prior to publication. And I see here you are no longer saying that you consulted Nancy Gallagher, the woman who wrote the book you drew from to write your novel.
January 19, 2009 12:33 PM
Beth Kanell said...
Sorry, Pepe, for the brief sideline here: Debbie Reese, here are the details you're missing: In 2005 I spoke by phone with researcher/writer Nancy Gallagher, and arranged to meet her in person to share with her the first draft of my first attempt to build a work of historic fiction that could draw some much-needed attention to the injustice of the Abenaki situation in Vermont. (Her book Breeding Better Vermonters shows how the situation developed.) We did indeed connect, enjoyed meeting each other, and I handed her a full copy of the manuscript. When I phoned her a month or so later, she said she hadn't yet finished reading it, found it interesting, and wanted permission to share it with her research associate, Judy Dow. I was honored, and of course agreed. So Ms. Dow, as far as I know, had the manuscript then, and was in discussion with Ms. Gallagher. When I took the entire book apart and wrote a new one, adjusting the time period and points of view to reflect history more clearly, and to craft a better story, I provided that manuscript also to Ms. Gallagher, with the same permission. Hence I have reason to believe that Ms. Dow had the new book at that time (2006). In early 2008, a group of women in my region formed a steering committee to promote a history conference for teens. Ms. Gallagher was one of us, and asked to bring Ms. Dow into the group also. Although Ms. Dow did not interact with the group e-mails or attend planning meetings, she was on every full-group circulation list and was well aware of The Darkness Under the Water, as I talked about it with the group as part of what I'd like to bring to the discussion. I telephoned Ms. Dow on Sunday Dec. 7, 2008, following her first concerned e-mails about the conference schedule, and learned from her of her review, which she said was already in several places online. As you know, I disagree with a number of points in the review, but every reader will see a book differently; we bring our own lives and experiences to our reading. In that telephone conversation, as I began to understand the pain that Ms. Dow brought to the book, I specifically told her that I was sorry that reading it had increased her awareness of that pain. Please do watch the book's web site for revised discussion questions later this month; the revision was triggered by listening to Ms. Dow, reading what she and Ms. Seale wrote, and reading the responses of others online. Your input is heard. And again, Pepe, thank you for your courtesy in sharing your blog space for this sidetrack on one are of the outreach that took place.
January 19, 2009 3:16 PM

Debbie Reese said...
Ms. Kanell: Do you know, in fact, if Gallagher gave Dow the manuscript? You seem to take silence as affirmation of your book. Elsewhere, you said you changed the discussion questions because of what Beverly Slapin said about them. Now you're saying you changed them because of what Dow and Seale said. Which is it? You're a white woman, trying to rescue Native history. Native people are telling you you've screwed up, yet you continue to defend the book! You "hear" and "listen" like a belligerent teenager. By the way, Kanell, I read your book, too, and am recommending that people not purchase it.
January 19, 2009 4:18 PM
Beth Kanell said...
Ms. Reese, sorry but this is going to have to be my last post on this topic for a bit -- so let me briefly say, I trusted Ms. Gallagher when she said she and Ms. Dow were already discussing the book. I've changed the web-site discussion questions because of input from different people on different questions -- as you know quite well, the questions that offended Ms. Slapin were changed within an hour of her explaining how she had interpreted them. In discussion with you last month, I said I'd make time to review all of them and rework them in mid January, and the Dow/Seale review certainly affects that work. I'm just waiting for one more person's related commentary to arrive; the revised set will post around the end of this week. I suggest that those of us concerned about miscarriages of justice work together to bring it forward. Since there has been so little attention to Vermont's period of scientific abuse of humanity, and its continued effects, I thank you for discussing and reading The Darkness Under the Water. By the way, I hope those of you "visiting" this discussion through other sites will take time to read the other material available here. Thank you, Pepe.
January 19, 2009 5:00 PM

Debbie Reese said...
I have permission from Nancy Gallagher to say that she 1) did not see DARKNESS UNDER THE WATER in manuscript form prior to its publication 2) if she had seen it, she could have offered corrections to the inaccurate portrayals in the book. So... Gallagher told you that she and Dow were discussing the book. What did Gallagher tell you about that discussion? If she told you nothing, then how can you---in good conscience---use her name? Aren't you embarrassed, Ms. Kanell?
January 19, 2009 5:09 PM

Blogger Debbie Reese said...
If you go over to my blog, you will see that I am sharing the comments Kanell makes here with my readers. I don't know what your traffic is like, Pepe, but I just rolled over 350,000 visits to my site. I've been blogging for 2 1/2 years. My readers include Native people across the United States and Canada, librarians, teachers, writers, professors, reviewers---all who come to my site to get Native and critical perspectives on books. Here's a post from Jean Mendoza: "Even if it were the case that Ms. Dow "chose not to say a word back when her thoughts could have been incorporated into the story" as Ms. Kanell claims: Based on her review of Darkness -- a substantial critique that makes a lot of sense -- my hunch is that Ms. Dow's thoughts would have been something like "Don't Write This Story." If Ms. Dow had said so, would the author have done what she asked? Judging by Ms. Kanell's comments about the review over the past several weeks, I have another hunch: that nothing Judy Dow, Doris Seale, or anyone else said would have dissuaded Ms. Kanell from seeing the book through. I will continue to take the critical review by Doris Seale and Judy Dow very seriously. Not "sweating it" so much as just really respecting it. I wonder if there's a day coming when no Native person will be willing to take a pre-publication look at any Native-themed manuscript by a non-Native writer under any circumstances."
January 19, 2009 5:55 PM

Blogger Debbie Reese said...
Judy Dow asked me to post this on her behalf: Sorry to burst your bubble, Beth. I never received your manuscript and only received an advance copy of DARKNESS UNDER THE WATER around Thanksgiving of 2008. That advance copy came to me from Nancy Gallagher, who passed it on to me because it was too terrible for her to finish. I, in turn, was so horrified by DARKNESS UNDER THE WATER that I shared that copy with Doris Seale and suggested Beverly Slapin read it as well. After all had read it, we decided to write the review, hoping to dissuade librarians from purchasing it. It is our intent to protect Abenaki children from reading this awful book. I have recently read the manuscript from your first book, DARKNESS UNDER THE ICE. I can understand why you took it apart and tried again. However, you still did not get it right. After Nancy shared with me her reactions to your book, I stopped communicating with you because I had decided that I did not want to be associated with your conference. About our Dec. 7, 2008, phone conversation, you write that you “began to understand the pain that Ms. Dow brought to the book, I specifically told her that I was sorry that reading it had increased her awareness of that pain.” Beth, you still don’t get it, do you? My problem is not the pain that I brought to the book, and it’s not that reading it has increased my awareness of the pain. It’s the pain that you caused by writing and publishing it. It’s not like me to be so direct, Beth, but it seems that that’s the only thing you understand. Your actions are continuing to bring pain to our Abenaki families and you need to stop. Judy Dow
January 19, 2009 6:47 PM

Sunday, January 18, 2009

livejournal discussion on Cultural Appropriation

There's quite an active discussion on cultural appropriation taking place across livejournal communities (networks? --- I'm not familiar with livejournal).

Take a look at a Cultural Appropriation Bingo Game developed by an individual who's user name is Elusis. Click here to get to the page with the graphic. Elusis says it can be reposted with attribution, so here it is... And thanks, Elusis. (Update: Feb 22, 2013 --- The Bingo card at the link is no longer viewable. Don't know why. And, I made a larger image available today on my site. The one I had up before was too small to read.)

And click here to get to some of the discussion.

UPDATE, 7:15 pm... I continue to read through livejournal's discussion, following links here and there. This one is.... what word to use... I don't know. THIS PERSON GETS IT. She got it after she spent some time on my blog. If I understand correctly, the writer created an online game that used the Pueblo Revolt. People tried to tell her not to do it. She did it anyway, but has now decided to stop. Do take time to read what 'kynn' says about writing, DARKNESS UNDER THE WATER, the Pueblo Revolt...