Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Twilight. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Twilight. Sort by date Show all posts

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Quileute Response to TWILIGHT

Pasting below an extended excerpt from a New York Post article. Called "Vampire Vacation: Twilight Fans Turn a Quiet Indian Reservation into an Unwitting Tourist Mecca," it is the first time I've seen a Quileute response to Twilight. The news article was posted online at 1:32 AM on July 5th, 2009.

"Twilight" author Stephenie Meyer chose Forks after Googling for the rainiest place in America and was pleased to find the Quileute nearby.
Locals marvel at how much she got right, but the economically depressed reservation is ambivalent about "Twilight" and how its 350 residents should capitalize on it. Compared to Forks, where visitors can pose with Bella's truck and participate in a "Twilight" look-alike contest, the reservation is cloaked in centuries-old anonymity.
"There are mixed feelings," says tribal council member Anna Rose Counsell. Over the last three months, the tribe has struggled over what to do. "This is a phenomenon that is happening whether we like it or not."
Tribal leaders hired a p.r. pro, Jackie Jacobs, in February after being inundated with "Twilight" inquiries. The tribe opened its Wednesday night drum circle to all visitors, which recently included two families of "Twilight" fans.
At the tribe-owned Oceanside Resort, director Renee Rux says business is up 30 percent, thanks to "Twilight." "It's been huge for us," Rux says. The resort recently partnered with a charter boat company to offer "Twilight" tour packages for $250.
At the moment, the shop stocks few "Twilight" souvenirs, including hand-knit hats emblazoned with "Bella," "Jacob" and "Edward." Another holds $8 bottles of sand, labeled "Jacob's Treasure."
Rux, a non-native, retrained the staff to reach out to visitors. "That's the paradigm shift," she says. "People [now] want that experience of being with the Quileute."
A hospitality industry veteran, Rux promised to add $1 million to the resort's $2 million in revenue when she was hired last September. It's just not clear how much the Quileute people want to share their culture for profit.
Hospitality is an ingrained part of their culture, but elders are worried about building a tourist economy. They fret about how their creation story is portrayed in the book. The tribe says they were changed from wolves to humans by a traveler. Meyer took literary liberty, enabling them to change back at will in an eternal battle against vampires.
"This is our opportunity to educate people on Quileute history," Counsell says.
At the Wednesday drum circle, artist and grandmother Ann Penn-Charles works up a sweat in the kitchen while a group of men sing traditional songs. More than 75 people have come on this night for the tribe's free dinner and music.
Quileute artists take pride in harvesting their own materials, whether it's raw animal sinew for a drum or cedar bark for baskets. Penn-Charles says she's felt judged by some tribal members because she knits the names of "Twilight" characters into traditional cowichin hats. They sell for $50 at the resort store, or $25 directly from her.
"They're resentful. They think we're selling out," Penn-Charles says. "It's not. It makes your car payment, or those braces your kids need."
The tribe has hired a business developer, Justin Finkbonner, who also spearheads a crusade to market Quileute and other native artists.
"We have so many talented artists here, so many untapped," Counsell says. "They don't know how to market."
In Forks, Chinook Pharmacy owner Chuck Carlson, agrees. He's seen a 20 percent jump in business thanks to "Twilight" merchandise, but the store only carries one Quileute craft -- tiny hand-woven cedar baskets that sit behind a glass case and sell for $49.
"They need to take more advantage of what's going on," Carlson says. "I don't think they understand how to do that."
In particular, he feels the tribe should profit from the tour buses that rumble through the reservation. "I would be saying, 'Hey, you're coming down here, you're making a lot of money off us. You need to share some of that profit.' "
The tribe is now talking about working with tour operator Dazzled by Twilight. Its evolution as a business likely will only grow as the rest of the books are made into movies. In later books, the Quileutes' role becomes nearly as prominent as the Cullens'.
Fans of La Push hope visitors who come for "Twilight" will learn to appreciate the area's natural allure. That could help connect the Quileutes to more sustainable tourism, such as fishing trips with a Native American guide, kayak rentals and eateries focused on fresh seafood that will attract culinary tourists.
Tribal publicist Jacobs practically scoffs at questions about what the Quileutes will do once "Twilight" fades.
"The Quileute have traced their ancestry to the Ice Age," she says. "One day, 'Twilight' will go away and they will continue being the hospitable, welcoming people they've always been, practicing the culture they have been practicing for tens of thousands of years.

Some time back, I saw something that said cast members would be at Quileute Days July 17-19th, but there is nothing about it on the tribe's website and no mention of it in the news story above.

Update, October 23, 2009

Want to see more that I've written about Twilight? Try...
"Stephenie Meyer's TWILIGHT" (May 19, 2008)
"Meyer's TWILIGHT, Second Post" (May 25, 2008)
Terrific essays about Meyer's character "Jacob" (June 30, 2008)
"Has Stephenie Meyer read this?" (Oct 23, 2009)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Jean Mendoza's visit to La Push and Forks

My friend, Jean Mendoza, was up in La Push and Forks recently. She sent me some notes and photographs of her visit. I am featuring them today...

The Cullen kids would have had to call in sick to school on both days we spent in and around Forks, Washington. Beautiful bright sunshine…. First Beach, Ruby Beach, and Kalaloch (say “clay-lock”) sparkled, and Edward’s shimmeriness would be as nothing compared to that of the waves crashing on the beach at midmorning.Jacob’s wolfen crew would have had to contend with a salmon derby in LaPush: fisherman from all over crowding the tiny reservation town that sits at the mouth of the Quillayute River.

Vampire and werewolf alike would seek in vain for forested shelter along the road between Forks and LaPush. The forest has been clearcut and mile after mile is nothing but graying, decaying stumps and snags of cedar and pine sticking up among ragged-looking green scrub that grows about 3 feet high. Hills in the distance do have some tree cover, some of it 2nd or 3rd growth forest. Once in awhile, passing a clearcut one can spot a bit of Dadaist endeavor: a boulder that must weigh 300 pounds, balanced atop a 4-foot-high flat cedar stump. Sometimes there’s a smaller rock (150-200 pounds, maybe) perched on the larger boulder. This is clearly the work of humans, but why?

Impressions of Forks:
  • Ubiquitous movie posters in windows of businesses including a Chinese restaurant. Bella! Edward! Jacob, not so much.
  • Life-size cutouts of the actors who play Bella and Edward, positioned in the 2nd-floor windows of a popular off-the-main-drag Twilight-themed shop
  • At least five different businesses with “Twilight” in the name, including a karaoke bar
  • Various forms of “Welcome Twilight fans” on signs and in windows of businesses that don’t actually sell Twilight stuff
  • Motels that mention Twilight on their signs
  • Twilight paper napkins, shot glasses, coffee mugs sold in virtually every shop
  • Advertisements for a Forks-based tour business which for a price will take you to places in town that might have been (but were not actually) the bases for various sites in the books
  • A Timber Museum featuring some artifacts of the timber industry, lifeblood of Forks for more than a century. The museum seems neglected, especially the monument to those who lost their lives in work-related accidents, with its faded decade-by-decade roster of the dead inside an outdoor plexiglass case. I would have thought that the monument at least would be cared for still.
  • The bearded, early-forties middle school librarian, owner of a 1916 Craftsman style home in Forks that is now known as “Bella’s house” (because an entrepreneur decided that it outshone all others in looking like the home described in the books), who tells me that
    • Twilight has been a real boost for the town’s motels and restaurants – usually they experience up-down cycles based on lumber, hunting, fishing, and general OP tourism but Twilight tourism is steady year-round
    • When he read the first book, he was not overly impressed but thought, “Well, it’s okay, but I’ll have to buy it for the school because it’s set in Forks”
    • The books seem to be just as popular locally as nationally
    • The Twilight tourist explosion started even before the movie was made and has increased with perhaps a different flavor after the movie.

Impressions of LaPush (from 2008 and 2009)
  • A small reservation town (population in the low-to-mid hundreds) right on the water, with a lot of blue buildings and a few small houses
  • Very small harbor
  • Resort (multiple oceanfront cabins, a motel, a restaurant) providing the tribe with some income
  • Resort employee who assures me monosyllabically that I will not see whales in late September if we stay there in late September
  • Bald eagle soaring over water between LaPush and James Island; gulls and a few Canada geese
  • Quileute waitress, a very nice and earnest young woman, in the restaurant who tells us that LaPush is a corruption of the French “la bouche” which refers to “the mouth” of the Quillayate River; invites us to come to the tribe’s annual celebration
  • Pretty good salmon dinner in the tribally-owned restaurant
  • Site of an annual salmon derby which has apparently filled the motel for the 2009 weekend we hoped to stay there
  • A LaPush based tour business that will take you on a boat ride to see “Bella’s cliff” and other sites for a mere $250
  • “Jacob’s Java” coffee stand run by two tribal members – new for 2009
  • A newspaper “The Talking Raven” being revived after a hiatus by a young journalist
  • Not nearly as interesting to Twilight fans as Forks is
  • Straightforward tribal Web site includes downloadable tsunami evacuation instructions

Jean passed along a few photographs, too. The motels advertise "Twilight Rooms" and signs say "Home of Twilight" and the like...  Check out the one below from the pharmacy...  First aid for Bella? She needs more than first aid, in my opinion....

I like this one:

This one is interesting....  8.5 vampires---is the .5 the baby Bella carries?!

I can imagine fans loving this one... see Bella in the window?

Thanks, Jean, for all of those photographs of what one of the signs called "The Twilight Zone." I'm ending this particular post with one of Jean's photographs...  One that I like. I'd love to visit La Push someday.

If you want to read more on the ways that the Quileute's are portrayed in the series, look over to the right side of this page. Scroll up or down till you see the section labeled TWILIGHT SAGA. There you'll see several links to posts about the series.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

A Look at Gender Swapping of Native Characters in Meyer's LIFE AND DEATH

Today (October 6, 2015), fans of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga were ecstatic about her new book Life and Death. In it, she "gender swapped" the characters. Bella is now a guy named Beau. Edward is now a gal named Edythe, and Jacob (the Quileute character) is now a girl named Jules (Julia). 

Here's part of Meyer's interview with CNN: 
Meyer said she was motivated to make the switch because of questions she received at signings about Bella being a "damsel in distress."
"It's always bothered me a little bit, because anyone surrounded by superheroes is going to be in distress," Meyers explained. "I thought, 'What if we switched it around a bit and see how a boy does,' and, you know, it's about the same."

I looked at specific passages in Twilight, comparing them to passages in Life and Death to see if Meyer made any changes to the Native content. In the passages I have below, I start each pair with Twilight first, because it was published first. Here they are:

Chapter 6: Scary Stories

This is the chapter where we meet Jacob/Jules, the Quileute character who is going to tell Bella/Beau scary stories about the werewolves and "the cold ones" (vampires).

Twilight (Kindle Location 7353-7355):
A few minutes after Angela left with the hikers, Jacob sauntered over to take her place by my side. He looked fourteen, maybe fifteen, and had long, glossy black hair pulled back with a rubber band at the nape of his neck. His skin was beautiful, silky and russet-colored; his eyes were dark, set deep above the high planes of his cheekbones.

Life and Death (Kindle Locations 1495-1497):
A few minutes after Allen left with the hikers, Julie came over to take his place by my side. 
She looked fourteen, maybe fifteen, and had long, glossy black hair pulled back with a rubber band at the nape of her neck. Her skin was really beautiful, like coppery silk, her dark eyes were wide-set above her high cheekbones, and her lips were curved like a bow.

Debbie's thoughts: Jacob sauntering conveys attitude. Julie, on the other hand, walks without attitude. Because... why? I don't know. The descriptions of hair and skin and cheekbones are familiar ones. Not all Native people have long, glossy black hair or high cheekbones but that's generally how we're depicted in children's and young adult books. This is a problem for Native people who do not look that way. People say--without batting an eye--"you don't look Indian." 


Twilight, Jacob speaking to Bella (Kindle Locations 7408-7411):
“Well, there are lots of legends, some of them claiming to date back to the Flood— supposedly, the ancient Quileutes tied their canoes to the tops of the tallest trees on the mountain to survive like Noah and the ark.” He smiled, to show me how little stock he put in the histories. “Another legend claims that we descended from wolves— and that the wolves are our brothers still. It’s against tribal law to kill them.

Life and Death, Jules speaking to Beau (Kindle Locations 1569-1572):
“There are lots of legends, some of them claiming to date back to the Great Flood— supposedly, the ancient Quileutes tied their canoes to the tops of the tallest trees on the mountain to survive like Noah and the ark.” She smiled, to show me she wasn’t taking this seriously, either. “Another legend claims that we descended from wolves— and that the wolves are our sisters still. It’s against tribal law to kill them.

Debbie's thoughts: That "legend" that Jacob talks about is supposed to be a Quileute one, but it that marks "the Flood" as a touchstone event. If it said "a" great Flood, that would work, but that "the" in there ties this story to Christianity. I've not done any research to see if the Quileute people have a flood story where they tied their canoes to tall trees. Maybe they do. Or, maybe this is something that Meyer made up. Regular readers of AICL know that I find it sacrilegious to twist Native stories to make them fit a narrative that a not-Native writer is telling.  Jacob has "little stock" in the stories; Jules doesn't "take this seriously." Is this dismissiveness on Jacob/Jules' part to throw Bella/Beau off track so that Bella/Beau don't know that these stories are real? The way Meyer presents this werewolf part of her story is not like the stories the Quileute's actually tell. As noted above, I think Meyer is twisting a Native story to fit her narrative, and I find that to be deeply disrespectful. (Updating to add this next line.) And as @travelingHeidi pointed out on Twitter, Noah isn't gender swapped! 


Jacob speaking to Bella (
Kindle Locations 7412-7416):
"There are stories of the cold ones as old as the wolf legends, and some much more recent. According to legend, my own great-grandfather knew some of them. He was the one who made the treaty that kept them off our land.” He rolled his eyes. “Your great-grandfather?” I encouraged. “He was a tribal elder, like my father. You see, the cold ones are the natural enemies of the wolf— well, not the wolf, really, but the wolves that turn into men, like our ancestors. You would call them werewolves.”

Life and Death, Jules speaking to Beau (Kindle Locations 1574-1578):
"There are stories of the cold ones as old as the wolf legends, and some much more recent. According to legend, my own great-grandmother knew some of them. She was the one who made the treaty that kept them off our land.” She rolled her eyes. “Your great-grandmother?” I encouraged. “She was a tribal elder, like my mother. You see, the cold ones are the natural enemies of the wolf— well, not the wolf, really, but the wolves that turn into women, like our ancestors. You could call them werewolves, I guess.”

Debbie's thoughts: That is another part of Meyer's book that I find especially problematic because of her use of the word treaty. Readers are asked to believe that Jacob/Jules' great grandfather/mother made a treaty with a coven of vampires. Treaties are made between heads of state. Are we to think of this group of Quileute's and this coven of vampires as nations? 

Chapter 7: Nightmare

After hearing those "scary" stories, Bella/Beau has a nightmare. 

Twilight (Kindle Locations 7477-7480):
But Jacob let go of my hand and yelped, suddenly shaking, falling to the dim forest floor. He twitched on the ground as I watched in horror. “Jacob!” I screamed. But he was gone. In his place was a large red-brown wolf with black eyes. The wolf faced away from me, pointing toward the shore, the hair on the back of his shoulders bristling, low growls issuing from between his exposed fangs.

Life and Death (Kindle Locations 1641-1643):
And then Jules dropped my hand— she let out a strange yelp and, suddenly shaking, she fell twitching to the ground. I watched in horror, unable to move. “Jules!” I yelled, but she was gone. In her place was a big, red-brown wolf with black eyes. The wolf faced away from me, pointing toward the shore, the hair on the back of her shoulders bristling, low growls issuing from between her exposed fangs.

Debbie's thoughts: Here, I direct you to an excellent series of tweets by Jeanne (I don't know her personally but she is one of the people I learn a lot from by reading her tweets and blog posts). One that is especially insightful is this one: "The supernatural world of Twilight is a construct that makes an abusive white man look like a hero and Native American men look like animals."

Chapter 11: Complications 

Twilight (Kindle Locations 8589-8592):
Jacob was already climbing out, his wide grin visible even through the darkness. In the passenger seat was a much older man, a heavyset man with a memorable face— a face that overflowed, the cheeks resting against his shoulders, with creases running through the russet skin like an old leather jacket. And the surprisingly familiar eyes, black eyes that seemed at the same time both too young and too ancient for the broad face they were set in. Jacob’s father, Billy Black.

Life and Death (Kindle Locations 2926-2929)
Jules was already climbing out, her wide grin visible even through the darkness. In the passenger seat was a much older woman, an imposing woman with an unusual face— it was stern and stoic, with creases that ran through the russet skin like an old leather jacket. And the surprisingly familiar eyes, set deep under the heavy brows, black eyes that seemed at the same time both too young and too ancient to match the face. Jules’s mother, Bonnie Black.

Debbie's thoughts: More of that stereotypical descriptors, this time of elders. Note the word "ancient" in there? That's another word that gets overused.


Some overall thoughts: In Life and Death, Meyer just switched a few letters here and there to make the Native characters fit her gender swapping narrative. It is more evidence that she is clueless regarding Native peoples and cultures. In fact, her gender swapping of Native content strikes me as similar to all the people--male or female--who put on a headdress that is generally used only by men. It is superficial and adds a new layer of disrespect to what she's already done with the Twilight saga prior to today's release of Life and Death.  

I opened this post noting that people are very excited by Life and Death. Much of that excitement is because Twilight is credited with having launched young adult literature. That is something people who care about young adult literature can certainly applaud, but we must not lose sight of the problems in the series. 

There are plenty of young adult books out there that can counter the misogyny in these books. We cannot say the same thing about books to counter the misrepresentation of Native people. Indeed, Meyer's book also launched a slew of books that do precisely what she did: stereotype, misrepresent, appropriate. 

Meyer acknowledged concerns over the "damsel in distress" but the concerns over misrepresentation of Native peoples are just as important. 

Meyer, Stephenie (2015-10-06). Twilight Tenth Anniversary/Life and Death Dual Edition, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Kindle Edition. 

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Quileute elder on Quileute stories

Thanks to Miriam B. for letting me know about two newspaper articles in the Peninsula Daily News, published in Port Angeles, Washington. (For the not-Twilight fans, Port Angeles is one of the settings Meyer used in her Twilight saga.) I think both of these articles were published on November 29th.

First is "Twilight fiction doesn't always jibe with Quileute legend." In this article, Paige Dickerson (the reporter) talked with Chris Morganroth III (shown above) about Quileute stories. Here's some excerpts from the article:

The Quileute people are ready to embrace the fans and teach them the real legends -- which do not include the werewolves Meyer's books describe.

Though the legends about the origins of the Quileute people in the best-selling vampire books set in Forks and LaPush have some resemblance to the real stories -- they both involve wolves -- the tribe wants to make sure fans are aware of the rich reality of their true culture.
Dickerson talks a little about Twilight, but devotes most of her article to what Morganroth said about the origin of the Quileutes. Here's that excerpt:

Quileute beginnings

If you begin to look into the stories and how we got to be here, they go back to the beginnings of time.

Before that, Spirit beings could transform themselves into animals or people at will. There were even living beings in outer space, such as the sun. They called those people the fire sky people.

After some time, the Spirit beings had to choose what they would be and were no longer able to transform.

After this, K'wati came into the area of LaPush and found that there were no humans. He went to the mouth of the river and there were wolves, timber wolves.

Now these wolves always travel in pairs and they mate for life.

K'wati saw that there were no people in this area near LaPush. So he transformed that pair of wolves into the Quileute people.

K'wati is a supernatural figure in Quileute stories who transforms people or objects.

K'wati wasn't a "sorcerer" or "witch king," as Meyer's has it.

"He wasn't really a god, but a transformer -- he was put on Earth to make things better," Morganroth said.

Although Meyer's teen werewolves are not part of Quileute legends, she draws from the tribal connection to wolves.

Even in present times, the wolf is often referred to as a brother of the tribe, as is the orca -- which also is said to have descended from the wolf, Morganroth said.

The New Moon werewolves aren't your average, hairy-faced cross between a man and a wolf. The boys "phase" into bear-sized wolves with enough superpowers to kill vampires.

And they developed out of a need to protect the people of Forks and LaPush from vampires.

The Quileute have no such legend.

The second article, What did Jacob say to Bella?, begins by describing the Quileute response to that question. If you've seen New Moon, you know that Jacob says something to Bella in the Quileute language. Fans are determined to figure out what he said. The Quileute's won't say. The bulk of the article is about the premiere of the film, specifically, about the Quileute's who attended the premier in Los Angeles.  According to the newspaper article, they had a great time. What stands out to me is what Page Foster (a thirteen-year-old Quileute member who went to the premiere) experienced:

Foster said that her father, Tony Foster, who is on the tribal council, showed several his business card from the council.

"They were so shocked that he was the real deal," Foster said.

The fans were shocked. A telling statement! A telling statement that should motivate you to do all you can to teach children and teens in your schools and libraries that the Indigenous Peoples of the United States are very much "the real deal." Instead of myths and legends (many of which are deeply flawed), purchase books written by Native writers. See my list of recommended books, and another list I put together for School Library Journal last year.

My most recent post about Twilight  (We saw New Moon on Friday) includes several links, including one to the Quileute Nation's facebook page, essays on the Native content in the books, and links to my previous posts about the book.

I should note, too, that I do not recommend Meyer's books or the films. The Quileute's are doing what they can to make the best of the situation. So is the town of Forks. My friend, Jean Mendoza,visited Forks recently. She wasn't making a pilgrimage as a fan of Twilight. She was in the area to visit family. Jean sent me some notes and photos of her visit. They're going to be featured in my next post about Twilight.

If you want to read more on the ways that the Quileute's are portrayed in the series, look over to the right side of this page. Scroll up or down till you see the section labeled TWILIGHT SAGA. There you'll see several links to posts about the series.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Stephenie Meyer's TWILIGHT

Many people have written to ask me about a young adult novel called Twilight. Written by Stephanie Meyer, Twilight is the first book in the "Twilight Saga." The "Twilight Saga" has been on the New York Times best-seller list for 40 weeks and as of this day, is in the number 1 spot.

I've been asked about it because the books include werewolves who are Native. Quileute, to be precise, from the La Push reservation in Washington. Quileute is not made up, and neither is La Push. Both are real.

I read the book, quickly. Here's passages that begin on page 124. The Quileute boy, Jacob, is with the protagonist, Bella, on an outing. Bella's love interest is a guy named Edward Cullen. Bella suspects Edward is different (doesn't know yet that he's a vampire), and is trying to get information out of Jacob. I'll start with Bella speaking to Jacob, and his reply:

"What was that he was saying about the doctor's family?" I asked innocently.

"The Cullens? Oh, they're not supposed to come onto the reservation."

Jacob feels he's said too much, but Bella promises she won't tell anyone. Assured with her promise, Jacob goes on, saying:

"Do you know any of our old stories, about where we came from--the Quileutes, I mean?" he began.

"Not really," I admitted.

"Well, there are lots of legends, some of them claiming to date back to the Flood--supposedly, the ancient Quileutes tied their canoes to the tops of the tallest trees on the mountain to survive like Noah and the ark." He smiled, to show me how little stock he put in the histories. "Another legend claims that we descended from wolves--and that the wolves are our brothers still. It's against tribal law to kill them.

"Then there are the stories about the cold ones." His voice dropped a little lower.

"The cold ones?" I asked, not faking my intrigue now.

"Yes. There are stories of the cold ones as old as the wolf legends, and some much more recent. According to legend, my own great-grandfather knew some of them. He was the one who made the treaty that kept them off our land." He rolled his eyes.

"Your great-grandfather?" I encouraged.

"He was a tribal elder, like my father. You see, the cold ones are the natural enemies of the wolf--well, not the wolf, really, but the wolves that turn into men, like our ancestors. You would call them werewolves."

"Werewolves have enemies?"

"Only one."

I stared at him earnestly, hoping to disguise my impatience as admiration.

"So you see," Jacob continued, "the cold ones are traditionally our enemies. But this pack that came to our territory during my great-grandfather's time was different. They didn't hunt the way others of their kind did--they weren't supposed to be dangerous to the tribe. So my great-grandfather made a truce with them. If they would promise to stay off our lands, we wouldn't expose them to the pale-faces." He winked at me.

Jacob goes on, eventually telling her the cold ones are vampires. Then he says:

"Pretty crazy stuff, though, isn't it? No wonder my dad doesn't want us to talk about it to anyone."

I couldn't control my expression enough to look at him yet. "Don't worry, I won't give you away."

"I guess I just violated the treaty," he laughed.

"I'll take it to the grave," I promised, and then I shivered.

"Seriously, though, don't say anything to Charlie. He was pretty mad at my dad when he heard that some of us weren't going to the hospital since Dr. Cullen started working there."

"I won't, of course not."

"So do you think we're a bunch of superstitious natives or what?" he asked in a playful tone, but with a hint of worry. I still hadn't looked away from the ocean.

There's more as the book progresses, but none of the reviews mention the werewolf/Quieluete material...

More later. (And if you've read the books, please comment.)

If you want to read more on the ways that the Quileute's are portrayed in the series, look over to the right side of this page. Scroll up or down till you see the section labeled TWILIGHT SAGA. There you'll see several links to posts about the series.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wall Street Journal on Quileute Response to Twilight

The Wall Street Journal notes the Quileute educational response to Twilight...

I wonder if Meyer has a comment?

Update, September 7, 2010:  Just in case the article in the WSJ goes away, here's what it says:
To fans of Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" novels, members of the Quileute Nation are shape-shifting Native Americans-turned-werewolves who protect the forests of the Pacific Northwest from bloodsucking vampires. But the actual Quileute Nation, a group of 700-plus Native Americans, more than half living on a reservation in La Push, Wash., have little in common with their literary and Hollywood counterparts. While the real-life Quileute have long been interested in the wolf as an animal and mythical creature, their traditions are a far cry from those "Twi-hards" have in mind. To combat these misconceptions and capitalize on the success of Ms. Meyer's novels, the Quileute, in collaboration with the Seattle Art Museum, will present "Behind the Scenes: The Real Story of Quileute Wolves."

If you want to read more on the ways that the Quileute's are portrayed in the series, look over to the right side of this page. Scroll up or down till you see the section labeled TWILIGHT SAGA. There you'll see several links to posts about the series.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Sorry for this late notice...  Just letting readers of AICL know that I'll be a guest tomorrow (Friday, Nov 16, 2012) on Native America Calling

Friday, November 16, 2012 – Twilight Saga’s Biggest Critics: Native America: 
At the stroke of Midnight this morning moviegoers around the country flooded into theaters to see the last movie chapter in the Twilight saga. There have been several movies that have attracted millions eager to see the storyline unfold. One major element pushing the narrative that began in the pages of Stephenie Meyer's book series includes Native Americans. The Native element of the Twilight saga revolves around the Quileute Nation, and the legend that the tribe is descendent from wolves. Since the first movie in the grouping of vampire versus wolf sequences Native influence has once again made it to Hollywood but, what has been the effect? How has this movie influenced the lives of Natives? Has it added to the growing fire of stereotypes? When it comes to Native cinema has it advanced Natives in front of, and behind the camera or just the opposite? Guests include: Dr. Debbie Reese (Nambe Pueblo) educator and author of the blog American Indians in Children's Literature.

Native America Calling is an hour-long call-in program that links public radio stations, the Internet, and listeners to discuss issues specific to Native communities.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Behind the Scenes: The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves

Coming up this Saturday (January 14, 20120 at the National Museum of the American Indian is "Behind the Scenes: The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves." If you can't be there, you can watch the webcast of Chris Morganroth, Quileute elder. At the NMAI website about his talk, you'll find a link to the webcast.

Here's the blurb:
Listen to traditional Native stories and watch stories told through dance. Chris Morganroth, a Quileute elder, tells traditional stories geared towards kids and families. Morganroth also gives an introduction to Quileute culture and discuss how the tribe is presented in the popular Twilight books and movies.
I wrote about Morganroth on December 6, 2009. He's been pushing back on the Twilight books for a while. I look forward to listening in next week!

The Washington Post carried a story today. It has more info, so do take a minute to read it, too: Quileute tribal museum show debunking Twilight movies opening in Washington, DC

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"...they're reading Twilight!"

Add caption
We spent some of this holiday watching Friday Night Lights.

In the fourth season, a leading character exits the show. His girlfriend is desperate to fill her time and signs up for every club posted on the school bulletin board. One of my favorite characters--Landry Clark--understands how she feels and says that the school beautification committee isn't a good choice, and that the Book Club "would be fine except this week 'cause this week they're reading Twilight." It is just one of many beautifully delivered lines by Jesse Plemons, a talented actor who plays a geeky football player.

Occasionally they refer to children's literature in some way. In the first season, the back-up quarterback was called "the little engine that could." There's some great writing on this series! I'm enjoying it quite a lot. I'd love to know what the writers meant when they dissed Twilight. Was it the problematic way that Meyer presents the Native content?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

There is a "supplier of library promotional materials and reading incentives" called Upstart that sponsors a contest called "Vote for Books" (thanks, Christine, for writing to tell me about this contest). It is loosely timed to follow the presidential election cycle, with the votes tallied on November 4th and winners announced November 5th.

As I understand it, this is how it works:

January 1 to April 31st: Visitors to the site nominated books in these categories: Picture Books, Chapter Books, Series for Young Readers, and Series for Older Readers.

May 1st: Most-nominated books were announced.

Sept 1: Voting begins on top eight finalists in each category.

Sept. 22: Round 2 begins with top 4 in each category.

Oct 13: Two top finalists will "face off" in the final round of voting.

Nov 4: Votes will be tallied

Nov 5: Winners will be announced

This "voteforbooks" campaign is relevant to American Indians in Children's Literature because two of the books in the current round (round 2) in the "Series for Older Readers" category are Meyer's Twilight and Wilder's Little House on the Prairie. Both books have Native characters, but as I and others have noted on this blog, both writers do a poor job at depicting Native culture.

But! Both are top sellers. Erroneous presentation of American Indians, apparently, doesn't matter.

Odd, too, that LHOP is in the same category as Twilight. LHOP for older readers?!

That category, Series for Older Readers, has two other books still in the running. They are Harry Potter and The Spiderwick Chronicles. I don't know how the sponsors decided what books to put up against each other in the brackets, but it does seem (to me) that it was arranged so that the "face off" would be between Harry Potter and Twilight. We'll see.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Terrific essays about Meyer's character "Jacob" in TWILIGHT

A post to YALSA about people of color in fantasy led me to a livejournal post about Jacob, the Quileute character in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga.

Saskaia (the author of the essay) is finished with the first three books (I'm partway thru the second one, having set it aside to read and work on Landman's Apache: Girl Warrior. By the way, it would be so cool if the powers-that-be over at Candlewick would say "STOP THE PRESSES!" and cancel the release of Landman's book in the U.S.).

In this 'slice' of a larger essay, saskaia (the author doesn't capitalize the first s) considers the plausibility of Jacob. Here's an excerpt:

While Jacob is surely overwhelmed with being a teen werewolf attending the tribal high school while patrolling Quileute land in all of his free time, I can scarcely believe that he and the other Quileute characters never attend powwows or social dances - not one is ever mentioned. It's disconcerting to anyone familiar with Native culture in the United States, especially reservation culture where powwows and social dances still serve as the major arena for socialization.

Saskaia has an engaging style of writing. I enjoyed reading her critique and am with her as she says

I am all for deviation for the typical character archetype but this is where I am thrown from the story, out the window and into my street. I can buy that Jacob thinks himself in love with Bella, but where are Jacob's experiences so he can freely choose Bella? Where are the other Native women?

Saskaia has a link in her essay that I'm placing here, too: Stephenie Meyer's use of Quileute Characters. This is her first post about the saga, wherein she talks about herself (she is Native) and says

While Jacob was written to be mostly age-appropriate, I think she did fall into uber-sexy warrior territory after his first phasing as a werewolf...

Do take a few minutes to read saskaia's critiques. They are terrific!

[Update, 12:54 CST, June 30, 2008---Saskaia's got quite a following! My sitemeter stats show lot of hits from livejournal. Welcome to my site!]

If you want to read more on the ways that the Quileute's are portrayed in the series, look over to the right side of this page. Scroll up or down till you see the section labeled TWILIGHT SAGA. There you'll see several links to posts about the series.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Meyer's Twilight: second post

A few days ago, I posted passages from Stephenie Meyer's Twilight. Passages of the Native content in the book... I talked about the Quileute boy, Jacob, but didn't include the physical description of him. Here it is:


"looked fourteen, maybe fifteen, and had long, glossy black hair pulled back with a rubber band at the nape of his neck. His skin was beautiful, silky and russet-colored; his eyes were dark, set deep above the high planes of his cheekbones. He still had just a hint of childish roundness left around his chin. Altogether, a very pretty face" (p. 119).

A plausible description; realistic, predictable.

On page 234, Bella and Edward are in his car, in her driveway, talking. At this point in the book, Bella knows Edward is a vampire. Edward sees a car approaching. Staring at the car, Edward's expression is a "mix of frustration and defiance." Bella gets out, Edward takes off. In the approaching car is Jacob and his dad, Billy. Meyer describes Billy like this:

"In the passenger seat was a much older man, a heavyset man with a memorable face--a face that overflowed, the cheeks resting against his shoulders, with creases running through the russet skin like an old leather jacket. And the surprisingly familiar eyes, black eyes that seemed at the same time both too young and too ancient for the broad face they were set in. Jacob's father, Billy Black. I knew him immediately, though in the more than five years since I'd seen him last I'd managed to forget his name when Charlie had spoken of him my first day here. He was staring at me, scrutinizing my face, so I smiled tentatively at him. His eyes were wide, as if in shock or fear, his nostrils flared."

Another complication, Edward has said.

Billy still stared at me with intense, anxious eyes. I groaned internally. Had Billy recognized Edward so easily? Could he really believe the impossible legends his son had scoffed at?

The answer was clear in Billy's eyes. Yes. Yes, he could."

Meyer's physical description of Billy is not as well done as her description of Jacob. Cheeks resting on his shoulders? Yikes! And black eyes? Actually, there is no such thing as "black" eyecolor. Dark brown, yes, but black? No. Meyer is not alone in that error; lot of writers say Indians have black eyes. Eyecolor aside, consider the adjectives: too young, too old. Conveying... vitality? wisdom?

Update: Tuesday, May 27, 2008
A reader wrote to say that her father's cheeks rest on his shoulders. She says that is what gravity does to the face, and wonders if I'm trying to make the point that a Quiluete wouldn't have that happen to them. She's being a bit sarcastic, saying explicitly that my comment on Billy's cheeks and eyecolor are nit-picky and take away from the validity of my other concerns. In response to her.... Yes, I do know that age and gravity effect the skin tone, but cheeks resting on shoulders.... the only image I could come up with in my mind was of Jabba the Hutt! The question on eye color: I stand by it. It is not biologically possible to have black eyes. They may be very dark brown, but not black. That in itself is not a big deal. Put the remark into context, however, and it becomes important. When trying to convey the idea that Native people are scary and threatening, writers often use 'black' eye color to invoke a sense of fear. I know... Bella is not afraid of Billy and Meyer is not trying to make Billy out as a scary person.

Charlie (Bella's dad) is the chief of police in Forks. On page 236, he says to Jacob:

"I'm going to pretend I didn't see you behind the wheel, Jake,"

to which Jacob replies

"We get permits early on the rez."

That line "we get permits early on the rez" stands out to me. I wonder if the Quileutes do, in fact, give drivers permits to 15-year-olds? As sovereign nations, some tribal nations issue automobile license plates that are valid, just as any state-licensed-plate is. With a tribally issued license plate, a tribal member can drive anywhere. As yet, I don't know about driver's permits/licenses.

Update: Tuesday, May 27th, 2008
Some tribes do issue driver's permits, but the Quileute's do not. I called their tribal offices and asked. All driver's licenses held by Quileute's are issued by the State of Washington.

I'm digging into research on Meyer's novels because Twilight is being made into a movie. The part of Jacob will be played by an actor named Taylor Lautner. In this interview, he says that in preparing for this part, he learned that through his mother, he is part Potawatomi and Ottawa. It doesn't sound like he was raised Potawatomi or Ottawa. In the interview, he talks about meeting Quileute tribal members.

About his character, he says he loves the contrast in Jacob's Native American side and his werewolf side:

Lautner: His Native American side ... he is very friendly and outgoing. He loves Bella and is very loyal to Bella and his dad. But on the werewolf side, they're very fierce and just attacking, and they have this huge temper. So there's a lot of stress and things going on inside him as he's trying to keep his temper to himself. I love that part, which Stephenie [Meyer, on whose novel the movie is based] created, with the contrast between the Native American side and the werewolf side of him.

At the close of the interview, he talks about a line he likes, about being half-naked. I think he's referring to a part in the second book, New Moon, where he transforms into a werewolf. That suggests that parts of New Moon will be included in the film.


In Meyer's stories, there are white vampires that do not hunt humans. White humans, that is. But, they might hunt their natural enemies--the Quileutes who were wolves before being turned into men--who they might attack if they are in a weakened condition. To protect the Quileutes, an elder made a treaty with the vampires. They promised not to expose the vampires presence to the whites (pale-faces) and in turn, the vampires promised not to go onto the reservation.

My thoughts...

First, you have to accept the premise that the vampires and Quileute ancestors are traditional enemies. Then, you have to imagine that the elders have decided to give these enemies a chance. The elders think this particular group of enemies/vampires--because they are controlling their urge to attack humans--are deserving of a chance to co-exist nearby. But they don't quite trust them, so, the all agree that the vampires will stay off the reservation. In return, the tribe will not expose the vampire's identity to the good people of Forks.

In telling Bella about the identity of the vampires, Jacob laughs that he has violated the treaty.


Tension between vampires and Quileutes, but no tension between the white people in Forks and the Quileutes. Because it is fantasy, we've got to suspend disbelief and accept the vampire/Quileute tension. And, because it is fiction, we're encouraged to believe that the people of Forks and the Quileutes get along. But, relations between whites and Quileutes have been complicated. In the 70s, the northwest tribes were engaged in legal proceedings to have fishing rights based on the treaties honored. Here's a line from this document: "
More than a century of frequent and often violent controversy between Indians and non-Indians over treaty right fishing has resulted in deep distrust and animosity on both sides. "

A treaty between the vampires and the Quileutes, but no mention of treaties between Quileutes and the federal government. Is Meyer assuming her readers know about such treaties and reservations?

A Native laughing about violating a treaty. Possible, but not likely. Particularly unlikely for a reservation-raised Native. There's always an exception to every generalization, but I doubt that an actual Quileute teen would say the things that Jacob does.

I've got the second book on order...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chaske Spencer, "Sam Uley" of Twilight, visits Yale

On Tuesday, December 9, Chaske Spencer, the actor who plays Sam Uley in New Moon, visited students at Yale.  Read about his visit in Twilight actor speaks in the Yale Daily News. Spencer is a member of the Lakota Sioux tribe.

Reports from Native students at Yale (including my awesome daughter, Liz), are that Spencer is a very cool guy, personable and unpretentious. He spoke with Native students about being a Native actor, and specifically about the politics of casting. Liz is busy with term papers and can't go into detail at this point, but I hope to learn and share more later...

The photo I used here is from his website.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

We saw NEW MOON on Friday...

Friday afternoon, daughter Liz and I went to see New Moon. Sitting next to each other in the dark, we heckled, rolled our eyes, and laughed in the wrong parts. Not wanting to draw the ire of others in the theater, we weren't obnoxious. We kept our critiques relatively quiet.

Once settled in our seats, Liz said she wished we could live-blog our viewing. She's right! That would have been cool. I don't know how theater managers feel about such things, but maybe its worth finding out.

Perhaps the best line in the film is the one delivered by Graham Greene. When he learns that the Cullens have left, he says "Good riddance." Later in the movie, while on the hunt for the bear the townspeople think is killing people, he is attacked by Victoria, one of the vampires that kills humans. She's not a Cullen. (Remember, the Cullens are good vampires. They don't attack humans. They drink animal blood.) Greene plays the part of Harry Clearwater.

When Jacob whispers to Bella in another language, Liz and I wondered "was that supposed to be Quileute?!" Looking at the Quileute Nation's facebook page, the status is:
"Dear Fans: Thank you for all the calls and emails regarding the scene in the movie where Jacob whispers to Bella in Quileute. Please know, we would love to translate the phrase for you, but out of respect for Jacob's feelings for Bella we are unable to at this time."

There are several Native men in New Moon. I hope the massive exposure creates opportunities for them to do other films. (The woman in the film who is saying she is Native... well, it looks like that may not be the case.)  

I don't recommend the books or the film for many reasons. Of course I make that statement based on the Native content of them, but there are other reasons as well. This is a good analysis:  Running With the Wolves - A Racialicious Reading of the Twilight Saga.

And last year, I blogged about a couple of sites about the Native content. One of those essays is also excerpted in Running With the Wolves (linked above).
Terrific essays about Meyer's character, Jacob.

The Quileute Nation has been inundated with fans of the film. A few weeks ago, I pointed readers of American Indians in Children's Literature to a statement on the Quileute's website: "Has Stephanie Meyer Seen this?" More recently, it looks like the Quileute's are doing what they can to address the flood of visitors to their reservation. I've been following the Quileute Nation facebook page for awhile now, and traffic is definitely up. Its amusing, reading what people write on the wall...

If you want to read more on the ways that the Quileute's are portrayed in the series, look over to the right side of this page. Scroll up or down till you see the section labeled TWILIGHT SAGA. There you'll see several links to posts about the series.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Has Stephanie Meyer read this?

I do not recall seeing "Please read Indian Country Etiquette" on the Quileute Nation website last time I was on there...  Clicking on the link (located bottom right of the main page) will take you to a statement, that reads in part:

Traditionally, our people are hospitable and generous in nature. However, spiritual teachings, sacred ceremonies and burial grounds, are not openly shared with the public.

We are proud of our teachings, and our heritage. They have been passed to us by our ancestors, and represent thousands of years of our individual histories. Your patience and understanding of our traditions and cultures is appreciated.

I wonder if it is in response to crowds of Twilight fans showing up there? Meyer's books have a lot of material in them that may be interpreted by her readers as Quileute. She does, of course, present it that way. But is it? What did she use as a source? As the statement above indicates, this information is not shared with the public...

If you want to read more on the ways that the Quileute's are portrayed in the series, look over to the right side of this page. Scroll up or down till you see the section labeled TWILIGHT SAGA. There you'll see several links to posts about the series.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

News about TWILIGHT

Warning: This will be a snarky post.

Meyer has found another way to suck. Obviously, my use of the word "suck" has multiple meanings.

First, her books are about vampires who suck blood.

Second, I think her books are poorly written, so, for me, they suck as literature.

Third, I'd rather people buy books that don't make abuse seem exciting and desirable, so, in that respect, the books suck from the status and strength of women.

Fourth, because she misrepresents American Indian sovereignty, her books suck at gains we've made at informing Americans about American Indians.

So what is that new way? First there were the books themselves, and then the movie and all its tie-in items (clothing, the board game, action figures...), and now, Twilight in graphic novel format. Another way to suck more $$ from your bank account.


Monday, May 26, 2008


In drafting yesterday's post, some information on treaties dropped out, so I'm posting that now.

Treaties are agreements between state entities, generally called nations. When tribal leaders enter into a treaty, it is with a state entity, not a small group that operates in a way that is different from the rest of its group.

In TWILIGHT, Meyer has Quileute elders making a treaty with a group of vampires. Elders are esteemed in Native communities. Their counsel is highly valued. When they are leaders, they are in a position to negotiate treaties. Otherwise, they cannot. Perhaps Jacob's great grandfather was a leader. She doesn't say.

She also uses 'truce' to describe the agreement made by Jacob's great grandfather and Edward's pack. That could be a more apt term for this agreement, but it implies these two groups had been fighting, which is not the case.

Using 'treaty' gives vampires the status of a nation. I wonder how much Meyer actually knows about treaties? Does she know tribes are sovereign nations and that is necessary for a treaty? Or, does she really think that any member of any group can enter into a treaty?


Thursday, January 08, 2015

Time Magazine's Almost All White list of 100 BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOKS OF ALL TIME

Let's take a look at Time Magazine's list of 100 best young adult books of all time. Here's how they compiled that list (adding this info a couple of hours after I loaded this post):
To honor the best books for young adults and children, TIME compiled this survey in consultation with respected peers such as U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate Ken Nesbitt, children’s-book historian Leonard Marcus, the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress, the Every Child a Reader literacy foundation and 10 independent booksellers. 

Ninety-one are by white authors. Nine are by authors of color. Two of the nine authors of color have two books on the list (Myers and Yang):

  • Sherman Alexie
  • Isabel Allende
  • Walter Dean Myers
  • Marilyn Nelson
  • Pam Munoz Ryan
  • Mildred D. Taylor
  • Gene Luen Yang 

With only seven authors of color on the list, I think it is fair to say that Time Magazine has put together an Almost All White list. People who study children's books know that my "all white" refers to Nancy Larrick's article from the 1960s, in which she noted that the books in her library were almost all white. Over 50 years ago, she made that observation. We're still there, aren't we? Dismal. Depressing.

Focusing on Native depictions in the books, there's one book on it that doesn't reduce Native people to caricatures or stereotypes (Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian). It stands alone.  Several books on Time's list have problematic content regarding Native people:

  • Alcott's Little Women (character doing "Indian war whoop" and passage about "Indian in full war costume)
  • Anderson's Tiger Lily (see review)
  • Block's Weetzie Bat (see review)
  • Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy (when Ole Golly blushes, the text reads that she looked "exactly like a hawk-nosed Indian)
  • Green's The Fault in Our Stars (see review)
  • Meyer's Twilight (see review)
  • Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia (characters go to museum to see dinosaurs and Indians; diorama of Indians hunting buffalo is "three dimensional nightmare version of some of his own drawings)
  • Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond (talk of fighting Indians and wolves)
  • Twain's Huckleberry Finn (see review)
  • Wilder's Little House on the Prairie (see reviews)

Next time you weed books in your library, consider replacing some of those books (above) with some excellent books by/about Native people. This page of Best Books includes ones that I recommend, and ones that have won the American Indian Library Association's book awards.

For your convenience, here's Time's list of young adult books, and here's my analysis of their top 100 children's books.

Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women
Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian 
Allende, Isabel. City of the Beasts
Alexander, Lloyd. The Book of Three
Alexander, Lloyd. The Chronicles of Prydain
Anderson, Jodi Lynn. Tiger Lily
Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak
Anderson, M.T. Feed
Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Block, Francesca Lia. Dangerous Angels (the Weetzie Bat Books)
Blume, Judy. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
Bosch, Pseudonymous. Secret (series)
Bradbury, Ray. The Illustrated Man
Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker. For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy
Carroll, Lewis. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Castellucci, Cecil. Boy Proof
Cleary, Beverly. Beezus and Ramona
Clements, Andrew. Frindle
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games
Cooper, Susan. The Grey King
Cormier, Robert. The Chocolate War
Crutcher, Chris. Whale Talk
Dahl, Roald. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Dahl, Roald. Danny the Champion of the World
Dahl, Roald. Matilda
DiCamillo, Kate. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
DiCamillo, Kate. The Tiger Riding
Donnelly, Jennifer. A Northern Light
Fitzhugh, Louise. Harriet the Spy
Forbes, Esther. Johnny Tremain: A Story of Boston in Revolt
Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl
Funke, Cornelia. The Thief Lord
Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book
Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars
Green, John. Looking for Alaska
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies
Goldman, William. The Princess Bride
Grahame, Kenneth. The Wind in the Willows
Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Hardinge, Frances. The Lost Conspiracy
Hinton, S. E. The Outsiders
Hughes, Richard. A High Wind in Jamaica
Jones, Diana Wynne. Dogsbody
Juster, Norton. The Phantom Tollbooth
Key, Watt. Alabama Moon
Knowles, John. A Separate Peace
Konigsburg, E. L. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
LeGuin, Ursula. A Wizard of Earthsea
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird
L'Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time
Leviathan, David. Every Day
Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
London, Jack. The Call of the Wild
Lowry, Lois. The Giver
Lowry, Lois. Number the Stars
McKay, Hilary. Saffy's Angel
Meyer, Stephanie. Twilight
Montgomery, L. M. Anne of Green Gables
Morpurgo, Michael. Private Peaceful
Myers, Walter Dean. Fallen Angels
Myers, Walter Dean. Monster
Nelson, Marilyn. A Wreath for Emmett Till 
Ness, Patrick. The Knife of Never Letting Go
Ness, Patrick. A Monster Calls
Nix, Garth. Sabriel
O'Brien, Robert C. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
Palacio, R. J. Wonder
Paterson, Katherine. Bridge to Terabithia
Paterson, Katherine. Jacob Have I Loved
Paulsen, Gary. Hatchet
Poe, Edgar Allan. Tales of Mystery and Imagination
Pullman, Phillip. The Golden Compass
Pullman, Philip. His Dark Materials
Raskin, Ellen. The Westing Game
Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan. The Yearling
Riordan, Rick. The Lightning Thief
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter (series)
Ryan, Pam Munoz. Esperanza Rising
Sachar, Louis. Holes
Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye
Scott, Michael. The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel
Selznick, Brian. The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sis, Peter. The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain
Snicket, Lemony. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning
Speare, Elizabeth George. The Witch of Blackbird Pon
Stead, Rebecca. When You Reach Me
Stewart, Trenton Lee. The Mysterious Benedict Society
Taylor, Mildred D. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Thompson, Craig. Blankets
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit
Tolkein, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings
Travers, P. L. Mary Poppins
Twain, Mark. Huckleberry Finn
Whaley, John Corey. Where Things Come Back
White, E.B. Charlotte's Web
White, T. H. The Sword in the Stone
Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little House on the Prairie
Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese
Yang, Gene Luen. Boxers and Saints
Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

TIGER EYES: Judy Blume's book and its film adaptation

Recently in Native news sources, I read that Tatanka Means (his father was Russell Means, activist and actor who recently passed away), is in Tiger Eyes, a film adaptation of Judy Blume's Tiger Eyes. Here's the trailer:

Being tribally enrolled at Nambe Pueblo and having grown up there means that I immediately recognized the setting. This scene is shot at Bandelier. In the clip, "Wolf" tells "Tiger" that Tewa people, his ancestors, lived in the caves 800 years ago. Now, he goes on, that part of his family lives in a pueblo 30 miles away.

My first thought was "did I read Tiger Eyes" when I was in high school?

I got a copy of the book and started reading. I saw that it was published in 1981. I graduated from Pojoaque High School in 1977, so I doubt that I'd read it until now.

As I read Blume's coming-of-age novel, I remembered the places she describes. Nambe Pueblo is about 25 miles from Los Alamos. My dad worked at Los Alamos National Lab as an electrical engineer. He won international engineering awards for cameras he designed and built at the lab. As a family, we went up there a lot... to the library, to the movie theater. There were barbecues at homes of my dad's colleagues, too. I got to know some of those scientists and their kids. Due to its history as the place where Robert J. Oppenheimer oversaw the development of atomic weapons and the site of a national laboratory, it is an unusual place.

After reading Tiger Eyes, I did a bit of research.

I learned that in 1976, Judy Blume moved to Los Alamos and lived there for a few years. That explains why she was able to write, with great accuracy, about Los Alamos. The main character is a teen-aged girl named Davey. Her family relocates to Los Alamos after her father's death. They live with her aunt and uncle. Davey finds them to be oppressive. They are always worried about her getting hurt. They insist, for example, that she wear a helmet when riding her bike. Through Davey, Blume puts forward an interesting analysis of what drives that fear (hint: atomic weapons).

Given the focus of American Indians in Children's Literature, I'll turn now to Wolf (I gotta say, though, that "Wolf" doesn't ring true as the sort of name Pueblo men are given), the Native character in Blume's book.

On page 47 of my copy (I'm reading the new paperback with the actress on the cover), Davey is hiking near some cliff dwellings. She meets a guy who is:
about nineteen or twenty, wearing faded cutoffs, hiking books with wool socks sticking out over the tops and no shirt. He has a knapsack on his back. He is maybe 5'9", with suntanned skin and dark hair.
His eyes are dark brown. When she asks him his name, he tells her to call him Wolf. She asks if that is his first or last name, and he says "either." The dialog in the video about his ancestors being Pueblo does not appear in the novel. As they part ways in the book, Wolf asks Davey what her name is, and she says Tiger. Later on in the story, he will call her Tiger Eyes.

His name, we learn later, is Martin Ortiz. His father, Willie Ortiz, is one of the patients Davey cares for as a candy striper at the hospital. His dad "speaks in a lyrical New Mexican accent" (p. 106). Though I read carefully, I don't remember Wolf/Martin ever speaking about his mother. My guess---given the dialog in the video---is that his mother is Pueblo, and that his Pueblo name is Wolf. They spend time together in the canyon. He tells her stories about the Anasazi and gives her a book titled The First Americans. 

I'm curious about how the relationship between Wolf/Martin and Tiger/Davey will be shown in the film. He's definitely a key figure in her emotional healing, but they don't have a romantic relationship. She definitely has a crush on him, and imagines being with him and living in the caves and raising a family. That's a bit hokey.

I want to dig in a bit more to the racial relationships of the 60s and 70s in Los Alamos. The white people (her friend Jane, and her aunt Bitsy), both of whom are White, are afraid of the Spanish people. When Davey goes to Santa Fe with Jan and her family to do Christmas shopping, there's this scene on page 149-150:
As we are walking up Palace Avenue, a group of boys comes toward us. Jane clutches my arm.
"What is it?" I ask. She is trembling.
"They're Spanish," she whispers.
"Don't look at them. Look away. Look across the street."
"Jane..." I say and start to laugh.
"Do you know how high the rape statistics are in this town? she whispers.
"No," I tell her."
"Nobody's going to rape you in the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of town."
"Don't be so sure."
The boys pass us.
"You see," Jane says, "Didn't I tell you?"
"Didn't you hear them?"
"Hear them what?"
"Make those sounds."
"No," I say. "I didn't hear anything. I don't think they even noticed us."
"They're all like that," Jane says anyway. They're all out to rape Anglo girls."
"Jane, that is one of the craziest things I've ever heard!" We stop walking and face each other.
"You're new around here," she says. "You don't understand."
I think of Wolf and inside my head I say No, you're the one who doesn't understand.
When they get back to their car, someone has written on the hood in magic marker "Los Alamos sucks" (p. 152). A few pages later, Wolf/Martin gives Tiger/Davey a ride home from the hospital. When Davey goes inside, her aunt wants to know who he is:
"His name is Martin Ortiz," I say, walking toward the stairs.
"Ortiz?" Bitsy repeats, following me.
"Does he go to the high school?"
"Not anymore."
"He's a dropout?"
"I didn't say that."
"Well, why don't you just tell me about him, Davey... instead of playing Twenty Questions."
"You're the one playing Twenty Questions, not me," I say.
Bitsy takes a deep breath. "Is he Spanish?"
"I guess."
"You guess?"
"I never asked him."
"Where is he from, Espanola?"
"No, he's from here. He's from Los Alamos."
"He is?"
"Yes. He works at the Lab."
"What does he do there.... maintenance?"
I almost laugh. I almost laugh and say, Yes, he picks up the garbage, just to see her reaction. But I don't. I am very polite. I say, "His father is a patient at the Medical Center. He goes to Cal Tech, but he's taking the semester off."
"Well," Bitsy says, her voice full of relief. "Why didn't you say so in the first place?"
Growing up in Pojoaque, I was keenly aware of the drug trade that was taking over Espanola. Violence was such that my dad worried about us anytime we drove through Espanola to visit our cousins at Ohkay Owengeh (then called San Juan). Los Alamos--then and now, too, I think---is very White. There was definitely a class divide at the lab, with scientists being primarily White and maintenance and tech people being Spanish or Pueblo. My dad worked for several years alongside other Spanish and Pueblo people at the lab who worked on diversity initiatives and advocacy for Spanish or Pueblo people who were being treated unfairly. I'm going to talk to friends from my teen years and see what they remember about racial dynamics, and, I'm going to talk to a close friend from high school who teaches now at Los Alamos.

More on that later.

For now, I'm wondering about the decision to use that particular segment of the film for the trailer. It seems that someone (PR people?) may be wishing to capitalize on the success of the Twilight films by showcasing another Native actor. In this case, that actor is Tatanka Means (shown in photo on right). If that is the case, I am on board. Wolf/Martin is a realistic Native guy. I know Native guys like him. They're real. They're human---not werewolves as in Meyer's stories---and we need to see a lot more realistic depictions of Native people.

I hope that the guy we see in the film is as real as the one we come to know when reading Tiger Eyes. I do wish we knew more about his Pueblo identity, but if Blume stayed away from that due to lack of knowledge and a desire not to mess up, kudos to her.

Note: In the photo, Means is holding his Best Supporting Actor award, from the 2012 American Indian Film Festival.