Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Tim Tingle's keynote at 2014 American Indian Youth Literature Awards

On Sunday, the American Indian Library Association (AILA) presented its 2014 Youth Literature Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada at the annual meeting of the American Library Association. Choctaw author Tim Tingle was the keynote speaker at the event.

Tingle's How I Became A Ghost won the middle school award. I could not be in Las Vegas but have been following happenings there via social media. On Monday,  American Libraries Magazine posted an article about the AILA event. In it, Michele LeSure included an overview of Tingle's remarks:

Tingle spoke about the trials his family endured being discriminated against for being Choctaw tribal members, and the importance of documenting these types of stories. He said the recent decision to revoke trademark rights to the Washington Redskins team name and logo gives Native Americans a big opportunity to raise these types of issues in public discourse, so “we will never be ghosts.”

Tingle's Saltypie recounts some of that discrimination his family experienced. His note to teachers in that book is exceptional. In his books, Tingle brings forth difficult moments in history in which Native peoples were discriminated against. How I Became a Ghost is about the Trail of Tears, and House of Purple Cedar opens with the burning of a Native boarding school in which Choctaw girls were burned to death. Though we would correctly assume that the characters in his stories would be bitter, they aren't. They recognize the humanity in all people, including those who hurt them. Tingle is a master at giving us history in a way that lets us examine brutality and compassion.

Tingle's keynote remarks indicate his courage in taking up current examples of that discrimination. Specifically, he addressed the Washington football team's racist name. He is absolutely right in saying that the public discourse on mascots creates an opportunity for us to examine all misrepresentations of Native people. One of those misrepresentations is the thought that we no longer exist. Here's a couple of tweets that captured more of Tingle's remarks:

Get his books for your classroom, school, or home library. And get them from small bookstores, too! When you booktalk or introduce them, you can say "Tim Tingle is Choctaw." That two letter word (is) will go a long long way at helping your students and patrons correct the misinformation they may carry about us as being extinct.