Monday, August 15, 2016

"Spirit Animal" will not appear in future printings of Julie Murphy's DUMPLIN'

Last year, people were very excited about Julie Murphy's Dumplin. It is one of the books that, by word of mouth, I figured I would want to read sometime. Here's the synopsis:

Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . .  until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.  
Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

Last week, Jeanne, who I follow on Twitter, wrote that she was reading the book and had gotten to the page with "spirit animal" on it. The line is "Oh my God," says El. "I think you might be my spirit animal." It is at the bottom of page 361:

Some twitter conversations began. Today, Julie Murphy says, at her Tumblr page, that she's talked with her editor and the phrase will not be in future printings of the book. I wrote about "spirit animal" in 2014 when I saw it on Buzzfeed--and in Neal Shusterman's Unwind series. Murphy's use is one that is easy enough to revise. Same was true with taking "totem pole" out of Out of Darkness. But Shusterman... he'd have to do a lot of rewriting... Plus, that series is loaded with problems.

Thanks, Julie Murphy and Alessandra Balzer (she's Murphy's editor), for hearing and responding to the concerns. Julie has, with her Tumblr post, been very public about the change. I trust that Alessandra Balzer will carry this understanding with her to future projects and that she, too, will initiative conversations about appropriation with her editor peers. I wonder, for example, if she knows who edited One Little Two Little Three Little Children... 

Julie Murphy's decision is another model for those who have learned that something in their book(s) is problematic. Change is possible, as Julie Murphy learned.


Anonymous said...

Debbie, what do you think of Norway House Cree author Wayne Arthurson's books Spirit Animals: The Wisdom of Nature and his children's book Spirit Animals: Meanings and Stories? Do you believe he should not be using this terminology?

Anonymous said...

Debbie, what do you think of Métis author Danielle Daniel's Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox, which is an "introduction to the Anishinaabe tradition of totem animals"? Earlier today it was nominated as a finalist in the picture book category for the Canadian Children Book Centre's awards.

Debbie Reese said...

Anon at 2:23 on Sep 8, my review of SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE A FOX is here:

Anon at 8:31 on Aug 19, I haven't seen either of those books.