Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A public thank you to Weezie, and to Rick Riordan regarding "spirit animal" in THE SWORD OF SUMMER

Note from Debbie on May 6, 2021: A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a reader asking about a page number for "spirit animal" in Riordan's book. In the book, it appeared in the first pages of chapter eight. Mr. Riordan carried through. The phrase is not in later printings. 


Yesterday (April 25, 2017), Weezie, the Mvskoke person who tweets from @WeeziesBooks, tagged me on a tweet about a page from Rick Riordan's The Sword of Summer*. Here's a screen cap of the tweet. Below the screen cap, I've typed up the content of the screen cap.

Early in The Sword of Summer, Riordan's character is talking about his mother. Weezie said this to Riordan:
Hi, Rick! Can you explain this passage? Native readers know spirit animals are sacred... why include this?
The passage Weezie asked about is this:
It's hard to describe her. To really understand Natalie Chase, you had to meet her. She used to joke that her spirit animal was Tinker Bell from Peter Pan.
Predictably, Weezie got piled on for asking the question. This morning on Twitter, I asked Riordan if he could delete that line from future printings (as before, here's a screen cap followed by the content of the screen cap):

Riordan replied:
Just spoke to my editor and we will delete that in all future printings. Thank you for pointing this out. Apologies for my insensitivity. 
In response, some people thanked him. Others said his decision was unnecessary. I'm amongst those thanking him--and Weezie, too--for bringing attention to it. He joins Julie Murphy and others who take decisive and public steps about using that phrase.

I think Riordan's public decision tells us that he is aware that Native children read his books and that he wants to do right by them. In doing right by them, he's also doing right for all children who read his books.

As the title of this post indicates, this is a thank you. To those who speak up, and those who listen and respond, as Riordan did. This post will be added to AICL's growing list of links to books that writers change when they revisit content like "spirit animal."

If you're on Twitter, follow Weezie. And check out Weezie's Whimsical Writing.

Update, April 27, 2017:

People continue to pile on Weezie. Someone tweeted to Riordan about it, and he replied that:
All choices about and responsibility for my text are mine. If people want to be mad at someone, they should get mad at me and me only.
Here's a screen cap of that:

*My apologies to Mr. Riordan. In the initial post, I incorrectly identified his book as "The Summer of the Sword." My error has been corrected, thanks to a reader at ALSC. I deeply value email from those who point out my errors. Please don't hesitate to send them!


Armin Arethna said...

So great to hear about a story with a happy ending, Debbie. And thank you, Weezie and Rick!

Unknown said...

My Apache son loves Rick Riordan books. I am so thankful to hear that this author knows how to apologize and remove culturally insensitive references when made aware.

Unknown said...

It is gratifying when someone does the right thing--particularly someone with a big name who could've easily done anything else with no penalty. Many thanks to Riordan!


Lux Lea said...

I'm mixed on this. Grateful to Riordan that he was willing to change his book, bothered by the fact that he felt he had to. Perhaps it is appropriate that Riordan did it as his book is a children's book.

Overall, art is for art's sake and I'm troubled by asking artists to revisit their vision and choices. I mean yes, anyone has the right to request it but why request it -- why not use it as a teaching point about what spirit animals are and aren't? To broaden a child's vision instead of restrict it?

Pamela said...

This is so great! Also props for telling fans who are out of line to knock it off.

Unknown said...

Art is rarely only for art's sake, and artists revisit their visions and choices all the time. That's what editing and revising is. Why not make that request? Why is it preferable for educators to have to follow authors around, cleaning up their messes?

Riordan cleaned up his own mess once he realized he made one. That's the responsible thing to do. He decided he didn't want his vision to include making light of Native religion. That's to be admired, in my opinion, not mourned.


Ruth McNally Barshaw said...

Thank you. Though it is sometimes uncomfortable to read and process, I do want to know when writing and art crosses the line. I don't want to perpetuate painful stereotypes in my books. I am learning.

Unknown said...

Does anyone happen to know the page number? Trying to determine for certain if my copy should be replaced. Thanks so much!

Debbie Reese said...

Unknown at 2:12 on Wednesday, May 5, 2021:

It is on the first pages of chapter 8 of the early copies. It is not in later copies.