Friday, January 29, 2021

Debbie--have you seen THE BRAVE by James Bird?

A reader wrote to ask if we've read The Brave by James Bird. I am aware of it but have not read it. 

Bird's main character is a 13 year old boy named Collin who has never met his Ojibwe mother before, but is being sent to live with her by his white father. In a podcast I listened to earlier today, Bird says his father was white and his mother was Ojibwe. Bird was born in California and when he turned 18 or 19, went to Minnesota to "experience my tribe."  

Bird's book got several positive reviews (some stars, even) from the major children's literature review journals but it got a scathing review from David Treuer. He's an acclaimed writer and scholar. On his website he tells us he is an Ojibwe Indian from Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. His review of The Brave appeared in The New York Times on July 31, 2020. Here's the last three paragraphs:

It's especially important that they do it in fiction for young people, which may be the only stage of life when most Americans think about us at all, as our history and present tense is inaccurately and glancingly taught to them in school.

If you're a regular reader of AICL or articles we write, or talks we give, you probably know that we say something similar to what Treuer said, a lot. The reason? People defend problematic fiction by saying (often in capital letters): IT IS FICTION. Sometimes they go on to say that a writer can do anything they want in fiction. That is true, but there's larger contexts and consequences to consider. Now the last two paragraphs of the review:   

The world depicted in "The Brave" is not Native American life as I know it. It's summer camp, complete with exotic names and faux rituals; chock-full of crafts, bravery tests and self-discovery.

I want better books for my Ojibwe/Seneca children to read: books that add to the stock of available reality, that incorporate our Native lives in a way that informs those lives and makes them larger. "The Brave" does none of those things. 

I have a copy now and am reading it, making notes as I read.  

[Back to add that as I read, I look things up. The book takes place on the Fond du Lac reservation. I wondered if Bird has relatives there, so did a search using his name and that reservation. I see a review by Deborah Locke in The Circle, a Native newspaper. Locke goes into more detail than Treuer did. Apparently a peach tree will be of significance to this story--but, the reviewer says--there are no peach trees in northern Minnesota. The review ends with "...we should be past stereotypes of stoic, wise Indians who speak little and are abnormally attached to the great outdoors." ] 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Eric Gansworth (Sˑha-weñ na-saeˀ) -- Member of Eel Clan, Enrolled Onondaga -- Makes History for APPLE (SKIN TO THE CORE)

Today, Eric Gansworth (Sˑha-weñ na-saeˀ), member of the Eel Clan, enrolled Onondaga, born and raised at the Tuscarora Nation won an Honor Award from the American Library Association's Printz Committee for his memoir, Apple (Skin to the Core). 

It marks the first time a Native writer was selected to receive distinction in the Printz category. Published by Levine Querido, Gansworth's book is shown here, with the Printz Honor Sticker affixed to the cover: 

The Printz Award, first awarded in 2000, is for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. That excellence is seen in the range of presentation Gansworth uses to convey his story. Readers will find poems, prose, photographs, and Gansworth's original art as they read this book.

Apple (Skin to the Core) will resonate with Native people of one Native Nation who, perhaps due to the history of boarding schools, end up on another reservation. Or whose grandmother or great grandmother had a job cleaning the home of a white woman--one legacy of the outing programs at the boarding schools. Or who spends time with family photo albums and sees uncles in things like a Batman costume. 

Gansworth's book spans from "the horrible legacy of the government boarding schools, to a boy watching his siblings leave and return and leave again" to "a young man fighting to be an artist who balances multiple worlds." Many will recall being called an apple by tribal members. That slur (red on the outside, white on the inside) is meant to sting, but Gansworth has a different perspective on it that I like quite a lot.  

Searing and poignant, humorous and endearing, it is clear why Apple (Skin to the Core) was selected for an Honor by the Printz Committee. 

Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade--Two Tribally Enrolled Women--Made History Today, for WE ARE WATER PROTECTORS

Two tribally enrolled women made history today when the American Library Association awarded the Caldecott Medal to their book, We Are Water Protectors. Prior to this, the only Native person to be selected for recognition from the Caldecott was Velino Herrera of Zia Pueblo. In 1942, his illustrations for Ann Nolan Clark's In My Mother's House won a Caldecott Honor. Clark was a white woman who taught in Native schools. 

Carole Lindstrom, the author of We Are Water Protectors, is tribally enrolled at Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, and Michaela Goade, the illustrator, is Tlingit, a member of the Kiks.ådi Clan.

Published in 2020 by Roaring Book Press its text and illustrations carry tremendous meaning for Native people around the world who are active in ongoing work to stop exploitation. Here's a screen capture of the livestream announcement earlier today (Jan 25). It shows the gold seal on the cover of the book:

As Native people page through the book, they will see many images that resonate with them. That starts by looking at the cover. 

Some will remember the photos of a young person kneeling before a line of law enforcement officers, holding an eagle feather in front of them. The photos are taken from behind. For the book cover, Goade shows us a young person from the front. 

Behind her, you see a line of people holding hands. You'll likely remember photos from Standing Rock that show Native people holding hands to ward off law enforcement. 

The last two pages of the book are a double-page spread of Indigenous people. Some of you went to the marches held across the country. Elders and children were there. You will remember that some of us were in traditional clothes, and some of us were holding signs. Carole and I were together for the march in Washington DC on March 20, 2017. It looked a lot like this:

Because We Are Water Protectors won the Caldecott Medal, children around the world will read about Water Protectors, for generations to come. Kúdaa, Carole and Michaela, for giving this book to all of us. 

Water is Life

Mini Wiconi


All Nations

Protect the Sacred

Stand with Standing Rock


Articles in news media:

School Library Journal: A Grateful Michaela Goade Makes Caldecott History 

Indian Country Today: The First Indigenous Caldecott Medal winner

Sunday, January 24, 2021

USA Today Crossword Clue: "American Indians in Children's Literature founder Debbie"

Anytime "American Indians in Children's Literature" appears somewhere, I get an email alert. I have the alert set up to come once/day. Yesterday, January 23, 2021, I got up pre-dawn (that's typical for me), got my coffee and sat down to read the morning news. 

When I feel more awake, I take a look at email. 

I had an alert, so opened that email. It had a bunch of links to sites related to crossword puzzles. At first, I thought perhaps there was a conversation happening somewhere because sometimes I'll say something about problematic clues like "The Native American word for baby." That's a bad clue (is that the right phrase in crossword puzzle land?!) because it suggests that across the hundreds of Native Nations, we all speak the same language and have the same word for baby. We don't. 

I clicked on one of the links and saw "American Indians in Children's Literature founder Debbie crossword clue." And below that, I saw "Possible Answer" and five boxes with R E E S E in them (see screen cap below). 

And I looked at it, and looked at it, and then Boom! I understood! I searched for USA Today's puzzle for Saturday, January 23rd and found it. I called my husband over and said LOOK at this:

We sat there, grinning, tickled at the idea that I was in a USA Today Crossword! It made me smile as I went about my day. It was fun sharing it on social media and reading the various replies to it. Tribal members, friends, colleagues... we all had a good time with it. 

And I wanted to get a print copy! But as evening drew near, I learned why drugstores, grocery stores, restaurants, and even hotels that I called didn't have it: USA Today does not publish a print copy of the weekend paper! 

What a fun day, it was, Saturday January 23, 2021, to be a clue in a crossword puzzle!