Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"Circle the wagons" will come out of next printings of Robin Benway's FAR FROM THE TREE

Robin Benaway's Far from the Tree, published in 2017 by HarperTeen/HarperCollins, won the 2017 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. The story itself, as the description shows, has nothing to do with Native people:

Being the middle child has its ups and downs.
But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—
Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs. 
And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.
Don't miss this moving novel that addresses such important topics as adoption, teen pregnancy, and foster care.

Yesterday (Dec 19, 2017) I was tagged (in Twitter), by @bookishadvocate* about a phrase in the book. Benway was tagged, too. Here's the tweet:
Pg 263 in this NBA winner contains the microaggressive phrase "circle the wagons." & need to remove it in future publications. If they're already addressing this, great! If not, fix it please. Great story, but that phrase...yikes. - read it yet?

*With permission, I'm adding this note: Bookishadvocate is Emily Patterson Visness, a middle grade teacher. She blogs at The Bookish Advocate.

Shortly after that tweet went out, Benway responded (text on left; screen cap of tweet on right):

"Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention. I just looked up the phrase and had absolutely no idea of its racist origins. I apologize for the offense and will talk to Harper tomorrow about removing it from future printings. Again, thank you for letting me know."

Then--today (Dec 20, 2017), Benway tweeted again, responding to @bookishadvocate, saying:
Thank you so much for sharing it with your students! I just spoke with Harper and the phrase is being removed from future printings. 

I haven't read Far from the Tree but because I keep track of revisions like this, I did this quick post about it. If you are an author who makes a similar change, even if the content is not specific to Native peoples, let me know!

Update: AICL maintains a page of phrases like this one, with information on their history that explain why they are ones you might want to stop using.