Thursday, September 09, 2010


Yesterday when I opened Facebook, I had a handful of messages from friends who said "Did you see this?" The "this" is way cool... 

Last year, four university presses formed an initiative called First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies. The four are the University of Arizona Press, the University of Minnesota Press, the University of North Carolina Press, and Oregon State University Press. Their goal?
"Our initiative seeks to publish books that exemplify contemporary scholarship and research in Indigenous studies. We support with scholarship with unprecedented attention to the growing dialogue among Native and non-Native scholars, communities, and publishers."
In addition to books in Indigenous Studies, First Peoples publishes a blog. On September 8, 2010, Natasha Varner posted "Five Native Bloggers and Podcasters to Bookmark and Follow." Natasha wrote:
Over the past year, we've become increasingly aware of an impressive community of indigenous scholars and cultural critics producing blogs and podcasts that provide intelligent insight and critique of contemporary issues and popular culture. Here are five that we think you should follow.
American Indians in Children's Literature is one of those five! Can you tell I'm thrilled at being included? Here's a screen shot of the page.

Click on over to Five Native Bloggers and then click on the links provided. There's a lot to learn, whether you're an author, illustrator, editor, reviewer, or a parent, teacher, librarian or professor who works with children, young adults, or the books published with them in mind.

Note that I didn't say "books about" American Indians or indigenous peoples... I chose my words carefully. Images of indigenous peoples appear more often in books that have nothing to do with us than they do in books that are supposed to be about us! And most of the time, those images are, well, kind of messed up. Most of America doesn't see them as messed up because they're so prevalent, and most of us have been 'schooled' so well in that imagery that we don't know it is wrong!

All that imagery we're all surrounded by? To develop your eye for spotting it, read and follow Native Appropriations. I've been reading it for awhile. It, too, is one of the five blogs First Peoples listed. Over at Native Appropriations, Adrienne is doing a terrific job pointing to pop culture images and language.  Both, American Indians in Children's Literature and Native Appropriations use Twitter. To follow us there...

Debbie Reese on Twitter
Native Appropriations on Twitter

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Metafiction and American Indians

Over on his blog, Phillip Nel uploaded a video about metafiction. He defines it (loosely) as fiction about fiction. He invited his readers to submit examples of children's books that may be categorized as metafiction.

For some time, I've toyed with the idea of making a video in which I talk about children's books. This morning I decided to do it. Below is my video. You'll see right away that its too dark, which makes it fuzzy. It is dark because too much light in front of me creates glare on my eyeglasses that, in effect, obscures my eyes. I'll try other locations and see if I can get the lighting just right. For now...

To reiterate in text what I said in the video...  Joseph Bruchac's The Heart of a Chief is a story in which the author (Bruchac) has created characters who talk about another story. In this case, Chris, the middle-school boy who is the main character, talks about a highly problematic---yet widely acclaimed---work of historical fiction called The Sign of the Beaver.

Look over to the right side of this page and scroll down to the bottom. See the section called "Labels"? In that section you'll find "Sign of the Beaver." Click on it and you'll see several posts about the book.

There are other examples of metafiction. In his novel, Indian Killer, Sherman Alexie created Marie, a character who challenges her professor for using The Education of Little Tree in a course about American Indian Literature.  Indian Killer is not a book meant for children. Some young adults would be fine with the content; others would not.

Another good example is Thomas King's A Coyote Columbus Story. The fiction King pokes at? That one that goes "In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered America..."

Monday, September 06, 2010

Margaret Manuel's I SEE ME

There's a handful of terrific board books that I recommend, and I'm adding this one to that list...

I See Me by Margaret Manuel is one of those books that can be personalized by its owner.

For example, the text on the first page is "I see me AWAKE."  Beneath that sentence is a blank line for me to write the Tewa word for awake. What language will you use on your copy?

The child shown on the cover is on each page. Some pages are about the things all babies do (smile, cry) and some are things specific to Native cultures. The cover page, for example, shows the baby with a drum. See the drumstick? (Note to authors and illustrations...  Native peoples in the US and Canada use drumsticks rather than hands to drum.)

Published by Theytus Books, I See Me was an Honourable Mention at the New York Book Festival in 2010.  Available from Theytus is a downloadable file of the Okanagan words for the ones in the book, and Theytus plans to add words from other First Nations languages, too.

If you want to know more about the Okanagan people, visit their website. When you click on the website for the Okanagan Nation Alliance, pause a moment and listen to the "The Okanagan Song" by Trish and Bruce Manuel before clicking through to the rest of the site.

Located in Canada, Theytus was established in 1980. It was the first publishing house in Canada owned and operated by Indigenous people.