Friday, April 01, 2011


In 2007, I published Beverly Slapin's review of Liza Ketchum's Where the Great Hawk Flies. Today I'm pointing you to Perry Nodelman's review of the book.

Reading his review made me laugh aloud. He references several other novels he analyzed for his chapter in Home Words: Discourses of Children's Literature in Canada (I highly recommend his chapter, "At Home on Native Land: A Non-Aboriginal Canadian Scholar Discusses Aboriginality and Property in Canadian Double-Focalized Novels for Young Adults").

Perry writes:
And the novels almost always resolve the dispute by giving the disputed thing or place over to the care of anyone of any race or background who adopts what are presented as being aboriginal values–which usually are some version of a new-agey ecological spirituality about respect for the planet and all creatures on it, and a dislike for fatcat capitalists, factories and frozen entrees.  
That hits my funny bone! There's a lot of people like that...

He also writes about how, in Ketchum's novel, the hawk (from the title) always appears at key moments. Those of you who watch or study film are well-acquainted with the hawk's cry...  It signifies "Indian" just as much as faux-Indian-music does.   

Seriously, though, Perry writes about multiculturalism in the novel. About the impulse to create a multicultural world that is safe, that feels the need to "defang" (Perry's word) aboriginal culture, making it less authentic, and therefore less dangerous, so it can be something everyone can embrace. 

Most everyone wants to think they're not racist, that they embrace others, value diversity, etc.  But what is it they're after? For too many people, it is a superficial understanding that ends up being window-dressing.

I, for example, don't want people to embrace traditional Native stories and reject objections that American Indian scholars or tribes put forth regarding appropriation and misrepresentation of Native stories. The stories feel safe. Thinking about appropriation and misrepresentation of the stories is POLITICS, and that isn't safe.  To "defang" the objection, a writer will talk about how stories are always changed when retold, no matter who tells them. Or, the writer will talk about freedom of expression... 

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