Saturday, September 22, 2012

Library of Congress: "52 Great Reads"

With the National Book Festival happening this weekend in DC, I was looking over their webpages. On the "Educator's Share" page is this: 

Every year, a list of books representing the literary heritage of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands is distributed by the Library of Congress's Center for the Book during the National Book Festival. Why not read the book suggested for your state or district and then learn, through these books, about the other places that interest you?

I downloaded the page and am happy to see Debby Dahl Edwardson's outstanding My Name Is Not Easy, a finalist for the National Book Award, on the Alaska list:

Here's a larger image of the cover:

States submit several titles, but only one is listed on the "52 Great Reads" list that you can download. If, however, you click on the map on that page, you can see additional books. If you click on Minnesota, this is what you see:

The book on the bottom is Awesiinyensag. Here's a larger image of it:

Available from Birchbark Books, Awesiiyensag is written entirely in Anishinaabemowin, which is the language spoken by the Ojibwe people. It is a big hit in Minnesota and was featured last year at the National Book Festival. 

Congratulations, Debby, and Wiigwaas Press! I'm glad to see your work featured in DC.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Dear Scott Brown: Do you know what Native Americans look like?

At the end of May, I wrote about Elizabeth Warren (running for US Senate against incumbent Scott Brown) and her family story about how they are part Cherokee.

Last night was the first debate between Warren and Brown. The first thing Scott Brown brought up was Warren's identity. He said "Professor Warren claimed she was a Native American, a person of color. And as you can see, she's not."

Scott Brown's ignorance is showing!


Brown's remark suggests that a blue-eyed blonde could not be American Indian. He is wrong about that. 

Being a tribally enrolled member or citizen of a federally recognized tribe is what matters (and yes, there is a lot of debate about federal recognition and state recognition). Is Native identity determined by skin color? Nope. Hair color? Nope. Obviously, his idea of what an American Indian should look like is based on stereotypes!

The Cherokee Nation has several videos about being a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Here's one:

As the video demonstrates, Cherokee's "look" lots of different ways with regard to hair and skin color.

Scott Brown ought to watch that video!

And maybe he should read Cynthia Leitich Smith's short story, "A Real-Live Blond Cherokee and His Equally Annoyed Soul Mate" in Moccasin Thunder, edited by Lori Marie Carlson.

There's a lot of ignorance in America (around the world, in fact) about who American Indians are, but there are a lot of outstanding children's and young adult books that can unseat that ignorance. Moccasin Thunder has short stories by several leading Native writers: Joy Harjo, Sherman Alexie, Richard Van Camp, Linda Hogan, Joseph Bruchac Update on Sep 30 2023: I (Debbie Reese) no longer recommend Bruchac's work. For details see Is Joseph Bruchac truly Abenaki? Greg Sarris, Lee Francis, and Susan Power. Pick it up today. Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown could learn a lot by reading it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

AICL on Pinterest

Recently, I created a Pinterest account for the purpose of promoting selected literature by and about American Indians. Here's a screen shot of what I've loaded so far:

Pretty cool, huh? It allows me to visually provide people with books that I find outstanding. They're tribally specific! They're award winning books! And of course, there are no stereotypes in these books! Wanna follow me on Pinterest? Here's the link:
American Indians in Children's Literature on Pinterest

Barbara Cooney's MISS RUMPHIUS: Take Two

Editor's Note: Back in 2009, I wrote up a short note about Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius. Because the book is on the We Give Books site, I decided to revisit that short post, add to it, and repost a cleaned up version of it here, today:

Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius

Though it is much loved and winner of an American Book Award, every time I think of Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius, the image that I recall is not the lovely lupines she walks amongst or the landscapes people adore. Instead, I remember this page:

(Source for image:

Here's the text for that page:

Now he worked in the shop at the bottom of the house, making figureheads for the prows of ships, and carving Indians out of wood to put in front of cigar stores.

"He" is Cooney's great grandfather. He's the one who carved cigar store Indians. So... what is wrong with that page?

Source: Oklahoma Historical Society

Noted Creek writer, Alexander Lawrence Poseysaid that the cigar store Indians "are the product of a white mans's factory, and bear no resemblance to the real article." Posey died in 1908.

Is Cooney wrong for including this information in her book? It is factual as Cooney wrote it--carvers of that time period did carve figureheads for ships and wooden Indians, too--but given that Miss Rumphius was published in 1982 and the information about these carvings being stereotypical is quite old, perhaps she could have inserted "stereotypical" in front of "Indians."

If she had done that, the text on that page would be:

"Now he worked in the shop at the bottom of the house, making figureheads for the prows of ships and carving stereotypical Indians out of wood to put in front of cigar stores."

Course, if Cooney did that, the story wouldn't be as charming as it is, but it would be more accurate, and it could prompt teachers, parents, and librarians to address stereotypes whenever they read the book to children. What do you think?