Sunday, September 24, 2017

Not Recommended: SUSANNA MOODIE: ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH, A GRAPHIC NOVEL by Carol Shields and Patrick Crowe

Today, AICL is launching a new feature. I'm calling it Reviewed On Twitter and it will have its own label. Sometimes, I tweet that I got a book. If I have something more to say as I look it over, I send a second tweet, and a third, and so on. I end up with something akin to a review, except that it is in a series of tweets. Too often, I never get a review written and posted. That means that anyone who reads AICL but doesn't follow me on Twitter, doesn't see what I said about the book. I don't know if this new feature is going to work out or not, but, we'll see.


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Not Recommended


On September 17, 2017, CBC News ran a news item by Angela Sterritt. In 'A punch in the gut': Mother slams B.C. high school exercise connecting Indigenous women to 'squaw', Steritt wrote about a worksheet from a guide for a graphic novel being taught in her daughter's classroom. The graphic novel is Susanna Moodie: Roughing it in the Bush. Below are my tweets, as I read through it. I started on September 21.

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In today's mail; not looking forward to rdg ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH.


Page 2. Nothing in the text says anything about Thanksgiving. Why is it there?

Doesn't that look like an American Thanksgiving scene? Set in 1810, this is supposedly a story about going to Canada.

In Ch 1, Susanna meets her man, gets married; in ch 2 they set off for Canada. On Aug 30, 1832, they approach "The New World."

In ch 3, her husband, John, is out hunting. He comes home, sees Indians, aims his rifle at them; Susanna says she's ok.

The Indians (Chief Peter Nogan, his wife, their son) are teachng her their language. They name her, Nonocosoqui. It means Little Bird.

Susanna can draw. She draws a bird. The chief's wife says "your squaw is a much clever woman." 👀

Susanna draws more, there's talk of trading. She gives them pieces of her fancy mirror (it mostly shattered on its way to their cabin).

I gotta say: stories that have Indians staring into mirrors, marveling, enable a "primitive" image. Water surfaces reflect image, too!

Oh... they give her a gift... she looks in a mirror shard.... it is a bone choker (some of my Native friends will get a kick out of that).

A few days later a Black man gives her a cow. He tells her he heard she's a writer. He tells her "this is no country for writing." Damn.

That "no country for writing" is another problem. It suggests Native ppls were primitive and didn't write.

The Black man's name is Mollineux. He knows abt writing (Shakespeare, specifically) because his master on VA plantation let him use library.

I should note that Susanna and John are Elitist Good White People. They don't like lower class men, like the ones in ch 4...

Ch 4 is about a "logging bee." Lot of working men come to work for Susanna and John. The morning they are due to arrive, Susanna's...

... maid ran away. Susanna doesn't know how to cook, but have no choice. The workers give her a hard time.

An American neighbor goes over to Susanna's. But, they're squatters! LOL. Susanna dissing on Americans. She even says that they...

... ""borrow" the land on which are farm now stood!" I guess Susanna and John got their land... legally?! Again: 👀

The American squatter woman gives Susanna heck abt not sitting down with the workers. "You invite the Indians" but not "your helps."

Susanna wants to avoid "Speechifying on Yankee democracy" so changes subject to Mollineux. Squatter woman says he used to work for her...

... and he had "good conduct" but she "could never abide him for being black." Susanna says Mollineux is "same flesh and blood" as...

... squatter woman's "helps" and asks if he sat at their table. "Mercy me, my helps would leave if I put such an affront to them."

I should have noted when I started this thread, that the teacher's guide for ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH is why I ordered this book.

I did a long thread on the guide a couple of days ago.
1. I ordered a copy of ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH (graphic novel adaptation of the 1852 book) in this news item:
2. Question for -- why did you publish ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH as a graphic novel? I'm flipping thru 1852 bk and.. 
3. I see "squaw" a lot. Here's one passage: "a very large, fat, ugly squaw" is the first example.
4. In the original, "squaw" appears 39 times. How many times is it in the graphic novel? Course, even once is not ok.
5. Hmmmm... I searched the original for the word "darkie" that is definitely in the graphic novel, but it isn't in the original.
6. The original has the n word but the author pushes back on racist ideas. See?

7. Is that passage in the graphic novel... with "darkie" used instead?
8. Teacher's guide for bk is here: [It was removed for review.] See disclaimer? Why say "not politically correct" instead of racist? 

9. And, the person who wrote "of that time" is clearly living under a rock. Those prejudices and racist language are still here, TODAY. 
10. This guide is clearly written with White students/teachers in mind.
11. Did its author and publisher not realize Native and Black kids are part of today's society? First suggested activity is to imagine... 
12. ... life as a "pioneer." It is f'ed up to ask a Native child to imagine what it was like to be a "pioneer." 
13. The guide asks students for good definition of pioneer. How about "a biased word for someone who invaded Native lands." 
14. Here's another question from the guide. I don't see a question asking students how an Indigenous person felt...
15. The next question asks if relationships between pioneers and indigenous ppl improved. Guessing the answer is supposed to be yes. 🤔
16. Next activity: build a model of a pioneer village. That kind of thing centers Whiteness. Teachers: don't do this!
17. The third activity is about "politically incorrect" language:

18. Lot going wrong in this activity. In this true/false statement about words that "everyone" used? "Everyone" means White people. 
19. And here's the activity that brought attention to this messed up book and teacher's guide for it. Guide tries to say "don't use... 
20... certain words today" but then uses them in the activity like they're facts kids must learn. 



Where was I? Oh, yeah, the squatter woman and the not squatter woman trying to out-do each other with their imagined superiority.

Well, damn. When I was looking at the guide the other day, I saw that ch 6 is about a "shivaree" but didn't know what that was. I do now.

By ch 6, Mollineux has married an Irish girl. It is nighttime, men have fiddles, drums, masks. They go to his house: "Come on Darkie!"

One calls "string him up". They pour tar on him, feathers... When I first heard of this book, I asked WHY it was published.

It seems to me that the publisher and writers of the graphic novel & guide had NO IDEA that Native or Black kids would be asked to read it.

The graphic novel, published in 2016, has an Intro by Margaret Atwood. Her recent Emmy probably makes the bk more saleable. But...

But I can't see her name anymore and not remember her involvement in the Joseph Boyden messes.

I'll stop for now with this quick look at ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH. If it was assigned to my child, I'd raise hell for sure.

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When I quit last night, I had finished Ch 6, "Shivaree." I didn't share any pain-inducing images from those pages. I'm still aghast at them.

The bk is marked as being for kids in sixth grade and on up. Those "Shivaree" pages are brutal.

Ch 7 is called "John Managhan." John goes to Susanna's house, asking for work. He's hurt but Susanna's new servant won't help him.

He starts to work for Susanna. Kind of heroic. Even tells Susanna's husband how to deliver their 2nd baby when the midwife can't get there.

That's because he's a Roman Catholic. An inset box tells us that enmities between religions ran high "in those days." Not today, I guess?!

Life is getting harder for Susanna. Milk, bread, and potatoes are sometimes all they have to eat. But wait!

Remember the Indian Chief from the start of the book? He comes by from time to time and gives them fish.

Susanna gives most of the food to her family. Husband notices, tells her she has to eat more because he needs her help in the fields.

Susanna cries. She is "reduced to field-labour" but understands why. She steps up but they don't have skills, really, to do this work.

Life gets harder and harder. There's a page where she's grimacing as she skins squirrels for their meals. She's also upset because...

... her sister, who had visited (briefly) in ch 5, has written a book that has "made this wretched wilderness into a fool's paradise."

Susanna's husband tells her to write, again, as she had before they left England. Write the truth of their lives, he says.

Susanna doesn't want to do that. Everyone in England would think of her, living in a log hut, consorting with vulgar ppl & Americans.

But, after a while, she does (write). War breaks out. John has to leave. Oh... here's Indians again as Indian women show her how to fish.

I've looked thru and thru the book. No mention of what tribal nation Susanna was learning words from, or learning fishing techniques...

The thread this tweet is part of is about the graphic novel, SUSANNA MOODIE: ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH that was (is?) being taught in Canada.

It is based on a book with that same title, written by Moodie, published in 1852. In the original, Moodie used "Indian" 118 times.

You can see the original, here: I don't plan to do any analysis of the 1852 one compared to the 2015 one.

Mostly, I just wonder why Second Story thought it was a good idea to make this graphic novel adaptation, for young ppl of today.

I don't recall seeing a disclaimer like this one, inside ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH. See that past tense, "were", in there? (Because text in photo is small, I am inserting it here: "Common prejudices in the nineteenth century resulting from antagonisms between Protestants and Catholics, or racism perpetuated by white Europeans against Blacks and Aboriginals, were reflected in the everyday language people used to describe themselves and each other. Today it is unacceptable to use words such as Indian, squaw, darkie, Negro,Yankee, or Papist.")




There's something like that disclaimer in the teaching guide for the bk, too. That guide got pulled. Will the book get pulled, too?

My guess is, no. It was (is?) being used in classrooms in Canada, which means it was bought in quantities. Just for one class? More?

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