Friday, January 20, 2017

Debbie--have you seen the SPIRIT ANIMALS series published by Scholastic?

Among the many books I have on the towering to-be-read pile is the Spirit Animals series published by Scholastic. Here's a bit of info about it, from the website:
The series centers on the fantasy world of Erdas where children who come of age go through a ritual to determine if they have a “spirit animal,” a mystical bond between human and beast that bestows great powers to both. As their world crumbles, four children separated by vast distances discover they each have a spirit animal—a wolf, a leopard, a panda, and a falcon. 
Yesterday on Twitter, Lex Leonov asked me if I'd reviewed them:

She had a series of tweets about the series. With her permission, I am sharing them here:
Wow. Just learned about this "Spirit Animals" book series that includes best selling authors. This is not okay. 
Looks like MG. @debreese, I don't see this on AICL, but I might've missed it. Are you aware of the series?
From the blurb of the first book: "... every child who comes of age must discover if they have a spirit animal, a rare bond between..." -->
"... human and beast that bestows great powers to both."
Also in that blurb: "Part engrossing book series, part action role-playing game -- discover your spirit animal and join the adventure."
There are so many things wrong with this. Many Native people have already explained why in depth. Research those threads, blogs, books, etc.
Kids are going to read these books and think it's okay to "ROLE PLAY" having a spirit animal. It is not. This is not ours to take. -->
For these to be published means the most basic research, the most basic respect, was absent. Do. not. do. this.
In 2016, Julie Murphy, author of the acclaimed Dumplin' wrote, on her Tumblr, about her decision to remove "spirit animal" from future printings of her book. Refinery29 has an article about Kerry Washington using it, and then apologizing for using it

I wrote about the spirit animals in Shusterman's Unwind series and in those quizzes that invite you to find out your spirit animal.  This idea is everywhere as a "Native American" thing. It is, in fact, specific to some Native nations, but not all, and it has significance. I know... you might really be touched by Native peoples and Native ways, and you just want to impart that to your readers... 

You may think you'll do some research and find out the right way to use spirit animals in your story, but why use it at all? There are other choices. 

Native ways of being aren't something "cool" for writers to use in their stories, even if their stories are about Native people. If a Native writer, writing from within their own ways, chooses to use it, that's one thing. Others, though? No. It is one of the too-many aspects of Native peoples in the US and Canada that is mis-used, and yes, appropriated. 

1 comment:

Sam Jonson said...

You know, it is possible to do this without taking from Amerindian cultures and putting forth heresy (which this racist fake-lore should best be called). There are plenty of similar things to spirit animals in other cultures, including--wait for it--European folklore, where there are "familiar spirits". Familiars could be either good or bad, depending on whom they worked with. They could appear as animals, even sometimes as humanoids. Please, white writers, look to your own folklore if you're going to write things like this.