Friday, February 22, 2013


Last night (Feb 21, 2013), I joined a Readers Advisory chat on Twitter. Held every first and third Thursday evening at 8:00 PM Eastern Time, #readadv is hosted by Liz Burns @LizBurns, Kelly Jensen @catagator, and Sophie Brookover @sophiebiblio.

Last night's topic was weeding. It was a fascinating discussion, with participants being asked to respond (if they wanted to) to a series of questions. I learned that the process of weeding ranges from an individual doing it with no guidelines at all to individuals who are responsible for developing lists that are then used at libraries in a particular system. It was enlightening and lighthearted, too.

At one point in the discussion, participants were asked to name a book they'd recently removed from the collection. Among those named was Dances With Wolves: A Story for Children. I gotta say, I was glad to know it was weeded! I also gotta say that I'm not surprised the movie prompted a book for children. Money, you know. MONEY.

I know a lot of people love that movie, but.... Though you see Native people in it all over the place, who is the story about? Its really a love story about a white guy (Costner) and a white woman who lived with the Indians since childhood. Native people are just the backdrop for that romance.

Costner's film is derided enough within Native circles that its part of a joke we tell about the "B.C.'s" Native people have had more than just that one "B.C." We've had three. "Before Christ, Before Columbus, and, Before Costner." When Avatar was released, people added "Before Cameron" to the joke.

When I got up this morning, I saw that my daughter (she's working on a Master's degree at the University of Cambridge in the UK) had posted David Sirota's approropriately titled, Oscar loves a white savior article on my Facebook wall. Sirota's article is terrific. Among the films he critiques are Dances With Wolves and Avatar.  

So! Dances With Wolves: A Story for Children. Amazon tells me that James Howe adapted it for Scholastic in 1991. I can get a used copy for a penny... Shall I?


Anonymous said...

Two white children raised on a Rez are disturbed & confused by your commentary. I suppose their discomfort does not matter to you due to the color of their skin rather than the content of their character.

Anonymous said...

You are right. White people should just ignore any story using Native culture & conflict as a backdrop. Eliminate all such stories so then we will all just get along. Fight racism with more racism. Power to the people.

Bridget said...

Dances with Wolves bothered me even when it first came out. I say "even" because I'm kind of impressed with the insight and sensitivity my ten year old self possessed, haha. Why couldn't he have fallen in love with an Indian woman? Why couldn't the WAY SEXIER Wind-in-his-hair have been the main character? Why did the wolf have to die? So many unanswered questions. I see no reason why a children's book based on this film would need to stay part of a library's collection. Kidding aside, the film had serious problems, but it's a good film, makes you cry, etc. No need to build a fire and burn effigies of Kevin Costner in it, so long as we all understand why people are bugged about it. But no reason to keep the, I'm sure, fantastic children's book adaptation (/sarcasm) circulating.

Heather Munn said...

Anonymous 1, who are these children? Are they your children? What is it about what Debbie said that disturbs them? If you told us about the content of their character & concerns, there might be something substantial to say, rather than drawing an immediate battle line without even stating what's the problem.

Believe me, I've seen this type of situation before, where someone walks into a situation with the message, "Well, you obviously hate me." (It was over religion that time... but the dynamic is the same.) It never ends well; it can't result in understanding when it starts with a refusal of understanding.

I respectfully suggest that you try stating your concerns.

Unknown said...

One of my history professors called it "Dances with Historical Inaccuracies". They managed to get almost every single historical and cultural detail wrong. Cinematically the movie is brilliant yet the flaws overshadow that brilliance. I shouldn't be surprised there was a children's book made however there is no way I would ever let anyone read that nonsense unless I was using it as a tool to teach about the way first nations are portrayed in media and the comparison of the real versus imagined history.

Erika said...

I'd love to know what those questions about weeding were. I'm in one of those "one person does it with nothing but circ stats and her own best judgment to go on" situations, which I generally don't mind but occasionally feels like doing an odd sort of intellectual trapeze act with no safety net, if that makes sense, so I'm always curious about other perspectives.