Friday, October 30, 2015

They say "Debbie Reese hates white people."

A couple of years ago at a library conference, a friend (she is white) told me about conversations she's had with people who say "Debbie Reese hates white people." She tells them that isn't true, and I'm grateful to her for doing that. It seems silly to say it isn't true, but unfortunately, it needs saying!

They say that, I suspect, because I've been critical of a book they like, or because they're friends with an author whose book I've critiqued.  

There's a perception that I'll criticize books with Native characters if the author or illustrator isn't Native. That isn't true, either. 

For those who need proof, below is a list of books I like that are by writers who are not Native. Some are books categorized as being about Native people, while others are ones that include Native content but aren't categorized as being about Native people. Some of these are books on an extensive list I created with Jean Mendoza in 2006 and some are ones I've written about, or recommended, elsewhere.
  • Powwow by George Ancona, published in 1993 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
  • Earth Daughter: Alicia of Acoma Pueblo by George Ancona, published in 1995 by Macmillan.
  • The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, published in 2014 by Viking.
  • Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews, illustrated by Ian Wallace, published in 1998 by Aladdin.
  • Who Will Tell My Brother? by Marlene Carvell, published in 2004 by Hyperion.
  • Whale Snow by Debby Dahl Edwardson, illustrated by Annie Patterson, published in 2004 by Charlesbridge.
  • My Name Is Not Easy, by Debby Dahl Edwardson, published in 2013 by 
  • On the Move by K.V. Flynn, published in 2014 by Wynnpix Productions.
  • Daughter of Suqua by Diane Hamm Johnson, published in 1997 by Albert Whitman.
  • Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older, published in 2015 by Arthur A. Levine.
  • A Children's Guide to Arctic Birds by Mia Pelletier, illustrated by Danny Christopher, published in 2014 by Inhabit Media.
  • Cradle Me by Debbie Slier, published in 2012 by Starbright Books.

I read a lot of other books, too, that aren't about Native people. A recent one that I read and love is Zetta Elliot's Dayshaun's Gift.

And, Matt de la Pena's The Living. And Fake ID by Lamar Giles. And Ash by Malinda Lo. When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez! And Benjamin Alire Saenz's Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, and Aisha Saeed's Written in the Stars. Back when I was teaching first grade, Eric Carle's books were amongst my favorites to read aloud at storytime. And we have a dear video from 1992 when I was reading Galdone's Over in the Meadow to our then-baby, Liz. The dear part is her chiming in as I read.

Right now, I'm partway through All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.

And I can't wait for my copy of Don Tate's Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton. Did you watch the video yet?

If you're one of the people who hears other people say "Debbie Reese hates white people," I hope you'll tell them to go to my site and look for a post titled "Debbie Reese hates white people."


Anonymous said...

_Very Last First Time_ is a wonderful book. It shows how the ocean tide still goes in and out if there is thick ice on the top. A little girl goes under the ice to gather mussels. Beautiful pointillist watercolor pictures.


Dhonielle Clayton said...

We know that this type of commentary is used to shut down all that you have to say. It's used to discredit you. My grandmother always said "sense isn't common," but those of us that do have it, and have had the pleasure of knowing you, will counteract that.

Roger Sutton said...

I just gotta say that with all the disagreements we've had over the last twenty (!) years, this particular accusation has never once crossed my mind. That's just a way for people not to engage with what you're saying without having to think about it.

Allie Jane Bruce said...

I love this list, Debbie! What a fabulous resource... and I want to note that Debbie's supporting many, many facets of diversity here. This is what organizing, and allyship, looks like. This is also what an awesome stack-o-books looks like.

As for the "Debbie hates white people" criticism (which I have DEFINITELY heard), this is one of those things about anti-racist work. White people (like me) who engage in this work are usually (not always) lauded and respected and invited to give talks and write articles. People of color and First/Native Nations people are accused of hating white people. I say this not to try to shut down anyone's work, just to use Debbie's post as a galvanizer to reflect on, and increase my own awareness of, my white privilege.

Beverly Slapin said...

Debbie Reese and her many years of hard work for and commitment to educational equity and her community do not need to be defended; rather, her record stands for itself. That having been said, “hating white people” is a quick, easy and ignorant way to attempt to cut off discussion and deflect white racism onto an easy target. Debbie and I don’t always agree on everything, but as a white person who has worked with her for decades, I can tell you these things: She knows her job. She will not stop. And she is not an easy target.

Heather said...

I've read your blog occasionally over the last several years, and I appreciate your thoughtful comments on various books portraying First Nations people. You have opened my eyes to many things that I wouldn't have thought of myself. thank-you.

Crystal said...

If people say that, they have not truly listened to you. I appreciate all you do here on the blog, at conferences and in your daily life contributing to the kidlit community. I can see that what you say and write is not motivated by hatred of any group of people. You offer very necessary critique. People who say these types of things are just giving themselves a quick and easy excuse to ignore your voice. I'm thankful that you persist in spite of comments like these.

Anonymous said...

i need to point out that if Benjamin Alire Saenz' book is about mexicans/mexican american characters, then it is about natives and if he's mexican american, he is native as well, mexican americans may have had their tribal identities tripped from them, but they are still native to north america and many are native to what is now the US.