Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Close Look at CCBC's 2016 Data on Books By/About American Indians/First Nations

Eds. note: See AICL's list for 2016

On February 15, 2017, Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin released its statistics on the numbers of children's books by/about American Indians/First Nations and People of Color during the year 2016. 

This is vitally important work that CCBC has been doing for many years. Two important things to know about these statistics (I am not critical of CCBC at all in noting these two things; doing some of this work myself, I know how very hard it is to do, to get books, and then to categorize/analyze them).

The data is based on books that are sent to them. Small publishers generally cannot afford to send books out to review journals, bloggers, or centers like CCBC. That means books by small publishers who do great books by/about Native peoples may not be included in the data. It also means, however, that books by small publishers (or self published books) who do stereotypical books by Native people may not be included.

The data is statistical. It is a count. It is not about the quality of the books on the list. To see what they recommend, see CCBC Choices. 

CCBC sent me the log of Native books for their 2016 counts. For the last few years I have been taking a close look at their log, focusing on fiction (as tagged by CCBC; books tagged as picture books are not included in this list) published by US publishers. Here's what I see. 

Note! 
Books in blue font are ones I recommend. 
Books in red font are ones I do not recommend.
Books in bold are from "Big Five" publishers.
Book in plain, black font are ones I have not read, with one exception (I have mixed feelings about Alexie's book.)

Fiction, US Publishers (books in bold are by one of the Big Five publishers)

Here's the list of fiction written by Native people (N = 4):
  • Bruchac, Joseph. The Long Run. 7th Generation
  • Bruchac, Joseph. Talking Leaves. Dial/Penguin
  • Erdrich, Louise. Makoons. HarperCollins
  • Smelcer, John. Stealing Indians. Leapfrog Press (Note: Smelcer's claim to Native identity is contested)

Now here's the books on the CCBC list, by writers who are not Native (N = 17):
  • Abbott, E. F. Mary Jemison: Native American Captive. Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan
  • Carson, Rae. Like a River Glorious. Greenwillow/HarperCollins
  • Flanagan, John. Brotherband: The Ghostface. Penguin
  • Flood, Nancy Bo. Soldier Sister Fly Home. Charlesbridge
  • Heacox, Kim. Jimmy Bluefeather. Alaska Northwest Books
  • Hitchcock, Bonnie Sue. The Smell of Other People's Houses. Wendy Lamb/Penguin
  • Inglis, Lucy. Crow Mountain. Scholastic
  • Harrison, Margot. The Killer in Me. Hyperion/Hachette Book Group
  • Lewis, Ali. Timber Creek Station. Carolrhoda Lab
  • MacColl, Michaela. The Lost Ones. Calkins/Highlights
  • Mann, J. Albert. Scar: A Revolutionary War Tale. Calkins/Highlights
  • Massena, Ed. Wandmaker. Scholastic
  • Oppel, Kenneth. Every Hidden Thing. Simon and Schuster
  • Patel, Sonia. Rani Patel in Full Effect. Cinco Puntos Press
  • Reeve, Kirk. Sun Father Corn Mother. Sun Stone Press  
  • Stokes, Jonathan. Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas. Philomel/Penguin
  • Velasquez, Crystal. Circle of Lies (Hunters of Chaos, Bk 2). Aladdin/Simon and Schuster


Who publishes what?
In 2016, the Big Five published two Native writers (Bruchac and Erdrich). Of those two, I've read and recommend Makoons. Bruchac's book is out for review.

In 2016, the Big Five published eight non-Native writers (Abbott, Carson, Flanagan, Hitchcock, Harrison, Oppel, Stokes, and Velasquez). Of those eight, I've read and do not recommend Carson, Hitchcock, and Harrison (not all reviews are online yet). I also do not recommend some of the non-Native books from small publishers: Flood, MacColl, Mann, Massena (not all reviews are online yet).


A comparison between 2015 and 2016

---------------------------------------------------2015--------------2016-------
Books by Native writers............................3......................4............              
Books by Non-Native writers....................7.....................17...........


From US publishers, there were 10 in 2015. For 2016, it is 21. That is a huge change, but it is due to non-Native writers. Of the 17, I've read eight and found all of them lacking in some way. What will I find if I read the other nine? Based on experience, I'm not optimistic. Ernie Cox, at Reading While White, reviewed Abbott's book about Mary Jemison. I trust his review. I think it would end up on my not recommended list.

There's more to do, in terms of analyzing CCBC's data. That's what I've got, for now.

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Update, Feb 23 2017, 10:20 AM -- back to list titles in fiction/Canada, and picture books in US and Canada. 

Fiction, Canadian Publishers. (Note: none in either category are by Big Five publishers.)

Native Writers (N = 2):
  • Currie, Susan. The Mask That Sang. Second Story Press
  • McLay, R. K. The Rahtrum Chronicles. Fifth House


Non-Native Writers (N = 4)

  • Bass, Karen. The Hill. Pajama Press
  • Koner, Miriam. Yellow Dog. Red Deer Press
  • Ouriou, Susan. Nathan. Red Deer Press
  • Richardson, Eve. Saving Stevie. Red Deer Press


It is interesting that there are not any books from the Big Five. The Big Five are in Canada, too, with "Canada" tagged on.

For example, Robbie Robertson's Testimony is published by Knopf Canada, which is part of Penguin Random House Canada. It is non-fiction, by the way, and it isn't meant for children. It came out in 2016. My guess is that it wasn't sent to CCBC. Robertson is Native. Another example is Joseph Boyden's Three Day Road. It is published by Penguin Canada. It came out in 2008, in the adult market, but is assigned to high school students. Boyden is not Native.

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Picture books, US Publishers:

Native writers (N = 2):

  • Alexie, Sherman; illustrated by Yuji Morales. Thunder Boy Jr. Little Brown
  • Connally, Judy Shi, and Lawana Tomlinson Dansby; illustrated by Norma Howard. My Choctaw Roots. Choctaw Print Services.


Non-Native writers (N = 3)

  • Burton, Jeffrey; illustrated by Sanja Rescek. The Itsy Bitsy Pilgrim. Little Simon
  • Lai, Trevor. Tomo Explores the World. 
  • Marshall, Linda Elovitz; illustrated by Elisa Chavarri. Rainbow Weaver = Tejedora del acoiris. Children's Book Press/Lee & Low.

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Picture books, Canadian Publishers (none in either category are by Big Five publishers)

Native writers (N = 9)
  • Avingaq, Susan and Maren Vsetula; illustated by Charlene Chua. Fishing with Grandma. Inhabit Media
  • Baker, Darryl; illustrated by Qin Leng. Kamik Joins the Pack. Inhabit Media
  • Dupuis, Jenny Kay (and Kathy Kacer); illustrated by Gillian Newland. I Am Not A Number. Second Story Press
  • Highway, Tomson; illustrated by Julie Flett. Dragonfly Kites/Pimithaagansa. Fifth House
  • Kalluk, Celina; illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis. Sweetest Kulu. Inhabit Media
  • Mike, Nadia; illustrated by Charlene Chua. Leah's Mustache Party. Inhabit Media.
  • Robertson, David Alexander; illustrated by Julie Flett. When We Were Alone. Highwater Press
  • Smith, Monique Gray; illustrated by Julie Flett. My Heart Fills With Happiness. Orca
  • Van Camp, Richard; illustrated by Julie Flett. We Sang You Home. Orca.

Non-Native writers (N = 1)
  • Currie, Robin; illustrated by Phyllis Saroff. Tuktuk: Tundra Tale. Arbordale



3 comments:

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Debbie, I'm interested to know the Native-author and -illustrator numbers in the U.S. vs. Canadian traditional publishing houses.

I'm wondering how their respective national industry constructs are impacting our chances of success. It seems like a lot of the better published work is coming from up north.

I'm not sure what the population differences might be (though Canada's is of course smaller overall), but that's relative as well. Any insights appreciated.

Debbie Reese said...

The Canadian government subsidizes small publishers. I think it is a key factor in why there are more and better books published in Canada than there are in the US. Based on your question, Cynthia, I went back into the post and added lists of Fiction/Canada, and, picture books/US and picture books/Canada.

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Thank you, Debbie! I had heard about the governmental financial support in Canada. I wonder if there's also (comparatively more) Native/First Nations content in the required curriculum that's fueling institutional sales.