Friday, July 09, 2010

Recent insider/outsider discussion...

A new article in Horn Book Magazine is prompting some discussion of the insider/outsider debate. Titled Too Gay or Not Gay Enough, the article is by writer Ellen Wittlinger. Some of her books feature gay characters, which made them eligible for awards given by the Lambda Literary Foundation.

The foundation has now changed criteria for their award. Now, the books they consider and select for distinction must be written by a LGBT writer. As a result, Wittlinger's books are no longer eligible for the Lamba awards.

Regular readers of American Indians in Children's Literature know that I push books by Native writers. I think it matters to a Native child to be able to read a story written by a Native writer. Words have power. Who utters or pens those words also matters when the people the stories are about are ones whose identity has been, or is, under threat by mainstream society.

At his blog, Arthur A. Levine wrote about Wittlinger's article. Because it is a blog, there is conversation taking place in the comments. Because Levine is a major player in children's literature, I joined in the discussion. Scholastic has an imprint with his name on it. I think he was the individual who got J.K. Rowling to publish with Scholastic. Reading his "about" page I see that he was the editor for Rafe Martin's The Rough Face Girl.  In my post about Marcie Rendon's work, I noted, briefly, that Martin's book has problems....  I've not yet written up my notes and analysis of that book.

WHO SAID IT matters.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


Rebecca R. wrote to me this morning about Dyan Sheldon's new book, My Worst Best Friend. Specifically, Rebecca pointed me to the last line in the Kirkus review of the book, where the reviewer writes that:
somebody should tell Gracie that despite her family’s annual “Remember the Wampanoag Day” celebration, feeling like “the last Wampanoag” is dismissive of the 2,000 living members of the Wampanoag nation.
I'll look for the book at the library. In the meantime, I looked online and so far, I've not found any references to Gracie's Wampanoag identity. I wonder about that not-noticing or not-commenting about her identity. 

Obviously, Sheldon chose to make Gracie Wampanoag for a reason. Reviews say Gracie cares about the environment. Is that it? Is Gracie a modern-day Chief Seattle ala Jeffer's deeply problematic Brother Eagle Sister Sky

There's an interview of Sheldon at Teens Read Too. One of the questions is about a book she wishes she'd written. Her answer is:
This may seem like a stretch, since I’m not Colombian and have a very limited imagination, but I wouldn’t mind having authored ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE.
Posted on February 23rd, 2010, the interview begins with a brief discussion of My Worst Best Friend. She, like the reviewers, doesn't mention that Gracie is Wampanoag. Another question is about a historical event. What, if she could, would she change? Her answer:
Columbus never discovers “America”. Nor does anyone else. In fact, the Great Nations of Europe never get off land. Every time they make a boat it sinks, so they are never able to colonize the world and destroy other people’s lives and cultures on a grand scale. They have to stay where they are and settle for making each other miserable.
Interesting answer! I've never read Sheldon's novels but look forward to reading this one, to studying how she develops Gracie.