Thursday, March 03, 2011

Seale and Slapin's A BROKEN FLUTE available in ebook

Seale and Slapin's A Broken Flute: The Native Perspective in Books for Children is available in ebook. I've got two print copies that I hunt for when I need to check on a review. Yesterday I figured out it is available as an ebook that I won't have to hunt for each time I want to use it! I paid $30 for this highly recommended resource.

I got it through Google. (For those who don't know, you can search the web using Google's "Books" option. They have a lot of books available that way.)

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Ann Turner's note in FATHER OF LIES

Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian posted a review of Ann Turner's Father of Lies. The book is about the Salem witch trials. In their review (dated Feb 24, 2011), they feature an excerpt from an author's note in the book:
The opinions about Native Americans expressed in this novel only reflect the historical record and not this author's beliefs. They are important to understanding this period. In Chapters Nineteen and Twenty-Seven, some of the responses in the witch trials are taken directly from the historical transcripts of the trials."
They go on to note what Turner's note refers to:
Truthfully, there is very little mention of Native Americans at all in the book, and it comes in the form of comments you would expect from the townspeople of that time - (from an 'afflicted' girl) "I vow the Devil was tall, dark, and wicked looking, like our enemies the Indians, with an evil heart inside." 
I have several thoughts on Turner's note.

Ann Turner wrote a book in Scholastic's Dear America series. Titled The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow: The Diary of Sarah Nita, a Navajo Girl, New Mexico, 1864, it was soundly critiqued by Beverly Slapin in A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children (by the way, A Broken Flute is a key resource and is now available in ebook from Googlebooks). In that book, Turner tried--and failed--to write from the perspective of a Dine (Navajo) child. She also failed in her attempt to write from the perspective of Sitting Bull in her book Sitting Bull Remembers. Slapin's review of Sitting Bull Remembers is here.

I wonder if those critiques prompted Turner to include the note pointing out the opinions her character expresses are from a historical transcript and not her own creation? Either way, I think it is useful to include the note. It points readers to historical documents, and that's a good thing to do. My copy of the book hasn't arrived yet, but when I get it, I'll say more about the documents. I hope she provides titles of them elsewhere in her note or in a bibliography. I'd like to read that transcript. I did a quick search using "the Devil was talk, dark, and wicked looking" and didn't find anything.

That said, it is important to point out that the note itself says that the opinions reflect "the historical record." In fact, there is more than one historical record. Turner is referring to the historical record of the white people in Salem Village in Massachusetts in 1692. Her note would be far better if she said she is referring to "a historical record." There were, of course, many Native villages all through that area. I doubt that they would liken themselves to the Puritan's Devil. Their historical record, in other words, is not the same as the one of the white people in Salem Village. 
At her website, Ann Turner has a page about her young adult books. There, she's got a "Coming in 2009" section that says:
--Father of Lies ---a novel set in the time of the Salem Witch Trials, but with a difference: the heroine has s [sic] disorder which gives her an eye of truth into the lies of the village; HarperCollins, Fall, 2009.

Turner tells us that in Father of Lies, she is doing something different. As she said on her website, her heroine has an eye for truth into the lies told by people in the village. I guess the heroine doesn't have an eye for the truth about Native people...  Or maybe we're to believe that all the people in the village believed Indians had evil hearts. I suppose that is possible, but if Ann Turner is doing something different already, wouldn't it have been cool if her heroine could see through the village "truths" about Indians, too?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Toni Morrison: "racially inflected language"

I am rereading Joel Taxel's "Multicultural Literature and the Politics of Reaction" wherein he quotes Toni Morrison saying there is "no escape from racially inflected language." I hear that kind of language all the time. Many examples come to mind, such as "sit Indian style" or "off the reservation" or "Indian giver" or "on the warpath." Which ones come to your mind?

Joel's article is as relevant today as it was when it was published in 1997. He writes about the NRA and right wing talk radio.

One thing that needs doing, however, is a shift in categorizing American Indians as part of the "multicultural population" in the U.S. This is not meant as a criticism of Joel or anyone who studies children's lit. It is my effort to bring scholarship and writings of Native people into Children's literature. We are a minority and we are underrepresented but... Due to our status as sovereign nations, there is a legal and political dimension that sets us apart from other groups. I am working on an article about that difference.