Saturday, January 11, 2020

Recommended: "Grace" and "Homecoming" by Darcie Little Badger in TAKE THE MIC

"Grace" and "Homecoming" 
Written by Dr. Darcie Little Badger
Published in 2019 in Take the Mic
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic)
Reviewed by Debbie Reese
Status: Recommended


Dr. Darcie Little Badger has two stories in Take the Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance. In the final pages of the book you can read a little about her. I follow her on Twitter (@ShiningComic) and it has been terrific reading her tweets as she's made her way to that PhD in Oceanography from Texas A&M. 

Edited by Bethany Morrow, Take the Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance came out in 2019 from Scholastic. Here's the description:
You might be the kind of person who stands up to online trolls.Or who marches to protest injustice. 
Perhaps you are #DisabledAndCute and dancing around your living room, alive and proud. 
Or perhaps you are the trans mentor that you wish you had when you were younger. 
Maybe you call out false allies, or stand up to loved ones. 
Maybe you speak your truth and drop the mic, or maybe you take it with you when you leave. 
This anthology features fictional stories--in poems, prose, and art--that reflect a slice of the varied and limitless ways that readers like you resist every day. Take the Mic's powerful collection of stories features work by literary luminaries and emerging talent alike, including Newbery-winner Jason Reynolds, New York Times bestseller Samira Ahmed, anthologist and contributor Bethany C. Morrow, Darcie Little Badger, Keah Brown, Laura Silverman, L.D. Lewis, Sofia Quintero, Ray Stoeve, Yamile Mendez, and Connie Sun, with cover and interior art by Richie Pope.
The first and last story in the book are Darcie's. The first one is "Grace" and the last is "Homecoming." In her introduction, Bethany wrote that the resistance in "Grace" is an Indigenous girl who doesn't stand for unwanted physical advances. That does happen in the story and I love how it is done. As an Indigenous person, I see several other acts of resistance in Darcie's stories.

"I'm Lipan Apache" is one. With those three words in the story, Grace is pushing back on the notion that Native peoples are monolithic. Another misguided notion is that Native peoples live on reservations. In fact, some of us do and some of us don't. Some are on our reservations sometime, but not all the time. And some of our nations don't have reservations. Some of us have ancestral land that isn't reservation land, that we return to periodically. That theme in "Grace" is embodied by her account of where she's lived, where she's living when the story takes place, and where she's going to live.

Turning now to "Homecoming," Grace, her mom, and her mama are home, on the ancestral lands of the Lipan Apache people. Summer is over; it is the first day of school. Grace is doing that thing that many teens do: going through her closet trying to decide what to wear. She settles on a T-shirt with Silver Synapse on it. He's an Apache superhero. Grace got the shirt at Indigenous Comic Con. At school, she's one of the few Native students.

Her mom is driving her to school. When they get there, they see that a protest is taking place in front of the high school. People are carrying signs. On one, Grace sees that it says "BRING BACK OUR BRAVE." Painted on it is a cartoonish and stereotypical image.

Inside the school, Grace heads to her first class and meets a girl named Naomi who, noticing Grace's shirt, thinks Grace is part of the protest. When Grace tells her who Silver Synapse is, Naomi asks if Grace is Native--and then--"how much are you?"

Grace's reply to Naomi is another act of resistance:
"Blood quantum isn't our thing," I said. "My mother is Lipan and I am too." 
Naomi is satisfied with that and doesn't probe further. The two go on to talk about the protesters who want the mascot reinstated. People who don't read Native news, or news stories about mascots, may not know that schools do the right thing and get rid of mascots, but then alums object and mascots get reinstated.

The Jan 11, 2020 issue of The New York Times ran a story about this: Officials Called 'Redmen' a Racist Mascot. Then Voters Weighed In; and see the Timeline in "American Indian Mascots" by Paulette Fairbanks Molin in American Indian Stereotypes in the World of Children edited by Arlene Hirschfelder, Paulette F. Molin, Yvonne Wakim, and Michael A. Dorris.

As "Homecoming" draws to a close, Grace is at a protest. She's scheduled to speak but learns that the event is set up to give "both sides" equal time to respond to an issue. Grace is indignant at that idea--as anybody should be, about issues of social justice. She takes the mic and says:
“Hóóyíí, Shizhách’i’íí ashíí Shitsiłki’ii!” I boomed. “My name is Grace. Like my mama, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and great-great-grandmothers, I am Lipan Apache. To my Native siblings, mínì’ níáá dààgó̱ó̱t́í!”  
I paused to look every Bring-Back-the-Braves protester in the eye.  
“My humanity,” I continued, “is not up for debate. Xásteyo.”
Those last words are so powerful (Xásteyo means thank you)!

I've read several of Darcie Little Badger's stories and each time, I'm deeply moved by what she writes. I highly recommend "Grace" and "Homecoming."

National Geographic's Encyclopedia of American Indian History and Culture, Not Recommended, Part 2

Encyclopedia of American Indian History & Culture: Stories, Time Lines, Maps, and More
Written by Cynthia O'Brien
Published in 2019
Publisher: National Geographic
Reviewed by Jean Mendoza
Status: Not Recommended

 Debbie's review (1/4/2020) of Encyclopedia of American Indian History & Culture: Stories, Time Lines, Maps, and More focused mainly on visual images used in the book. There are enough problems with a number of the photographs and other images used to warrant not recommending the book. I reached a similar conclusion after looking at selections of the Encyclopedia's written content, and here I'll talk about that process.

My focus was on terminology and concepts relevant to Indigenous/US political history. I wanted to know what the book had to say about the Doctrine of Discovery, settler-colonialism, Manifest Destiny, Native sovereignty, the taking of Indigenous homelands, and Indigenous resistance. What words writers choose, and what they leave unsaid, reveals much about their understanding of a topic and about what they want readers to understand.

Let's start with sovereignty. The term is in the glossary, but the definition says nothing about its connection to Indigenous reality. It's not in the index, but as Debbie mentioned, the publisher's note

on p. 8 devotes about 300 words to tribal sovereignty (see image below), including a bit about the concept of "domestic dependent nations" and allusion to particular legal rights of Native nations. But readers must wade through frustrating mischaracterization of Indigenous history. "As Europeans took over more territory" leaves out the fact that the US, from the moment it was established by former Europeans, also "took over" Indigenous homelands. More about that later. And in paragraph 2, the phrase "lost their sovereignty" makes it sound like the Nations, oops, dropped it somewhere, when in fact the colonizing US government refused or failed to consistently recognize or honor Indigenous sovereignty.

The Encyclopedia misses other key opportunities to deepen readers' understanding of Indigenous history. It has no glossary/index entries for "Doctrine of Discovery" or "Manifest Destiny."  Here I'll talk about those and some related terms that should be dealt with more effectively in the book. (Debbie and I learned some things about the challenges and benefits of glossaries and indexes when we adapted An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, and we have an appreciation for how they can promote or hinder readers' understanding of a book's content.)

First, the Doctrine of Discovery. This product of collaboration between European rulers and the Roman Catholic Church laid the groundwork for European invasion and colonization of Indigenous homelands in what are currently called the Americas. The Doctrine of Discovery has ongoing influence on policies and attitudes here. (For example, in Brazil, the current elected leader denies Indigenous peoples' right to exist on their homelands, and the current resident of the White House greatly admires Andrew Jackson, proponent of "Indian Removal.") Knowing about the Doctrine of Discovery is essential to understanding the history and present circumstances of every Indigenous nation. But it's not in the glossary or index, and if it's mentioned in the text, I didn't find it.

BTW, the Encyclopedia's glossary definition of Catholicism leaves out that Church's key role in the Doctrine of Discovery. Also, "the mission years" highlighted in the book's California section means the years of Catholic missions, but that's not made clear. The textbox titled Mission Indians (see below) explicitly mentions Spanish brutality toward the Indigenous people, then says that the Spanish "also baptized as many as possible into the Catholic Church." Readers deserve to be shown more clearly how Spanish soldiers and priests together actively sought to destroy multiple Nations in what is currently called California, and how baptism was part of that. And again, here's the notion that Indigenous traditional ways were "lost." Not so. Colonizers intentionally destroyed them.

Manifest Destiny. Awareness of Manifest Destiny is basic to understanding the impact of "Western expansion" on Indigenous nations. But there's no glossary definition for it, nothing in the index, and it isn't mentioned in the definition of Western expansion, below.

Notice how the glossary definition above uses passive voice ("the name given to")?  That glosses over the fact that colonizers have named it that -- not the Indigenous people on whom Western expansion was inflicted. Also, "acquired" doesn't begin to describe the bloodshed and treachery that enabled the US government to take Indigenous lands. "Settled" conjures up images of individuals and families quietly and legally building little homes and communities for themselves (Little House Anywhere Charles Ingalls Wants to Build One) -- and leaves out the central, often coordinated, roles of governments, land speculators, militias/military, missionaries, business owners, and squatters in the takeover. "Violently and intentionally took and colonized Indigenous homelands" would be more accurate.

Some terms the Encyclopedia does include are handled in ways that leave much to be desired. The glossary definition of colonization ("settling and taking control of a place and its indigenous people") is far too mild. And colonization period -- defined here as "the time between 1607 and 1783, during which the Europeans settled in what is now the United States" has two problems. First, the US itself continued to colonize the continent, taking Indigenous homelands, long after its independence from Britain. (That's what "Western expansion" was.) Second, the US is a colonizing nation in present time (e.g., Puerto Rico, Guam). A third problem is that there's no index entry for either of those glossary terms, so you can't easily look up what else the book says about them, if anything.

As Debbie noted in her review, National Geographic has said it wants to stop its long-time racist misrepresentations of Indigenous people. Debbie mentions that several Native scholars are credited as consultants on the Encyclopedia. That's a wise move on National Geographic's part, though we know there's no guarantee that Native people's contributions were actually used. Some content and wording depart from what's typical in colonizer-centered informational/reference books about Indigenous history, which suggests some use of Indigenous input. For example, the introduction, by former US Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Northern Cheyenne), uses the term "European invaders". (But if "invaders" appears elsewhere in the book, I didn't find it.)  The Encyclopedia does refer frequently to Native nationhood, Native rights, acts and campaigns of resistance, and present-day existence. It defines words like encroachment, tribal status, federal recognition, and reparation, which Native consultants would likely push to have included.  Unfortunately, that's not enough, because those positives share space with problematic text like this photo caption:

It's better to refrain from commenting if one isn't sure why a Native person dresses
a certain way. Also, "more attractive" than what, and to whom, and why? 
Treating such cultural information as some kind of mystery is a form of Othering.

and this "In the Know" box:
The circled statement places traditional Salish beliefs in the past, when there 
may well be contemporary Salish people who share them. The wording
 also makes Salish beliefs sound "different", though in fact, a number of 
contemporary religions believe in guidance by spiritual guardians. For 
example, some Christians profess belief in guardian angels.

It would be wonderful to have a visually appealing reference book that provides young people with a cohesive, well-grounded, well-sourced, thoroughly Indigenous perspective on Indigenous nations and cultures, and their history with what is currently called the United States. National Geographic's Encyclopedia of American Indian History and Culture is not that book.

Edited on 1/12/2020: It's important to also mention that, although the Encyclopedia refers to Catholicism in the glossary and briefly in some of the text, it makes another glaring omission: there is no glossary entry or indexing for Protestantism and/or Calvinism, both of which played a considerable role in Indigenous-white relations outside of what is currently known as California. The first European colonizers in places like Plymouth and Jamestown were Protestant, as were many of those who came after. They tended to have little regard for Indigenous people's religions, and often considered them to be consorts of the devil. Much more could be said of that, and more should have been said in the NatGeo Encyclopedia.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020


This is a long overdue "Debbie--have you seen" post! Last year I was asked about Jumping Mouse: A Native American Legend of Friendship and Sacrifice by Misty Schroe. My apologies for this delay!

Back in 1985, John Steptoe's The Story of Jumping Mouse: A Native American Legend came out. The Caldecott Committee selected it as an honor book. In my copy, I see this:
The Story of Jumping Mouse, a story from Seven Arrows copyright 1972 by Hymeyohsts Storm. Retold and illustrated for children copyright 1984 by John Steptoe.
People in Native networks know that Storm is a fraud. Indeed, Native media and scholars have written about Storm's fraudulent claims to Native identity (see 5 Fake Indians: Checking a Box Doesn't Make You Native by Dr. Dean Chavers in Indian Country Today and "The Ruins of Representation: Shadow Survivance and the Literature of Dominance" by Gerald Vizenor in American Indian Quarterly, volume 17, #1, Winter 1983).

What we have in Steptoe's book is his retelling of a retelling from an unreliable source. What is in this new telling of that story?

Well, there's an introduction available online. There, the author says that she heard this story from her mother, "Laughing Bird." So--where did Laughing Bird hear it?

At her author's page, Schroe says she's "almost a fourth Crow from the Sioux nation." Hmm. That doesn't make sense to me but I'll look for more info.

The Publisher's Weekly review notes that there is no source for the story, and that there is no specific tribal nation mentioned anywhere in the story. That same problem is pointed out by the review at School Library Journal. And, Kirkus notes it, too! That is terrific!

I've got a copy on order and will be back when I get it, but for now, I have doubts that it will be on AICL's recommended lists.