Saturday, July 11, 2009

Intersections: Alice Walker, playing Indian, and real Indians

Searching for information about Bill Wahpepah, a Kickapoo and Sauk and Fox man who worked at the Native American Survival School in the Bay Area in the 1970s, I found myself reading Alice Walker's blog post "The First Time I Saw Dennis Banks: Ojibwa Warrior Introduction." I learned that Alice Walker was involved with the American Indian Movement:

Many years later, after moving to the West Coast, I became involved in the American Indian Movement: Reading poetry with John Trudell, hosting fund raisers with Nilak Butler, Bill Wahpepah and his sculptor wife, Carol. Celebrating Un-Thanksgiving Day at Alcatraz Island, praying-in on top of Black Mesa in Arizona, and joining demonstrations and vigils for Native American rights whenever I could. However it wasn’t until a decade had passed that I once again saw Dennis. This time handcuffed, on trial for a list of crimes designated by the court, having voluntarily returned to face sentencing after leading the FBI on a chase that lasted eleven years.
Go to her blog and read the entire essay. There, she talks about her mother's grandmother, Tallulah, who was African and Cherokee. Clicking around her blog, I ended up at her website, Alice Walker's Garden, where I read her biography. This jumped out at me:

The most shaping experience of Walker’s childhood and adolescence occurred in 1952 when she was eight years old. Playing cowboys and Indians with her older brothers Curtis and Bobby, Curtis shot accidentally Walker in the eye with a BB gun. To avoid punishment, the brothers concocted a fiction and pressured their sister to accept it. The physical result was that Walker lost the sight in her right eye.

That incident played a major role in her writing. Not the playing Indian part, but the effect of agreeing to hide what happened. Read the entire biographical essay, too. She doesn't say more about Indians or playing Indian there. Maybe she does elsewhere. I'm not trying to interpret it in any way, good or bad, because I don't know her work. It just strikes me, on this July day, the ways that peoples lives intersect, how they touch each other.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Book signing: Simon Ortiz and Evelina Zuni Lucero

If you can, head for downtown Santa Fe next Tuesday. At 3:00, Simon Ortiz and Evelina Zuni Lucero will be at the Museum of Contemporary Arts for an event celebrating the publication of Simon J. Ortiz: A Poetic Legacy of Indigenous Continuance. Evelina is one of the editors of the book.

For directions and details, check out the Facebook page about the event.

High school English teachers who teach any of his writings will find the book an excellent resource. And, if you're interested in his books for children, I have a chapter in the book you might find helpful.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

"Moccasins and Microphones" Poetry Performance, Santa Fe Indian School Spoken Word Team

Back in November, 2008, NewsHour on PBS featured a handful of high school poets from Santa Fe Indian School. They are in the Spoken Word Club and were getting ready for the 2009 Brave New Voices Poetry Slam. If you click here, you'll go to the page I posted in November. It's got links to audio and visual clips of them reading. Shown here is a photo taken of their performance at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC.

On July 20th, from 6 to 7:30 PM, the Spoken Word Team will be performing at the Newberry Library in Chicago. Admission is free.

The members of the team are:

Nolan Eskeets (Navajo)
Davin Coriz (Santo Domingo/Ohkay Owingeh/Picuris)
Santana Shorty (Navajo)
Clara Natonabah (Navajo)
Stuart Chavez (Havasupai/Navajo/Zuni)
Ariel Antone (Tohono O'odham)

Their coaches are Tim McLaughlin and Amaryllis Moleski. The Spoken Word Team is nationally recognized for their poetry, which incorporates Native languages and philosophies.

If you're in the Chicago area on the 20th, add this to your day. Or, plan a trip there and cap it off with this event. Click here to see PBS video of their readings.

UPDATE, 4:00 PM, July 9, 2009. The event is at the Newberry Library, and is hosted by the D'Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian History. Information about Moccasins and Microphones is here. Scroll down on that page to find the information about Moccasins and Microphones, but also scroll way down and click on the link to read the Meeting Ground Newsletter. Spend some time on the McNickle pages! The McNickle Center is a terrific resource for anyone interested in American Indians.

Last, driving directions to the Newberry are here.

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)

"Do you know what a bow and arrow is?"

I read a newspaper article this morning about a tutoring program in San Jose that helps refugees assimilate. A family from Myanmar is the focus of the story. They are taught English, but also taught about America and American culture.

Here's the excerpt that caught my attention:

"I'm helping him gain the confidence to put his own sentences together. It helps him formulate sentences and teaches me about who he is," says Finigan, 20, who worked with refugees in Thailand in 2008 with missionaries along the border and wanted to continue his work when he came back to the states.

The two worked on a lesson plan on the Native Americans, and Thar Hto Lay's eyes grew big as he looked at the pictures of tepees and bow and arrows.

"Do you know what a bow and arrow is?" asks Finigan.

The teenager just looks up at him and shakes his head.

"They are used to hunt. Do you hunt back in Burma? Or do they use guns?" he ask.

"They use guns," Thar Hto Lay says quietly.

Finigan has been working with Thar Hto Lay since January, coming to his home once a week for two hours at a time. The two talk about favorite movies and food to break the ice and move on to the lesson plan of the day.

I'm going to write to the program for more information. It sounds like the lesson plan on Native Americans rests heavily on stereotypes. The article is "Volunteers help refugees assimilate in the South Bay." It is viewable today (July 7, 2009) in the San Jose Mercury News.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Gloria Whelan's AFTER THE TRAIN

Directing you, today, to Rebecca Rabinowitz's "Source fiction is no excuse for racism."

Her essay is about Gloria Whelan's book, After the Train. In it, Rebecca hones in on the play-Indian theme in the book.

Barbara Bietz, in her review in the Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter didn't note the play-Indian theme at all. Hazel Rochman's review in Booklist doesn't mention it. Neither does independent reviewer Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger, or the unsigned Kirkus reviewer, or Hope Morrison of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books.

On page 108, Whelan writes:

We pool our money and buy a copy of a Western by Karl May, Winnetou, the Apache Knight. Karl May has written all these great books about the American West, and the amazing thing is he's never been there! You have to wonder how he can make it all seem real.

I wonder why all those other reviewers did not mention the Karl May book? Did they not see it? Did it not matter?

Thanks, Rebecca, for your essay and the link.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Tanya Landman and Can't-be-relied-on reviews

Last year I read a book filled with errors and bias. I wrote about it here and posted Beverly Slapin's review, and did a follow-up a week later. Now, colleagues tell me that Tanya Landman, author of that book (Apache: Girl Warrior), has another book coming out in the U.S.

She's a Brit, doing research from afar. On her website, Landman talks about emotionally laden words and biased presentation of information and history, so it would seem she'd write a book that did not repeat that problem. Yet, repeat the problem is precisely what she did in Apache: Girl Warrior. And, US review journals gave Apache: Girl Warrior favorable reviews.

Francisca Goldsmith of Booklist said: "With an eloquent voice and dignified pace, Landman creates a credible and artistic story with excellent characterization and engaging psychological and sociopolitical questions."

The reviewer at Kirkus said "The lively narrative is peppered with actions scenes, all loosely based on historical events...", and, "Constantly engrossing, this offering will engage young readers in a way no textbook can."

The review in The Horn Book Guide said "Though its historical and cultural accuracy are suspect, the story itself is compelling." Their recommendation: Recommended, with minor flaws.

Claire Rosser of KLIATT said "Reading this story, we learn a lot more about the Apache struggle for survival as their lands are threatened by Mexicans and then by white settlers." She recommends it, too.

Harolyn Legg of Library Media Connection said "This story is based on a book about Geronimo that the author read. Landman gives the reader a sense of the love or the land that Native Americans have and how they had to fight to keep their lands fro being spoiled."

The only reviewer that got it right is Jenny Ingram at VOYA. I am just now reading all these reviews, and was surprised to read her words, and, that she pointed readers to Oyate and to American Indians in Children's Literature. Thanks, Jenny! In VOYA, the book was tagged as "Hard to understand how it got published." Jenny wrote: "The narration by Siki is awkward and unnatural, written as if the British author drew upon American Indian movies to write her book. In her afterword, Landman writes that she made no attempt to create an accurate historical novel, yet a bibliography follows, which will mislead readers about the credibility of the book."

Having read Apache: Girl Warrior, and now, reading the reviews of it, I think it is clear that the reviewers, with the exception of Jenny Ingram, are writing reviews based on their memories--to use Jenny's words--of American Indian movies. She means, I think, all those westerns where bad Indians slaughter innocent pioneer families or tragic Indians lament their losses. It was and is all bogus, and it is disappointing that the reviews of Landman's book are good. They should not be.

On American Indians in Children's Literature, I'm going to start naming names. Maybe that will give them pause next time they're going to review a book about American Indians. That might seem mean, but I'm far more invested in the children that will be "learning" from books reviewers recommend.

Having said all that, those "bad Indians" and those "good Indians" and most "Indians" most Americans watched in movies or read in books, they were not (and are not) Indians at all. They're fictions created by people who have no idea what they are talking about. And all of us who consume their imagery are ill-served by their fictions.

HOW IS LITERATURE GOING TO GET BETTER if reviews and review journals continue to recommend books like I am Apache?

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Over on the child_lit listserv, a subscriber posted a link to an online article in The Weekly Standard. Titled "Picture Perfect," the article is about an exhibit of the Little Golden Books. Here's the excerpt that caught my eye:

"The great Leonard Weisgard--who painted covers for the New Yorker before he was 20 and whose half-century career ranged far and wide--illustrated another Margaret Wise Brown classic, Pussy Willow, for Little Golden Books. Even more arresting than his painting of the soft grey kitten peering up between grasses and wild strawberries at a grasshopper in flight is his picture for Indian, Indian: a black-haired, clay-colored little boy encountering a recumbent white horse with flowing mane, full of power and grace, in a field of daisies.

It is surprising how undated these pictures are. A few images and titles are politically incorrect by present standards. Doctor Dan the Bandage Man's counterpart is, I'm afraid, Nurse Nancy. And the traditional family ideal implicit in We Help Mommy, We Help Daddy, and The Happy Family--whose cover shows a girl in a dress picking flowers from a flower bed and a boy pushing a hand mower across the surrounding lawn--has taken a beating in the decades since these books appeared."

Did you notice what Anderson found arresting? Undated? Does she not know about stereotyping of American Indians? Is that why she didn't include Indian, Indian in the second paragraph? For your reference, you can see the photo she found so arresting here.

There's a lot of "Indians" in the Little Golden Books... Here's some titles:

Rin Tin Tin and the Lost Indian
Brave Eagle
Roy Rogers and the Indian Sign
I'm an Indian Today

I've got to get all these books and scan the images...

UPDATE, 3:32, 7/2/2009
The books I listed above are old. To my knowledge they are no longer in print. You can still get them through used bookstores. LITTLE GOLDEN BOOKS does, however, continue to publish Indian imagery in its books. One example is their Peter Pan book, which is based on Disney's film. Click here to see images from that book, and click here to see my post about I'm an Indian Today (published in 1961).


Betsy McEntarffer, a regular reader of American Indians in Children's Literature submitted a comment to my post about Hank the Cowdog. I'm post her comment here today. She wrote:

I read Hank the Cowdog several years ago when I was a paraeducator at an Elementary School. I tried to convince teachers and the librarian that the coyote images (believe me when I say the visual images are as bad or worse than the verbal ones)would make readers think of American Indians and were terribly derogatory and insulting. Needless to say I was pretty thoroughly ignored - and the series is a best seller! My granddaughter now is reading the series so I talked with her about the coyote images and she said, "I know they're just made up coyotes, Grandma, Indians are totally different." I hope she truly does understand. Thank you for persevering in the face of continual publisher and author insensitivity. Some of us are listening.

I read her words just after reading about a study in brain research that found people 'feel the pain' of people like them more readily than they 'feel the pain' of people who are not like them. You can read about the study in Science Daily. Obviously, Betsy's colleagues were unable to feel the pain of Native children who would see the coyotes as derogatory. Read the study, "Less Empathy Toward Outsiders."

How can we use the study? Is it possible we can say to people who are unmoved by our words "Hey, it isn't your fault, it is your brain's fault. You're hard wired not to care. But it doesn't have to be that way. Take command. Override what your brain is telling you."

I'm glad that Betsy's granddaughter understands that Indians aren't like the coyotes, but WHY is that conversation even necessary? Do we have that conversation about other groups? Any groups? Do you hand your child/student a book and say 'oh, and that part about X group, ignore it. It isn't accurate." How much does that happen?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

American Indian Art

Off topic, maybe, a little bit...

Occasionally, people write to me, asking where (online) they can get Native art. A few days ago, I learned about a website called Native Art Network. Through Native Art Network, you can be confident that the art you buy is made by a Native artist.

For the time being, the link to Native Art Network will be on my site, just below the Native Youth Lit widget that cycles through books I recommend. See my note above that widget? It says "Deb says... If you have a choice, buy from Oyate!" I encourage you to buy books from Oyate because money spent there supports Native people. Same with Native Art Network. Money spent there supports Native people. You can go there from this post, too, by clicking on the banner below:

Native American Art, Artists, Art Shows, Culture, History

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jeff Berglund's response to "Desecrations and Desires: White Male Fantasy in Will Hobbs' BEARSTONE

Jeff Berglund, a friend and colleague at Northern Arizona University, wrote this essay in response to Jane Haladay’s essay, “Desecrations and Desires: White Male Fantasy in Will Hobbs’ Bearstone.” Jeff is an Associate Professor in the Department of English.


Jeff Berglund's Response to Jane Haladay’s essay, “Desecrations and Desires: White Male Fantasy in Will Hobbs’ Bearstone"

I bring in young adult novels in all of my Native literature courses, particularly because many of my students are English Education majors, but also because it recalls for students so many of the previous renderings of Native peoples and cultures in books they read in junior high and high school, books like Bearstone, Touching Spirit Bear, Sign of the Beaver, Sing Down the Moon, and so forth.

Thanks, Jane, for doing (and recording) the real-world sort of work many of us are called to in our local communities. What I like about Jane's work is that it provides a model to all of us of how we might engage in these debates *and* set the terms of our participation.

So many teachers have basic questions and limited time and resources for doing ground-up investigations on their own. I ask my college students to consider donating copies of Birchbark House and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian so I can donate, on their behalf, reading sets (5-7 books) to schools. In paperback, these books are between $7-10 and give back barely $1-2 in sellback at the bookstore, so many students are willing to donate these.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of guest-lecturing in Jennifer Denetdale's graduate course at Dine College for Dine' educators. In the group of 15 students, all of whom are practicing teachers, not one, as a child, had read a book about the Navajo Long Walk. Two had seen the recent books by Dine' writers, but all were eager to find more. That's not surprising. What is surprising is that everyone had lots of basic questions: how do we figure out what books are the best quality? How can we trust authors to tell us the truth? Of course, Jennifer and I referred them to Debbie's blog, to Oyate, and we then proceeded to look at a number of books with evaluative criteria, such as those listed below in order to remind everyone that we all have to engage in the evaluative/comparative process of critical reading:

Questions to Consider When Purchasing New Books:
  1. Does the author have a connection to Native peoples, communities, or is the author a member of a tribal culture? What stake does the writer have in the lives of indigenous children?
  2. When was this book written? Does the author reflect his or her own time period and contemporary thinking about cultural and ethnic diversity?
  3. Whose story is being told? Do the centering principles of the story reflect the diversity and complexity of this culture and honor this culture’s principles as a means of understanding history or traditions?
  4. Are Native people represented as fully human—full of joy, wonder, wisdom, beauty, sorrow, pain, pleasure? Or, are they rendered as anthropological subjects, distanced from the contemporary world or assumed to be separate from all implied readers?
  5. If different viewpoints could be represented, do the authors or illustrators make efforts to include these different ideas?
  6. If stories are retellings of traditional narratives, is there information about how the author has come to the source information or come into a position to represent such information?
These are starting points that lead to pretty involved discussions.

[Note from Debbie: See my review of Jennifer Denetdale's nonfiction book on the Long Walk.]

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond

My colleague, J. Kehaulani Kauanui, hosts a radio program called Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond. She interviewed me for the show that was broadcast on Wednesday, June 24th, 2009. The segment is "For the Seventh Generation: American Indians, Youth, and Education."

In the second half of that episode, Loren Spears, a Narragansett woman, is the guest. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Nuweetooun School in Rhode Island. Nuweetoon is a Native school, and its curriculum is Native-centered.

Thanks, Keuhaulani, for inviting me to visit with your listeners, and thanks, too, for opening the segment with the Turtle Dance song.

In the interview, I say much of what readers will find here on my site. I want readers to listen to what Loren Spears has to say about a memory from 5th grade, and, especially, the experiences that her children have had in school...

Book trailer: ENCOUNTER by Jane Yolen

In recent years, book trailers are taking off. They are like book talks teachers and librarians do when they're pitching a book to readers, but because book trailers are videos, they can incorporate music and imagery.

But just like book talks, if the person giving the talk does not have a critical eye with respect to the way that American Indians are portrayed, the product (book talk or book trailer) will be flawed and will contribute to the misinformation and misperceptions children--and adults--have about American Indians.

Case in point is the book trailer for Jane Yolen's book, Encounter. The on-screen text that is superimposed on the book pages says "Today the Tainos are all gone." As an American Indian mother, I wonder how Taino parents would react to that line? As a professor in American Indian Studies, and a former schoolteacher with a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction, I do not recommend Yolen's book.

Jean Mendoza wrote an excellent essay about Encounter. Her essay is in A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children. If you don't have it, order A Broken Flute from Oyate.

Are you, perhaps, surprised that I object to that line ("Today the Tainos are all gone")? History and American society have told you that Native people are all gone. So, don't feel bad that you don't know that the Tainos are still here. The widespread idea that the Tainos were wiped out can change, if you take some time to learn a little bit about them.

Among the Taino people whose work I read and follow is Jose Barreiro. He is Assistant Director for Research at the National Museum of the American Indian. He helped get the American Indian Program launched at Cornell University and has written several books.

He recently gave a lecture titled "A Call to Consciousness on Climate Change." Watch his lecture (below), and then give some thought to whether or not---or how---you will use Yolen's book.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New book by Joy Harjo, author of THE GOOD LUCK CAT

Watching the mail, waiting for my review copy of Joy Harjo's new picture book, For A Girl Becoming. Published by the University of Arizona Press, it is due out in October.

On her blog is a poem with that title. To read an excerpt, go to For A Girl Becoming and click on "Read Excerpt" just beneath the image of the cover. The illustrations are by Mercedes McDonald.

Harjo is Mvskoke/Creek. Her new book is in the Sun Tracks series. Take a look at the books in the series, and order one of each for your library. I've recommended several, like Luci Tapahonso's Blue Horses Rush In, Nora Naranjo Morse's Mud Women: Poems from the Clay, Hershman R. John's I Swallow Turquoise for Courage, and Ofelia Zepeda's Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert.

The University of Arizona Press also published Simon Ortiz's outstanding book, The Good Rainbow Road, illustrated by Michael Lacapa.

Monday, June 22, 2009

William O. Steele's THE BUFFALO KNIFE

A reader wrote to ask about William O. Steele's The Buffalo Knife. I have not read the book and prior to her letter, did not know anything about it. I've spent some time looking into it, though, and am sharing my thoughts here.

The book was first published in the 1952. In 1990 it was reissued with an introduction by Jean Fritz. It is an "Odyssey/Harcourt Young Classic." Another one (Flaming Arrows) with that designation was published later (in 1957). In Flaming Arrows, the protagonist and his family, according to the "Product Description" on Amazon, have to take "refuge from vicious Chickamauga raiding parties." Judy Crowder's review in the Children's Literature Comprehensive Database (CLCD) references Fritz's note. Crowder writes:

Jean Fritz, in the 1990 forward, explains that when the author--very much a historian--wrote such words as "redskins" or "savages" he was reflecting the language and attitudes of the times, which Steel found as objectionable as modern readers might. However, more subtle mindsets of the mid-twentieth century may rattle the sensibilities of today's young reader. First, the settlers' shooting the raiders as if they were deadly pests instead of human beings is unsettling. Chad himself yearns to "shoot me an Injun," and when he does, his only reaction is that of a job well done and he is disappointed when he is not praised for it. The pioneers also act as if the forests and wild animals were only there to be exploited--again, probably true to the times, but bothersome none the less. Parents and teachers should stand ready to do some careful debriefing when their children/students read this adventure.

Contrast what she said with Frank Quinby's remarks about Fritz's note in his review of The Buffalo Knife. His review is also in the Children's Literature Comprehensive Database. He wrote:

"A useful introduction by Jean Fritz includes an explanation of Steele's use of such terms as "redskins" and "savages" as being reflective of the language of the time period and as such not offensive."

The Horn Book Guide gave both books its "Superior, well above average" rating.

As I studied the entries in CLCD, I saw that the "Subject" field includes "Prejudices Fiction". That subject is not listed for either book in the Library of Congress record for either book. I'll have to look into that later. For now, I want to return to Jean Fritz's note.

According to Crowder and Quinby, her note says that Steele's book reflects language and attitudes of the time period. I wonder which time period Fritz means. Is she talking about 1782, the setting for The Buffalo Knife? Or is she talking about 1952, when the book was published?

And of course, who is Fritz talking about? Who used that language? And, who had those attitudes?

In my experience, that response "that's what they thought back then" is quickly offered whenever someone questions the bias and racism embodied in that language and attitude in children's and young adult literature. My friend and colleague, Jean Mendoza, says it well when she says that surely the Indian people of that time did not use that language about each other, nor did they harbor those attitudes.

I've said that perhaps those who used that language and held such attitudes were like people on Fox News. Many of us have said that not all the white people held those attitudes either. Just some. Not all.

Several years ago, I was at the Bienecke Rare Books Library at Yale, reading some old papers housed there. I read the diary of a soldier, dated 1759-1762. In several places, he refers to Indians they fought, but he didn't say "savage/savages" and he didn't use words like "bloodthirsty." Just the words "Indian" or "Indians." I also read through a document that was a dialogue between several missionaries. Dated in 1795, it is an account of their work with "the Delawares, the 6 Nations, the Mahikands, and some smaller tribes." For the most part, the missionaries used the word Indians. There were a few uses of "heathen" but not many.

On my desk is Volume I of Documents of American Indian Diplomacy: Treaties, Agreements, and Conventions, 1775-1979 by Vine Deloria, Jr., and Raymond J. DeMallie. Chapter 1 is "Pre-Revolutionary War Treaty Making." With clear (jargon free) language, it provides context and information about treaties. In the book, Deloria and DeMallie provide context and documents (speeches and records of negotiations) that are not generally included with printings of the treaties. I pulled the book off my shelf to read some of the documents of the 1700s (time period for The Buffalo Knife), looking to see if, in these documents, I'd find the words "redskins" or "savages."

In chapter one, Deloria and DeMallie begin with the Delaware treaty of 1778.

There was to be a meeting on September 12th, but the Indian representatives of the Six Nations, Wyandots, Delawares, Shawnees, and Ottawas had not yet arrived. The American commissioners sent two people to meet with the Indians, urging them to come to the meeting. The two messengers delivered a message to the Indians. Those American commissioners addressed the Indians as "our Brothers to the Westward."

On October 6th, the Indian delegates arrived for the meeting. In a speech, they were told about the war between the colonists and England. In that speech, delivered by John Walker of Virginia, Walker starts with "Brothers you have no doubt heard of the dispute..." He went on to ask the tribes to remain neutral, and to let the colonists know if/when they learned that other nearby tribes were going to attack the colonists. He asked them, specifically, to stay home with their "Women and Children." He said women and children, not squaws and papooses.

In the next section "Revolutionary War and Articles of Confederation Treaties," Deloria and DeMallie include several speeches. In some of the speeches, the colonist delivering the speech addressed the Indians as "Bretheren, Chiefs ans Warriors of the several Nations here present." The speeches referred to each other's people as people. On July 4, 1775, Major John Connolly refers to past fighting that resulted in death on both sides as "the rash conduct of foolish people instigated by the spirit."

As I continue my research into language use of any given time period, Deloria and DeMallie's book will prove quite useful. I will also look for other documents, perhaps diaries.

What I find interesting is that in the three distinct sets of documents that I have looked at thus far, soldiers, missionaries, and diplomats do not use the sort of language that is commonly seen in historical fiction. At the very least, this is evidence that not all people used that language.

Other notes:

In 1657, John Amos Comenius, writing in Orbis Pictus, used the word Indian.

The Oxford English Dictionary lists the first use of "redskin" as 1699, by S. Smith. His writing is quoted in Helen Evertson Smith's Colonial Days & Ways as Gathered from Family Papers. Published in 1900, you can see it in Google Books. Here's the quote:

Ye firste Meetinge House was solid mayde to withstande ye wicked onslauts of ye Red Skins. Its Foundations was laide in ye feare of ye Lord, but its Walls was truly laide in ye feare of ye Indians, for many & grate was ye Terrors of em. I do mind me y't alle ye able-bodyed Men did work thereat, & ye olde & feeble did watch in turns to espie if any Salvages was in hiding neare & every Man keept his Musket nighe to his hande. I do not myself remember any of ye Attacks mayde by large bodeys of Indians whilst we did remayne in Weathersfield, but did ofttimes hear of em. Several Families wch did live back a ways from ye River was either Murderdt or Captivated in my Boyood & we all did live in constant feare of ye like. My Father ever declardt there were not be so much to feare iff ye Red Skins were treated wich suche mixture of Justice & Authority as they cld understand, but if he was living now he must see that wee can do naught but fight em & that right heavily.

Notice that Smith used three different terms: "Red Skins," "Salvages," and, "Indians."


As I worked on this blog post, a librarian sent me a scan of Fritz's introduction to The Buffalo Knife. Here's the last two paragraphs:

William Steele pilots a plot as deftly as he does a flatboat. And as swiftly. When you are through with these adventures, you will want to turn around and start over so you can take your time and enjoy the scenery.

Mr. Steele not only writes a good story, he writes good history that accurately reflects the feelings, the worries, the dangers of the times. And the language. When he refers to Native Americans as "redskins" or "savages," the reader understands that he finds these terms as objectionable as we do; he is simply recording what his characters would really have said. Only a skilled writer can tell a story that is true to its times and wind up with a truth that speaks to all times.

What does Fritz mean? I think she assumes that readers will notice the terms and object to them, but I wonder if that happens? Evan, who I gather is a teen reader, did not mention it in his review. None of the customer reviews on Amazon mention it. It isn't addressed in Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best Children's Literature, published in 2002, or in The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling: Year 2001, or in Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum: A Guide to Catholic Home Education.

Do you teach this book? Have you read it? What do you think?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Patricia Wrede's thinking as she wrote THE THIRTEENTH CHILD

For some time now, I've wondered about the correspondence that takes place between a writer and his/her editor when the author's manuscript has Native content. It could be a main character, or a minor one. It could be setting, or, the story could reference Native history or culture. I cast a broad net. I want to know what they say about that content, if they say anything at all, if there's a pause about it or not. With the Internet, there are opportunties to access a writer's thinking.

Today's post is a look at Patricia Wrede's thoughts as she wrote The Thirteenth Child. Below are excerpts from rec.arts.sf.composition, a Google group about "the writing and publishing of speculative fiction."

The thread from which I'm excerpting the passages is called "Renaming Europe." It was started by Wrede. On rec.arts.sf.composition, Wrede's words are not in italics. I'm presenting them in italics here in order to distinguish them from my words.

Feb. 3, 2006, 10:09 PM
I'm currently in the middle of developing some alternate-history background, for a book set in a very alternate mid-1800s U.S.-equivalent-with-magic, and I find myself wanting very much to have plausible alternative names for "Europe," England/Britain," "France," "Holland/The Netherlands," "Spain," and possibly a few other major European countries, preferrably ones that haven't been over-used already (like "Albion" for England), but at least some of which are more-or-less recognizeable (like "Albion" and "Gaul" and "Hispania"). I don't have enough linguistic or historical background to get away from the really obvious myself, so...suggestions? Brian, Zeborah, anybody?

Someone asked her "is there also an important historical difference, like alternative origins of the first European settlers?" To this, she said:

Feb 3, 2006, 11:36 PM
The current plan is to have the primary difference before 1492 be that the various pre-historic attempts to colonize the Americas were unsuccessful; thus, no Mayans, Incas, Aztecs, Mississippi Valley civilization, or Native Americans of any sort. Up to that point, I expect differences in Europe, Africa, and Asia will be due mainly to this world having magic, and I expect to wiggle things so that things are moderately close to Real Life history. The absence of an indiginous population in the Americas is obviously going to have a significant impact on the way things develop during the exploration and colonization period, and I'm still feeling my way through how I'm going to finagle that to get to where I want.

Which is, basically: A North America in which the threat of Indians was replaced by the threat of un-extinct megafauna, both magical and non-magical in nature (mammoths, wooly rhinocerouses, terror birds, dire wolves, dragons [what else would prey on mammoths and wooly rhinos?]). The U.S. was settled and had a successful revolution and a civil war, but the westward expansion has been slower and stalled for a while at the Mississippi for various reasons. Nobody has yet mapped all the way to the Pacific (I'm thinking of making California an island, the way it was depicted on early maps, but I haven't decided yet); the Lewis and White expedition never came back (no Sacajawea, plus did I mention that the Rockies are a favorite nesting ground for dragons?) East of the Mississippi, the megafauna have mostly been cleared out, especially in settled areas, though the backwoods parts of the country are still pretty dangerous. (Suggestions for place names that can substitute for Indian-language-origin names like Ohio, Chicago, Mississippi, Michigan, etc. are also welcome...)

I know the "feel" I'm after; now I need to work out some plausible backstory
to get me there.

Did you catch that? She said, "A North America in which the threat of Indians was replaced by the threat of un-extinct megafauna." And see what she said in parens? She wanted suggestions for words like Chicago, which are Native words.

Feb 4, 2006, 9:14 AM
The trick, I'm finding, is coming up with names that are sufficiently different, but that don't cause a sort of cognitive dissonance when combined in the same story with names that *would*, very likely, be the same, like Washington and Virginia and Carolina. Of course, I can change those, too, but then I really start to lose the feel I want. It's a delicate balancing act.

Selective erasure! What "feel" is she after?! In the ensuing discussion, someone said "If you nudge history just a little bit in the right place, you'd still have an Angevin Empire." To this, she said:

Feb 4, 2006, 2:38 PM
I don't want to nudge European history until 1492. It's going to be enough trouble to figure out four centuries of alternate history; backing up *another* 500 years or so is more than I really want to do.

Hmmm.... note the use of word "trouble" --- what does that mean? She's willing to mess with our history, but not hers. There was discussion about food, like corn, potatoes, beans... Some angst expressed over not being able to have chocolate, because it was developed by indigenous people. Without indigenous people, no chocolate. As I read through the thread, participants (fellow writers?) in rec.arts.sf.composition were quite engaged with her premise, fleshing it out. So far, nobody saying 'HEY.' As the group talked about names for European countries, someone asked if she wanted the names anglicised, and, asked about the language she would use. She replied:

Feb 5, 2006, 10:32 AM
English, so yes, pretty much anglicised. The *plan* is for it to be a "settling the frontier" book, only without Indians (because I really hate both the older Indians-as-savages viewpoint that was common in that sort of book, *and* the modern Indians-as-gentle-ecologists viewpoint that seems to be so popular lately, and this seems the best way of eliminating the problem, plus it'll let me play with all sorts of cool megafauna). I'm not looking for wildly divergent history, because if it goes too far afield I won't get the right feel. Not that it'll be all that similar anyway; no writing plan survives contact with the characters, and it's already starting to morph.

I don't have to change *all* the European names, but I really, really, really want an alternative to "England." There are already too many people who want to force the Mairelon books and the Kate and Cecy books and even Caroline's "College of Magics" books to be in the same universe, and I'm *not* going to make it easy for them to stick this book in the same pile.

In that passage, she gives us evidence that she knows about problems with the ways that American Indians are presented. Rather than "trouble" (a word she used earlier in the discussion) herself with working through this, she decided to "eliminate" Indians. She's leery of where people will "stick" her book, but it is not Native readers she's worried about.

Early on, someone asked her about the Aleuts and Eskimos, and then someone said that they'd seen a "programme" (must be a Brit) that traced the Clovis people to France or northern Spain. That individual then said "Skin boats, Inuit technology, they would find the Atlantic no problem. Stone Age people were pretty impressive." To this, Wrede replied:

Feb 5, 2006, 10:44 AM
That's why I abandoned my original idea, which was just to have had no land bridge. There are too many other possible settlement routes for that to account for *no* human presence in the Americas prior to 1492. The current plan is to beef up the nastiness of some of the megafauna, to the point where all previous colonization attempts up to and including the Viking "Vinland" settlement failed because they got trampled or eaten or something. (From my research so far, this won't be all that tough to do...) By 1492+, the combination of magic and technology (i.e., guns) is good enough that people can make headway, though it's still not exactly easy. I may slow down technological development just a tad, on the grounds of that being a side-effect of having magic to do certain things (though I think I could just as easily use that as a justification for speeding up technological advances, if I wanted to. But for this story, I don't want to).

Then, again on the name for England, someone suggested "Angleterre", which is a French word for England, and, the individual said "...using the French name for England would be... _not very British!_ Wrede replied:

Feb 5, 2006, 11:00 AM
Well, yeah, there's that... And I *don't* want to have to change history very much just to get a name.

I take that to mean that she doesn't want to raise the ire of her Brit readers. There was some discussion about calling the Louisiana territory "New Egypt", and an "Alas, there wont [sic] be any Natchez nor mounds to really base an Egypt comparison on." and then, "...assuming that the Euro settlers still import african [sic] slaves, then I can imagine some explicitly Exodus-from-Egypt related gospel lyrics." Wrede's response to that is:

Feb 5, 2006, 11:15 AM
I'm currently assuming there will be African slaves, possibly even more (since there won't be any Native Americans to have already done a certain amount of prepping land for human occupation, nor to be exploited later). I'm speculating that South America (which is outside the scope of the story I'm doing, and therefore wide open for changes) will look *very* different. The Spanish seem to have been initially motivated by all the gold they swiped from the Aztecs; I'm not sure they'd have been as forward about claiming territory and establishing colonies without that. Which means there's room for all sorts of other nations (including maybe some that weren't quite so into seafaring, like the Ottoman Empire) to have New World colonies, which is in turn going to change things back home in Europe...

At this point in her thinking, she needs more African slaves to do the work that Indians had done, and, she needs them to exploit later since the people she's imagining will need to exploit SOMEONE. Someone of color, that is...

Somewhere along the thread, Wrede said that sea serpents make crossing the Pacific difficult for her Europeans, and someone suggested that those same sea serpents could be used to explain why Indians didn't get there via the land bridge. Wrede replies:

Feb 5, 2006, 2:14 pm
I definitely have to do something about migrations, but since they come from both directions (trans-Pacific *and* trans-Atlantic), I think I need to kill them off after they arrive. Unless I want to make Columbus' voyage (and subsequent Atlantic crossings) a whole lot more dangerous than they were, which would interfere *too* much with post-1492 colonization.

She will kill off her sea serpents so they don't interfere with Columbus...

Later, someone suggests having the Indians killed off by disease or parasite. Wrede replies:

Feb. 9, 2006, 4:00 PM
I'm not fond of the disease-or-parasite solution; it raises too many other questions (like why it didn't spread the *other* way across the Bering Straights and depopulate Asia and eventually Africa and Europe -- we're talking around 20,000 years here, remember). Being eaten on arrival is a nice, effective, tidy solution without much in the way of additional complications.

She rejects that suggestion because she wants to be effective and tidy, without complications, and revisits the sea creature possibility, saying:

Feb 9, 2006, 4:00 PM
What I really need, though, is a coastal-water predator, or possibly two, with limited range. One that sticks to cold water, to patrol the Alaska coastline and maybe part of the northern Russian coast, but that won't go far enough south to mess up the development of Japan and the Pacific Islanders; one that sticks to warmer waters, to patrol from about Vancouver down to South America without going around the tip and spreading into the Atlantic. At the least, I want *something* nasty in the California Channel.

A few hours later, she writes:

Feb 9, 2006, 10:08 PM
Of course, the Gold Rush is going to be considerably later and more dangerous in this world...

More dangerous? She must not know much about it and the lives of California's indigenous people during the mad rush of the rush.

From there, the group talked about research sources, discussing merits of Wikipedia, and sharing a lot of information and resources. The thread ended soon after that. Her book came out in the spring of 2009.

Reading through rec.arts.sf.composition, it is clear that Wrede is helpful to others there, participating in discussions, answering questions. It looks to me like a supportive space for writers to work through ideas. All of that is a plus for Wrede. She's a well-established writer helping other writers, and that is terrific.

Given her influence and standing, I wonder how much impact she'd have on the field if she reflected, publicly, on the controversy over her novel? I think there's a lot to learn from it. Learning that could shift the field forward in the United States and elsewhere, too. Her books are translated and sold around the world (an example from her website..." DEALING WITH DRAGONS, first volume in the Chronicles of the Enchanted Forest, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, September, 1990. Children's hardcover. Mass Market
paperback from Scholastic Books, July, 1992. Danish trade paperback edition, DRAGEPRINSESSEN, Gyldendal, 1991. British mass market paperback, DRAGONSBANE, from Scholastic publications, 1993. Swedish hardcover edition PRINSESSA SOKER DRAKE, Raben & Sjogren, 1995. Russian edition, 1996. Finnish edition, ICBS, 2001. French, CENDORINE ET LES DRAGONS, Beyard Jeunesse, 2004. Korean, Daekyo Publishing, 2004. Indonesian, Kaifa for Teens, 2004. Thai, Tuttle-Mori, 2004.
Russian, Azbuka, 2004."

See that? Impressive! There is obviously a huge market for her books. She could really make a difference...

(Note: At the top of this post is a hyperlink to the Google group discussion. I invite you to read the entire discussion. Words are always open to interpretation.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Heated debate is taking place over Patricia Wrede's book, The Thirteenth Child. Many people defend her decision to write a "settling the frontier book, only without Indians" story while others, me included, think it was thoughtless or lazy or... you fill in the blank.

In the midst of that heated debate, yesterday's mail included Jennifer Denetdale's The Long Walk: The Forced Navajo Exile, a nonfiction volume aimed at high school students. It is one of the books in Chelsea House's "Landmark Events in Native American History" set.

Here's the opening lines from Denetdale's first chapter, "Who are the Dine?" (Note: The letter e in Dine should have an accent mark over it, but I can't do it in Blogger.)

It is one of those hot summer days when the gathering clouds promise rain but are still too far away to tell if rain will fall. In Window Rock, Arizona, the capital of the Navajo Nation, Dine Tribal Council delegates dressed in a combination of Western and Navajo style clothing begin to fill the chambers for the summer legislative session. (Dine means the People and is the word Navajos call themselves.)

That's a terrific opening for this book! Denetdale's first sentence embraces the reader's senses, inviting that reader to be with her, in that space, as she tells him or her about the Dine and the Long Walk. There are five chapters, followed by a Chronology, Timeline, Notes, Bibliography, and, Further Reading. The latter are all standard items in a work of non-fiction, but what distinguishes Denetdale's book is that the history and life of the Dine is given by someone who knows, on multiple levels, what she's talking about. Denetdale is Dine. And, she's a historian on the faculty at Northern Arizona University. As such, she brings a lived experience and a scholarly perspective to this book. Quoting again from her first chapter:

In the twenty-first century, it might appear that the Dine are no different than other modern Americans who drive to work in their cars, shop at malls for the latest fashions, grab a quick lunch with co-workers at a local fast food restaurant, or, after work, change into Nike sportswear and go for a jog. On the other hand, Navajos struggle with high rates of poverty and unemployment, with all of its accompanying ills such as disease, domestic violence, and homicides. In many ways, the Dine have become accustomed to American culture, for they are just as proud as others to be Americans. Nevertheless, Navajos remain mindful of how their ancestors have left them a powerful legacy, a determination to remain a sovereign people who have land, a still vital language, and a strong cultural identity.

From there, Denetdale talks about Dine origin stories, and, she tells us that these stories differ from theories of non-Navajo archaeologists and anthropologists. She describes Dine contact with the Spanish, and then with the Americans as she talks about manifest destiny and Navajo resistance. She devotes two chapters to the Long Walk, and the Dine's return to their homelands, and finishes with Chapter 5, "Remembering the Long Walk and Hweeldi." Facing the page on which chapter 5 begins is a photograph of an absolutely stunning rug that depicts the Long Walk. In that chapter, Denetdale brings the reader right up to the present day. There is, for example, a photograph of Dine singers (Verdell Primeaux and Johnny Mike) who won a Grammy in 2002 for the best Native American Music Album.

Her final words in the book are the ones with which I'll end this review. Order The Long Walk. It belongs in every school library, and every public library, too. And, listen to her radio interview on "Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond" about her book, Reclaiming Diné History: The Legacies of Navajo Chief Manuelito and Juanita, and order it, too. Reading The Long Walk gave my day a decidedly different trajectory yesterday, effectively countering the story that Wrede's book tells. Thanks, Jennifer!

The Navajo people have not allowed non-Navajo interpretations of this important event in their history to be controlled by non-Navajos. They have taken initiatives to ensure that Americans do not forget the unjust treatment of native peoples; however, at the same time, they are determined to rise above the nightmare of the past that continues to haunt them and reclaim the vitality of their cultural inheritance. The stories of the Long Walk and Hweeldi and what happened to their people has made the Navajos determined to create a better world for the coming generations.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Among America's exports....

Among America's exports is stereotypical imagery of American Indians. Take, for example, O. Henry's short story, "The Ransom of Red Chief." I wrote about it a few months ago, and, came across it today on the Voice of America (VOA) website.

VOA's purpose? From the website:

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts approximately 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of 138 million people.

"Voice" - singular. Maybe that's the problem! The page the story is on is designed specifically to help people learn English. Here's an except from the story. You can read the entire thing, or, listen to it read aloud.

That boy put up a fight like a wild animal. But, at last, we got him down in the bottom of the carriage and drove away.

We took him up to the cave. The boy had two large bird feathers stuck in his hair. He points a stick at me and says:

"Ha! Paleface, do you dare to enter the camp of Red Chief, the terror of the plains?"

"He's all right now," says Bill, rolling up his pants and examining wounds on his legs. "We're playing Indian. I'm Old Hank, the trapper, Red Chief's captive. I'm going to be scalped at daybreak. By Geronimo! That kid can kick hard."

Along with learning English, readers/listeners at VOA "learn" a lot about... About... About what O. Henry thought about American Indians. Or playing Indian. Readers/listeners certainly don't learn anything at all about American Indians, but I wonder if they know that?!

Anyway, I am pasting below comments to the story. If you want to see the page they appear, and maybe those that appear later, click here...


I love this story! Thank you, VOA!
Submitted by: Doll (Vietnam)
06-17-2009 - 03:47:03

2. comment

Thank you for letting us audio-read American short stories. However, I found this one a least imaginative and surprisingly unworthy of the name of the author of "The gift of the Magi" and famed VOA. I know there are far many rich American short stories than VOA has to start digging the trash field.
Submitted by: Kazuhiro Nagamitz (Japan)
06-16-2009 - 01:25:49

3. Very funny story

Such a funny story! I expect VOA will give us more stories like this one!
Submitted by: Hai (Vietnam)
06-15-2009 - 14:14:06

4. comment

Thank you for the funny story.I read this story when I was a smal girl/ thank you for good impressions Sv
Submitted by: svetlana (Israel)
06-14-2009 - 12:44:20

5. the ransom of red chief

i think everyone should read this story specially the leaders . this is my first sent to you and i belief that voa is the best
Submitted by: ragab (tripoli libya)
06-14-2009 - 12:33:24

6. A humorous story

Thank you for bringing the good story. But it took me for reading several times to understand the story completely. When I was a senior high school student about 40 years ago. we learned "The gift of the Magi" in the English class. I still remember the story well. We have always something to learn from his short stories. Thank you again for your good service.
Submitted by: H.Mori (Japan)
06-13-2009 - 21:44:50

7. Sunshine after rain

A rollicking and hilarious story which develops in a totally unexpected way. It somehow reminds me of Laurel & Hardy immortal movies. We listeners needed it, after the masterly but heart-rending story by B. Harte told last saturday. And many thanks to Mr. 'O Neal for his superb reading. The clearness and elegance of his pronunciation are astonishing.
Submitted by: gian paolo nardoianni (Italy)
06-13-2009 - 16:51:55

8. english

I want to improve my English.
Submitted by: eh ku (myanmar)
06-13-2009 - 15:09:37

9. The funny story I have ever heard.

I really feel sorry for Bill. He thought kidnapping is easy work to do. First he kidnaps the boy to get some money than he want just to return the boy and he will pay for that. Finally I would like to thank every one especially O, Henry I felt as a true story thank you.
Submitted by: khalid (Iraq)
06-13-2009 - 12:46:49

Hank the Cowdog

Earlier today I had an email from a woman, asking if I'd read the series, Hank the Cowdog. I have not, so checked into it a little.... Here's what I found:

Hank is a ranch dog in charge of security on the ranch. From

Coyotes are the bad guys: Rip, Snort, and -- most feared of all -- Scraunch. They like the freedom of roaming the canyons and forests. Coyotes are an ever present danger to the ranch; and yet, for Hank, there's an irresistible fascination with their devil-may-care lifestyle. In fact, one day, Hank decided to see how life was on the other side of the septic tank:

"About a week after I joined the tribe, I made friends with two brothers named Rip and Snort. They were what you'd call typical good-old-boy coyotes: filthy, smelled awful, not real smart, loved to fight and have a good time, and had no more ambition than a couple of fence posts. If Rip and Snort took a shine to you, you had two of the best friends in the world. If they didn't happen to like your looks or your attitude, you were in a world of trouble. I got along with them."

From Wikipedia and elsewhere, I read that the characters in the series include...

Missy Coyote, a coyote princess. Hank meets her in the first book in the series and has a crush on her. Her name is Girl-Who-Drink-Blood.

Chief Gut, Missy's father. His full name is "Many-Rabbit-Gut-Eat-In-Full-Moon."

Scraunch the Terrible, Missy's brother.

In one of the books, Rip and Snort sing the Coyote Sacred Hymn, "Me Just a Worthless Coyote"

In MURDER IN THE MIDDLE PASTURE, Hank pursues "a gang of wild dogs and a clan of coyotes." He gets caught by "the coyote nation" and faces certain death.

I wonder how the coyote's are drawn? The references to American Indians are undeniable... Some people will blast me for saying "not recommended" when I haven't read the book yet, but right now, my instinct is to say "not recommended."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Newsletter: Winding Rivers Library System

Earlier this year I visited the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse to talk with teachers and librarians about American Indians in children's literature. I just got an email directing me to a newsletter about the talk. I'm always a bit nervous when I give a lecture, wondering if the audience is hearing me, if I need to restate something... If I'm making sense... Talking too fast... Alienating the audience...

Reading this newsletter feels terrific. Marcia Sarnowski, its author, understood the points I was making. If I could draw myself waving at her, I'd do it. She is with the Winding Rivers Library System. Thank you, Marcia, for writing up the session, and sharing it with readers of your newsletter. The logo shown here is from their website.