Thursday, March 10, 2016

Native People Respond to Rowling

Eds. note on June 30, 2016: Scroll down to see curated list of items that Native writers have written in response to Rowling.
_______________

Screen cap added 3/10/16
As fans of Harry Potter know, there are (at least) two distinct responses to J.K. Rowling's "History of Magic in North America" stories.

The first story, "Fourteenth Century - Seventeenth Century," was released on Monday, March 8, 2016. Fans were delighted to have more of her writing to read.

Native people--those who are fans of her books, and those of us who study or write about representations of Native peoples in popular culture and children's literature--had a different response.



~~~~~

When I (Debbie Reese) read the first story in Rowling's series, I'd been deeply immersed in a study of a handful of best selling children's books. I was appalled to read "also called redskins for their custom of smearing red earth over their entire bodies" in the popular Geronimo Stilton's The Wild, Wild West:



And I'd just read Rick Riordan's The Lost Hero where a main character's dad is Cherokee, making her half Cherokee. She's taunted by other characters who ask her if her dad is an alcoholic and if she'll do a rain dance. Riordan had those words come from what we might characterize as "mean girls." I assume he did that to, in that way, show them to be inappropriate things to say, but far too many people won't pick up on that nuance. I worry that, without a direct push-back on those taunts, people will view them as an affirmation of existing stereotypical ideas, and use those same taunts themselves.

Update: March 13: 2016
Rick Riordan submitted a comment. Thank you, Mr. Riordan, for your comment. I'm pasting it here, and will include it in my full review of your book:
Rick Riordan has left a new comment on your post "Native People Respond to Rowling": 
Hi Debbie, I hadn't read this article expecting to be referenced, but thank you for your concerns. Yes, of course, I intended the insults hurled at Piper in The Lost Hero to be viewed as what they are: racist stereotyping and bullying, as something Piper had to deal with, just as Samirah in Sword of Summer has to deal with school bullies asking if she is a terrorist because she is Muslim. I hope that my readers will understand the inappropriateness of this bullying in context, especially as Piper's reality as presented in the book is so far from what those bullies say. Piper's dad is a great father and a multimillionaire movie star. The character with the alcoholic parent is in fact Piper's white boyfriend Jason, and as the son of alcoholic parents, Jason's struggle is something I can speak to. I try to do my homework and be respectful while representing the struggles each of my characters face, but of course I don't always get it right, and I value your feedback. 



With The Wild Wild West and The Lost Hero as my immediate context for reading Rowling's story, I was furious. I used the f-bomb in a tweet at her.  Use of the word wasn't necessary, but the emotion it expressed was real. As I read tweets by Native people, I saw a range of emotion. Anger. And hurt, too. Native people who are my daughter's age grew up reading Harry Potter. This particular group are adults now, in their 20s. She--and they--were huge fans of every book in the series.

But this short story? Their reaction to it is different. They read the first line, with its monolithic "The Native Americans" as bad, but each paragraph of that short story was laden with troubling misrepresentations of Native peoples.

Those who are following the news on this story know that major media is reporting on it, excerpting a few words from a stream of tweets, or, from a blog post. Below are links to items by Native writers. Please read and share them. I'll be adding others as I find them, arranging them chronologically by the date on which I add them. If you see others, please let me know in a comment.

Items added on March 10, 2016

March 7, 2016: "Magic in North America": The Harry Potter franchise veers too close to home by Adrienne Keene of Native Appropriations

March 7, 2016: #MagicInNorthAmerica smh as an Otoe Missouria & Choctaw woman... (series of tweets) by Johnnie Jae

March 7, 2016: So @jkrowling chose to appropriate... (series of tweets) by Aaron Paquette

March 8, 2016: Yo, @jkrowling, my ancestors... (series of tweets) by Brian Young

March 8, 2016: Obviously, I'm heated over this whole #MagicInNorthAmerica... (series of tweets) by Johnnie Jae

March 8, 2016: JK Rowling is... (series of tweets) by Native Beauty

March 9, 2016: When we say...   (series by tweets) by Johnnie Jae

March 9, 2016: Magic & Marginalization: Et tu, JK? by Tate Walker on Righting Red

March 9, 2016: Why it's more than fiction by Mari Kurisato

March 9, 2016: In last 30 hours or so... (series of tweets) by Debbie Reese of American Indians in Children's Literature

March 9, 2016: J.K. Rowling on Native American Wizards - Called Skin Walkers on Pottermore Website by Vincent Shilling at Indian Country Today

March 9, 2016: J.K. Rowling Has Got Nothing on US History Textbook Fiction by Simon Moya-Smith at Indian Country Today

March 9, 2016: J.K. Rowling Gets a Howler by Robert Saxton at Robert Saxton Books

March 9, 2016: William Apess (Pequot) on Depictions of Native People in Stories by Debbie Reese of American Indians in Children's Literature

March 9, 2016: Navajo skinwalker slams JK Rowlings 'Magic in North America' series, a satirical response at Tlo'chi'iin News 

March 9, 2016: When I was little... (series of tweets) by Megan Red Shirt-Shaw

March 9, 2016: My Navajo family... (series of tweets) by Jacqueline Keeler

March 10, 2016: Why it burns me by Mari Kurisato

March 10, 2016: This week in #SettlerNonsense: Fantastical Natives and Where to Find them, or, WHY JK ROWLING, WHY?! WHYYYYYYY! by Cutcha Risling Baldy

March 10, 2016: From Sandy Littletree on Facebook, comments about Navajo people and skinwalkers.



Many Native people on Twitter sent out individual, unlinked tweets. Start with the one I link to and read through the TL to find their other Rowling tweets.

March 8, 2016: Yes, it's fiction... by Martie Simmons

March 9, 2016: Skinwalkers? Really? by Jourdan B-B

March 10, 2016: My grandfather is a #MedicineMan by Pamela J. Peters



Here, I'll list media stories that, in my view, are listening to Native voices:

March 10, 2016: JK Rowling is criticised for writing web post about Native American wizards at BBC Newsbeat/Entertainment

March 10, 2016: It's Not Only a Story: Why it Matters How JK Rowling Depicts Native American History by Elizabeth Minkel in New Statesman. 






Items added on March 11, 2016 

March 9, 2016: We Aren't Magic, We Are Real by Fox Spears at Robohontas

March 11, 2016: I think I'm finally ready... (series of tweets) by Dia Lacina

March 11, 20016: So, I read the 4th installment... (series of tweets) by Johnnie Jae



Items added on March 13, 2016

March 9, 2016: Hey Indigenous authors... (series of tweets) by Aaron Paquette

March 9, 2016: My family fought an 8-year battle... (series of tweets by Darcie Little Badger)

March 11, 2016: Adrienne Keene calls J.K. Rowling's new series a slap in the face Interview at Rosanna Deerchild's Unreserved on CBC Radio

March 11, 2016: #NotNorthAmericanMagic hashtag started by Sheena Roetman @sheenalouise

March 13, 2016: Exactly why Rowling... (series of tweets) by Adrienne Keene



Items added on March 14, 2016

March 13, 2016: Indigenous stories and non-Indigenous writers: some reflections on respect and process by Ambelin Kwaymullina at ALPHA reader

March 14, 2016: JK Rowling Lifts Indigenous Traditions But Ignores History by Aaron Paquette at Ottawa Citizen



Items added on March 15, 2016

March 15, 2016: Did JK Rowling Change the Images on her Magic in North America page at Pottermore? by Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature.

March 15, 2016: On Native America Calling, Native People Respond to Jason Aaron's Scalped and JK Rowling's Magic in North America 

March 15, 2016: It's Like Muggles Writing About Wizards audio recording from Native America Calling with guests, Lee Francis and Tate Walker.



Items added on March 16, 2016

March 14, 2016: Harry Potter and the Magic Indians by Marty Two Bulls at Indian Country Today. 


Items added on March 17, 2016

March 9, 2016: Pottermore is just more disappointment by Rebecca Roanhorse at Writing While Indigenous/Writing While Black

March 16, 2016: Dear J.K. Rowling: Wakanyeja Video Response to History of #MagicInNorthAmerica by Tate Walker and her daughter, Mimi, at Righting Red.



Items added on March 31, 2016

March 18, 2016: What JK Rowling's New Story Can Teach Us about Cultural Appropriation at Huffington Post

March 20, 2016: Imagine Otherwise, a Storify by Daniel Heath Justice

March 21, 2016: Pro tips for SF/Fantasy Writers Interested in "Native" Themes..., a Storify by Daniel Heath Justice

March 22, 2016: The Stream - Reimagining Native Americans in the Arts (video) featuring Adrienne Keene, Stephen Graham Jones, Skawennati, and Elizabeth LaPensée.


Items added on July 3, 2016


Wednesday, June 29, 2016: "No surprise that Warren, who made false claims to Native identity, want in on Rowling's new story." (series of tweets) by Debbie Reese on Twitter.

Friday, July 1, 2016: Pottermore problems: Scholars and writers call on J.K. Rowling's North American magic by Paula Young Lee at Salon.

Friday, July 1, 2016: Dear JK Rowling: We're Still Here by Loralee Sepsey at Natives in America.


Items added on July 11, 2016

July 8, 2016: J.K. Rowling's Ilvermorny School draws criticism from Indigenous fans by Stephanie Cram at CBC News Aboriginal, includes cites Loralee Sepsey and Adrienne Keene.

July 11, 2016: A Native writer who tweets from @CyborgN8VMari has been blocked by JK Rowling (I've used a red arrow and box to highlight the blocked notice):



Items added on October 16, 2016

October 14, 2016: Taté Walker's JK Rowling's Anti-Native 'Magic' Racism - And How Authors Can Do Diversity Better, at Everyday Feminism


Wednesday, March 09, 2016

William Apess (Pequot) on Depictions of Native People in Stories

Over at Reading While White, Megan Schliesman's The Long Haul notes that we're in the year 2016, and that people have been objecting to problems in children's literature for a long time. She lists twelve people and invites readers to add to her list. I'm on that list, and so are Doris Seale and Beverly Slapin. My post, today, is my response to Megan's invitation.

For Native people who wrote about depictions of Native peoples in story, we can go all the way back to 1829 and William Apes.

William Apes was a Pequot activist and author. In the 1830s, he helped the Mashpee Wampanoags regain control of their lands. In 1829, his autobiographical Son of the Forest was published. Apes was mixed blood. His paternal grandfather was a white man who married a Pequot woman. His father married a Pequot woman. Apes and his siblings were born, and they all lived with their mother's family. At some point his parents split up and left, and the kids remained with their maternal grandparents. Through all this they were very poor and his grandmother was especially cruel.

He writes about how his grandmother was out drinking amongst white people. She returned home, intoxicated, and asked him if he hated her. He answered yes because he didn't realize that "yes" was the wrong answer. She beat him again and again, breaking his arm. He was four years old when that happened. His uncle took him away, to Mr. Furman, a white man who sometimes gave them milk. Apes was subsequently placed in Mr. Furman's home where he was well-cared for. It was a stark contrast to his life with his grandparents, but, in his autobiography, Apes takes care to tell readers that they ought not judge, without context, the causes of his grandmother's behaviors. He specifically mentions alcohol, wrongful taking of Native peoples possessions and land, "violence of the most revolting kid upon the persons of female portion of the tribe" (p. 15) -- which we are correct to interpret as rape.

When he was six, he went to school and embraced what he was taught, such that he became distant from his own identity as a Native person (p. 21):
...so completely was I weaned from the interest and affections of my brethren that a mere threat of being sent away among the Indians into the dreary woods had a much better effect in making me obedient to the commands of my superiors than any corporal punishment that they ever inflicted. 
He recounts setting out with his family a couple of years later, to pick berries. While in the woods, they came upon a group of white girls who were also out picking berries, but their complexion, he wrote, was dark and made him think about Indians. Scared, he ran home. When he got there, Mr. Furman asked him what had happened. Writing about that incident as an adult, Apes wrote (p. 23):
It may be proper here to remark that the great fear I entertained of my brethren was occasioned by the many stories I had heard of their cruelty toward the whites--how they were in the habit of killing and scalping men, women, and children. But the whites did not tell me that they were in a great majority of instances the aggressors--that they had imbrued their hands in the lifeblood of my brethren, driven them from their once peaceful and happy homes--that they had introduced among them the fatal and exterminating diseases of civilized life. If the whites had told me how cruel they had been to the "poor Indian," I should have apprehended as much harm from them.
It is what Apes wrote there, in that paragraph, that matters to me in my work as a Native scholar who, 187 years later, is doing the same thing that Apes did in 1829. Through story, he learned  mistaken ideas about his own people such that he was afraid of them.

Obviously, misrepresenting who we are was wrong in 1829, and it is wrong now.

What J.K. Rowling did yesterday (March 8, 2016) in the first story of her "History of Magic in North America" is the most recent example of white people misrepresenting Native people. Her misrepresentations are harmful. And yet, countless people are cheering what Rowling did, and dismissing our objections. That, too, is not ok.

It is, as Megan wrote, a long haul. And in that long haul, people are being hurt by those who cry "it is only fiction." It isn't only fiction. Stories do work. They socialize. They educate. Or--I should say, they mis-educate. Do your part. Join us in pushing back on misrepresentation. It has been a long haul. Let's bring that to an end, together.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Debbie Reese at Northern New Mexico College on March 9, 2016

I'm looking forward to time I'll spend with students in the P'ôe Project at Northern New Mexico College. If you're nearby, I hope you'll come! My goal in this lecture is to talk about what children are taught in schools. In textbooks and in children's literature, we tend to see the same problems: factual errors, bias, erasures, and missed opportunities, too. 



Take, for example, a very popular series called Geronimo Stilton. One of them is in Scholastic's Arrow (4th-6th grade) flyer for February 2016. The book is Geronimo Stilton's Race Across America. It is a good example of erasure.

In it, Geronimo visits Arizona. Those of you with knowledge of Native people know there are a lot of Native people in Arizona, but there aren't any in Race Across America.

I understand that it might have not fit with the story to include Navajo people for Geronimo to interact with when he's on Navajo lands, but throughout the book, there are pages that provide information that doesn't have much to do with the story. In Race Across America, Geronimo and his bike racing team fly to the West Coast aboard a large plane. In that part of the story, there's a page about exercises anyone can do to stretch their limbs when flying. You see these exercises in the airline magazines. They're the kind people should do to avoid thrombosis.

So--why not include something about the Navajo Nation and sovereignty rather than pages about Westerns that were filmed in Monument Valley?

I'll be doing a review of Race Across America later.

Scholastic publishes the series. It also provides teachers with lesson plans to use with the books. Here's a screen capture of one:


Books like this are popular, but what are they teaching Native and non-Native kids? And, what can we--whether we are parents or teachers--do about this? My lecture includes a what-to-do component that includes the #StepUpScholastic campaign. Some publishers listen. I think Scholastic is one that does. If you're in Northern New Mexico Wednesday evening, please join us! 

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Debbie--have you seen... STONE FIELD by Christy Lenzi

Via Twitter, Pam pointed me to Stone Field: A Novel by Christy Lenzi. Due out on March 29, 2016 from Roaring Book Press (an imprint of Macmillan), here's the synopsis for this young adult novel:
A stunning debut novel that offers a new look at a classic love story about soul mates torn apart by the circumstances of their time.
Catrina Dickinson is haunted by her past and feels caged in by life in small town Missouri. When she discovers a strange man in Stone Field where her family grows their sorghum crop, her life takes on new meaning. He has no memory of who he is or what brought him to Cat's farm, but they fall passionately in love. Meanwhile, the country is on the brink of the Civil War, and the conflict in Missouri demands that everyone take a side before the bloodbath reaches their doorstep.
A passionate and atmospheric reimagining of Emily Bronte's Wuthering HeightsStone Field explores how violence and vengeance perverts the human spirit, and how hatred can be transcended by love.

The synopsis on Goodreads has a bit more detail:

In a small town on the brink of the Civil War, Catrina finds a man making strange patterns in her family’s sorghum crop. He’s mad with fever, naked, and strikingly beautiful. He has no memory of who he is or what he’s done before Catrina found him in Stone Field. But that doesn’t bother Catrina because she doesn’t like thinking about the things she’s done before either.
Catrina and Stonefield fall passionately, dangerously, in love. All they want is to live with each other, in harmony with the land and away from Cat’s protective brother, the new fanatical preacher, and the neighbors who are scandalized by their relationship. But Stonefield can’t escape the truth about who he is, and the conflict tearing apart the country demands that everyone take a side before the bloodbath reaches their doorstep.
Inspired by Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Stone Field is a passionate and atmospheric story of how violence and vengeance pervert the human spirit, and how hatred can be transcended by love.


Who is that naked beautiful man making patterns in the sorghum field? The review from School Library Journal tell us a bit more. Here's the first two lines:
Inspired by the raw wildness of Wuthering Heights, this tragic romance between a frustrated young Missouri woman and a Creek Indian in Civil War—era Missouri is a natural for readers who enjoy their historical fiction dark and sorrowful. Catrina is an entirely maddening girl: she dresses and speaks improperly. When she meets a mysterious man (whom she calls Stonefield) near her home, she is immediately drawn into a relationship that can never have a happy ending.

So... a Creek Indian guy. If I get the book and read it, or if Jean gets and reads it, we'll be back with a review. 


~~~~~

Back here near the end of the day, to add more info, from the Kirkus review. (h/t Pam)


He’s dark—part African-American or Creek, perhaps—and speaks in quotations from Shakespeare and Walt Whitman. [...] Like all narrators, Cat [Catrina] directs readers to what she cares about. Complex Muscogee Creek history, slavery, life in war-torn Missouri, her father’s health, and her brother’s safety are so much narrative scenery. 
This from Jean: It will be interesting to see how the Muscogee history is sourced, and what is included.
 

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Monique Gray Smith and Julie Flett's MY HEART FILLS WITH HAPPINESS

I've read My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Julie Flett, many times. I can't decide--and don't need to, really--which page is my favorite!

For now--for this moment--I just got off the phone with my daughter, Liz. She's not a little girl anymore. She's an adult, making plans for the the coming months as she finishes law school. She makes me so darn happy! When she was little, she liked "spinny skirts." We made several so she'd always have a clean one to wear to school. So, the cover of My Heart Fills With Happiness reminds me of those days with Liz, as she spun about in her spinny skirts.



Like I said, though, I just got off the phone with her, and as I think of her walking about in the many places she's going to be in May and June and July, I'm reminded of holding her hand as the two of us walked here, and there, oh those years ago! That memory, and this page, are so dear!



I love the page that shows a little girl dancing, her shawl gorgeously depicted as she moves. I love the page where the little boy holds a drumstick in his hand and sits at the drum. I love the page of the kids waiting for their bannock to be ready to eat. I'd love to meet the two Native women who created this book so I could thank them, in person.

My Heart Fills With Happiness got a starred review from Publisher's Weekly and another one from School Library Journal. From me, it gets all the stars in the night sky. Today is its birthday (to use the language I see on twitter). Get a copy, or two, from your favorite independent store.

Dear Scholastic: This Is A Test

I have a lot of thoughts in my head this morning, about yesterday's #StepUpScholastic chat on Twitter, and about the Step Up Scholastic campaign, but I am starting with this:

Stone Fox is in 10 bks/$10 box
Last year, Scholastic, working with WNDB, put together a flyer of books specific to diversity. In theory, terrific marketing! BUT.

When I saw the first page of the flyer, I wasn't happy at all to see Stone Fox on it. That book has stereotyping of Native peoples in it, and as such, is the opposite of what kids need if they're to 1) see mirrors of who they are, or 2) see accurate depictions of those who are unlike themselves. With that book on there, Scholastic and WNDB are marketing a problematic book. Stone Fox is in the 10 BOOKS FOR $10 box on bottom right of the flyer shown here.

Late yesterday, Scholastic announced an expansion of its partnership with We Need Diverse Books. They're going to do eight flyers this year. Will these flyers have Stone Fox? Will they have books by Native writers? When I looked inside last year's flyer, I saw two books by Joseph Bruchac, but that's not enough.

Last year's partnership, and this expansion of that partnership, are steps in the right direction but if Scholastic is seriously committed to diversity and providing children with books that truly educate--rather than ones that miseducate children about Native peoples--here's what they need to do (saying they in this post but I know Scholastic is reading this, so I could say YOU instead):
  1. Acquire more books by Native writers and put those books in the flyers, all year long, not just in the special flyers about diversity. And on the teacher webpages. And in book fairs. Maximize the distribution, here and around the globe, too. Last night I learned a little about the flyers you publish around the globe. You're exporting stereotypes. That has to stop. 
  2. Seek out books by Native writers--books published by other publishers--and get them into the flyers. Do it now. Today. I understand there's "rights" issues associated with all this but also think that your billion+ revenue could be leveraged somehow to make this happen. Get them in the diversity flyers but in all flyers. Like I said above: all year round. Every grade level. Every month.
  3. Remove books that misrepresent Native peoples from all flyers and from their website, too. There's absolutely no reason to continue to market Island of the Blue Dolphins. Or Hiawatha (the one by Susan Jeffers). Or Touching Spirit Bear. Or Sign of the Beaver. Or The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses. Or Julie of the Wolves. Or Indian in the Cupboard. Those are some of the books you distribute. STOP. And I know there are others, too. 
  4. Take some of that billion dollar revenue and hire people with expertise---not just in kidlit---but in Native Studies, to help you with all these tasks. I'm not asking you to hire me. But I think I can help you find people who would work with you. All this money you're making, right here on what used to be Native lands... come on. Step Up. 

Ebony Elizabeth Thomas has been doing some writing about distinctions between marketing, advocacy, and activism that I find helpful as we all live through these periods of fighting for change in what we get from the publishing industry. The Scholastic flyers are marketing. I think it is marketing borne from activism, but as I noted above, there's a lot more to do with what Scholastic publishes, and what they choose to market.

Some people think I hate Scholastic. Some people think I hate white people. Neither is true. Last night I did a series of tweets about how much I love Shadowshaper and If I Ever Get Out of Here. I wanna see several of the people who made those two books possible, working in-house at Scholastic, getting us more books like that.

I'll be waiting to see the new flyers. Not just the diversity ones. Every single one. They are a way to measure what Scholastic is doing. Doing content analyses of the flyers provide us with a way to test what Scholastic is doing. The flyers, as I view them, are a test that--if passed--could win back the trust they've lost.

__________

My post from last year: Books to get (and avoid) from the WNDB/Scholastic Reading Club Collaboration

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Debbie--have you seen.... Danna Smith's ARCTIC WHITE

In January, a major publisher (Holt, an imprint of Macmillan), released Arctic White, a picture book by Danna Smith. Here's the synopsis:

When you live in the Arctic in winter, everything is a shade of white. 
A young girl looks around her home in the Arctic and sees only white, white, white...but one day her grandfather takes her on a journey through the tundra.  And at the end of their cold walk across the ice, they find something special that brings color into their world.

The reviewer at Kirkus writes that the setting and culture aren't clear. Here's part of that review:
A modern paint box, a bound book, and a flashlight, together with the second-person, present-tense address (placing readers inside the story), imply a contemporary setting, but this girl lives a nonindustrialized life in an iglu, even though most contemporary indigenous Arctic people live in houses. The lack of any specific indigenous nation and some faux Native philosophy—“Grandfather says hope is golden. You can only see it when you look into a snowy owl’s eyes”—add to the romanticized Native image. Jan Bourdeau Waboose’s SkySisters (2000), an Ojibwe story about walking across tundra to see the northern lights, is a better choice.

I absolutely love SkySisters and am thrilled to see Kirkus sending readers to it instead! If I get a copy of Arctic White and read it, I'll be back with a review. For now, I think I'd agree with the Kirkus review.

Debbie--have you seen... TRU & NELLE by G. Neri?

A reader asked me about G. Neri's Tru & Nelle. Here's the synopsis:
Long before they became famous writers, Truman Capote (In Cold Blood) and Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) were childhood friends in Monroeville, Alabama. This fictionalized account of their time together opens at the beginning of the Great Depression, when Tru is seven and Nelle is six. They love playing pirates, but they like playing Sherlock and Watson-style detectives even more. It’s their pursuit of a case of drugstore theft that lands the daring duo in real trouble. Humor and heartache intermingle in this lively look at two budding writers in the 1930s South.
With Harper Lee's death and the publication last year of Go Set A Watchman, this book is timely and could do quite well. My quick look inside in the "look inside" feature at Amazon tells me there's a character in it named Indian Joe.

If I get it, and read it, I'll be back. If you got it, and read it, let me know!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Debbie--have you seen... RED MOON RISING by K. A. Holt

Woah. Some books are so.... out there, that I have a hard time wrapping my head around them. K. A. Holt's Red Moon Rising is one of those books. Here's the synopsis:

Space-farmer Rae Darling is kidnapped and trained to become a warrior against her own people in this adventurous middle grade space western.
Rae Darling and her family are colonists on a moon so obscure it doesn’t merit a name. Life is hard, water is scarce, and the farm work she does is grueling. But Rae and her sister Temple are faced with an added complication—being girls is a serious liability in their strict society. Even worse, the Cheese—the colonists’ name for the native people on the moon—sometimes kidnap girls from the human colony. And when Rae’s impetuous actions disrupt the fragile peace, the Cheese come for her and Temple.
Though Rae and Temple are captives in the Cheese society, they are shocked to discover a community full of kindness and acceptance. Where the human colonists subjugated women, the Cheese train the girls to become fierce warriors. Over time, Temple forgets her past and becomes one of the Cheese, but Rae continues to wonder where her loyalties truly lie. When her training is up, will she really be able to raid her former colony? Can she kidnap other girls, even if she might be recruiting them to a better life?
When a Cheese raid goes wrong and the humans retaliate, Rae’s loyalty is put to the ultimate test. Can Rae find a way to restore peace—and preserve both sides of herself?


Did you read the synopsis? Every word of it? Do you see what I mean?

The moon in this story has been colonized.

The native people who lived there are called "the Cheese."

They kidnap girls from "the human colony."

So... are the Cheese not human?

The Cheese kidnap the women to turn them into warriors who will fight against with the Cheese--against the humans.

Rae and her sister find out that the Cheese treat women better than the humans did.

IS THIS ALL SOUNDING FAMILIAR TO YOU?

I need one of those images of face palm, or head desk. Or a cool GIF. Daniel José Older always tweets some excellent ones. Where does he find those, I wonder?!

Red Moon Rising is out this year, from...  Wait for it...  A major publisher! It is from Margaret K. McElderry, which is an imprint of Simon and Schuster. That is one of the Big Five! Big bucks for the author, big bucks for the promo of the book.

I'm certainly being cynical in what I've said. Maybe I'll regret it. Maybe this book is gonna rock.

I'll be back.

Update: Saturday Feb 27

Author Martha Brockenbrough submitted a comment, noting that my use of "big bucks" suggests that people can make a living with their writing. I'm glad for her note. Being published by a big house does give writers a huge leg up in terms of visibility of their book, but it doesn't mean the writer can quit their day job(s). That could come later, after a lot of success and a lot of work, but it isn't the norm.

Debbie--have you seen... SOME KIND OF COURAGE by Dan Gemeinhart

Jessica, a reader of AICL, wrote to ask me about Dan Gemeinhart's Some Kind of Courage. Out in 2016 from Scholastic, here's the synopsis:

Joseph Johnson has lost just about everyone he's ever loved. He lost his pa in an accident. He lost his ma and his little sister to sickness. And now, he's lost his pony-fast, fierce, beautiful Sarah, taken away by a man who had no right to take her.
Joseph can sure enough get her back, though. The odds are stacked against him, but he isn't about to give up. He will face down deadly animals, dangerous men, and the fury of nature itself on his quest to be reunited with the only family he has left.
Because Joseph Johnson may have lost just about everything. But he hasn't lost hope. And he hasn't lost the fire in his belly that says he's getting his Sarah back-no matter what.
The critically acclaimed author of The Honest Truth returns with a poignant, hopeful, and action-packed story about hearts that won't be tamed... and spirits that refuse to be broken.


It is a middle grade Western, set in 1890. A couple of things I see via Google Books give me pause:
"She's half Indian pony, so she's got some spirit, but she ain't nothing but perfect with me."
"It was Indians. [...] The boy's eyes narrowed. He bared his teeth like a wolf and snarled a word low and mean in his native tongue."
I will try to get a copy to read/review. If I do, I'll be back!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

#StepUpScholastic - What I Don't See in Feb 2016 Flyers for Early Childhood, K, 1st, and 2nd Grade Readers

You remember those Scholastic catalogs your teachers would pass out from time to time? Thinking about them is a powerful memory--for me--because I loved reading. I still do! I was a kid in the 60s. I wish I had one of those catalogs now, so I could see how the books I chose from compare to those in this year's catalogs.

American Indians in Children's Literature is part of the #StepUpScholastic campaign that invites parents, students, teachers, librarians--anyone, really--to study the books Scholastic offers in their flyers (they say flyer, some say catalog, others say club forms). Once you study a flyer, you can write a letter to Scholastic telling them what you were looking for, and what you found--or didn't find.

I'm looking for books by Native people, but if I see a good one about Native people that is written by someone who is not Native, I'd buy it.

Let's take a look at what kids are getting this month (February of 2016). First, a screen capture of that page so you know what it looks like:



Early Childhood:

On the first page, I see Happy Valentines Day, Little Critter. I bet the Little Critter Thanksgiving book was in their November catalog. I wouldn't get that one. In fact, I have it on my "not recommended" list. On the second page, I see a Pete the Cat boxed set. I bet the November catalog had Pete the Cat's Thanksgiving book. It, too, is on my "not recommended" list. There's a Pinkalicious set, too. I bet the Thanksgiving catalog had the Pinkalicious Thanksgiving book... Also, not recommended.

So what did I find? No books by Native writers; no books about Native people or with Native characters. Native people--good or bad--are completely missing from this flyer.


Kindergarteners:

On page three, I see Stuart Little. It kind of has an image of a Native person. In that book, Stuart imagines an Indian paddling in a canoe. On page four there's a set of all the Junie B. Jones books. My guess is that it includes Shipwrecked which has the kids doing a play about Christopher Columbus. Turkeys We Have Loved is about Thanksgiving, and it has the kids doing a play about Thanksgiving. One girl is dressed up as a Native American.

What did I find? No books by Native writers; one character playing Indian.


First graders:

On page three is Polar Bear Patrol in the Magic School Bus series. In it is Dr. Luke, an Inuit scientist who teaches the kids about the Arctic and that he prefers Inuit to Eskimo. On page five is the Junie B. Jones Shipwrecked that was in the Kindergarten catalog.

I found no books by Native writers; one character who is Inuit. I don't have that book on my shelf so can't tell if the depiction of Dr. Luke is one that is free of bias or stereotyping.

Second graders:

On page two are boxed sets of the Magic Tree House books. One is Thanksgiving on Thursday. There's a Native character in it. You know which one, right? Squanto! The stories told about him are pretty much a whitewash of what his life really was, but Thanksgiving on Thursday took that whitewashing to a whole new level. Another book in the series is Buffalo Before Breakfast. In it the Jack and Annie travel to a Lakota camp. There are many errors in that story and the part where the wise Lakota grandmother gives Jack and Annie an eagle feather? That doesn't work at all, because when they travel back to the present day, having that eagle feather is a violation of federal law.

No books by Native writers; a handful of stereotypical Indians and some factual errors.

~~~~~

I'll have to find time to look through the catalogs for third, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. And the seven different catalogs in their "Wider" selection category. And the four in their "Special Collections" category.

In the meantime, I'm going to the campaign page and I'll be submitting a letter saying this:

Dear Scholastic:
I am looking for books by or about Native peoples. When I looked through your preschool, kindergarten, first, and second grade flyers for Feb of 2016 I found no books by Native writers or illustrators. NONE. ZERO. 
Equally troubling is what I did find: several books in which the author stereotypes or misrepresents Native people/history/culture. For your records, those problematic books are:

  • Buffalo Before Breakfast by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Junie B. Jones: Shipwrecked by Barbara Park
  • Stuart Little by E. B. White
  • Thanksgiving on Thursday by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Junie B. Jones: Turkeys We Have Loved by Barbara Park

Magic School Bus: Polar Bear Patrol by Joanna Cole might be ok. If I find a copy, I'll be back with an update. Will it be the one book out of 410 items on the order form that I would buy? 
Actually--there's more than 410 books total across those four flyers. Some of the items are sets, like the 49 books in Item #46L6 (Magic Tree House Pack Books 1-28) and #47L6 (Magic Tree House Pack Books 29-49). If I add those 49 to the 410, I can say that...
Out of 459 books, none are by Native writers or illustrators. 
Please, Scholastic, you can do better than that. All children ought to learn the names of Native writers and illustrators, and their respective nations, too! You, Scholastic, tell us that you have children's interests at the core of your company and what it publishes. I see lot of room for improvement. #StepUpScholastic. Do better.
Sincerely,
Debbie Reese
American Indians in Children's Literature

~~~~~


People are already submitting letters. You can see them at the Tumblr page for the campaign. Please join this effort to get more diversity in Scholastic's catalogs.




Published in 2015: Books by/about Native peoples

I will be updating this page whenever I read something published in 2015. What it likely means is that a title will be added to the "Not Reviewed" list at the end, and when it is reviewed, it will be moved into the Recommended or Not Recommended list. 

Recommended (N=15)

Not Recommended (N=26)
  • Alko, Selina. (2015) The Case for LovingPublished by Scholastic.
  • Arnold, David. (2015) MosquitolandPublished by Viking, an imprint of Penguin.
  • Asch, Frank. (1979/2015) PopcornPublished by Simon and Schuster.
  • Bowman, Erin. (2015) Vengeance RoadPublished by Houghton Mifflin.
  • Carson, Rae. (2015) Walk on Earth a StrangerPublished by Greenwillow, an imprint of HarperCollins.
  • Cromwell, Ellen S. (2015) Talasi: A Story of Tenderness and Love! Published by Halo Publishing International.
  • Daniels, Danielle. (2015). Sometimes I Feel Like a FoxPublished by Groundwood Books.
  • DeFelice, Cynthia. (2015) Fort. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  • Ellis, Carson. (2015) HomePublished by Candlewick.
  • Hites, Kati. (2015). Winnie and WaldorfPublished by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.
  • Hand, Cynthia. (2015) The Last Time We Say Goodbye. Published by HarperTeen.
  • Howath, Naomi. (2015) The Crow's Tale: A Lenni Lenape Native American Legend. Published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books, an imprint of Quatro.
  • Jenkins, Emily. (2015) A Fine Dessert. Published by Schwartz & Wade, an imprint of Random House.
  • Johnston, E. K. (2015) Prairie Fire. Published by Carolrhoda Lab.
  • Merriam-Webster Children's Dictionary (2015) Published by Dorling Kindersley.
  • Mayer, Mercer. (2015) Just A Special ThanksgivingPublished by HarperFestival, an imprint of HarperCollins.
  • Myers, Stephenie. (2015) Life and DeathPublished by Little, Brown. 
  • Nelson, S.D. (2015) Sitting Bull. Published by Abrams.
  • Rex, Adam. (2015) Smek for PresidentPublished by Hyperion Books for Children.
  • Rose, Carolyn Starr. (2015) Blue BirdsPublished by G.P. Putnam, an imprint of Penguin.
  • Schlitz, Laura Amy. (2015) The Hired GirlPublished by 
  • Stirling, Tricia. (2015) When My Heart Was WickedPublished by Scholastic. 
  • Strayhorn, Willa (2015) The Way We Bared Our SoulsPublished by Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Random House. 
  • Taylor-Butler, Christine. (2015) The Lost Tribes. Published by Move Books.
  • Valente, Catherynne M. (2015) Six Gun Snow WhitePublished by Subterranean Press.
  • Velasquez, Crystal. (2015) Hunters of ChaosPublished by Simon and Schuster.
  • White, Tara. (2015). Where I BelongPublished by Tradewind Books.


Not yet reviewed (N=20)
  • Bruchac, Joseph. (2015) Walking Two Worlds. Published by 7th Generation.
  • Bruchac, Joseph. (2015) Trail of the Dead. Published by Tu Books.
  • Burgan, Michael. (2015) Shadow Catcher: How Edgar S. Curtis Documented American Indian Dignity and Beauty. Published by Compass Point, an imprint of Capstone. 
  • Coleman, Wim. (2015) Sequoyah and His Talking Leaves. Published by Red Chair Press.
  • Cooper, Karen Coody (2015) Woodchuck Visits Algonquian Cousins. Published by Soddenbank Press.
  • Florence, Melanie. (2015) Missing Nimama. Published by Clockwise Press. 
  • George, Jean Craighead. (2015) Ice Whale. Published by Puffin Books.
  • Hicks, Nola Helen. (2015) Hurry Up, Ilua. Published by Inhabit Media. 
  • Goble, Paul. (2015) Red Cloud's War. Published by Wisdom Tales.
  • Guest, Jacqueline. (2015) Fire Fight. Published by 7th Generation.
  • Kristofic, Jim. (2015) The Hero Twins: A Navajo-English Story of the Monster Slayers. Published by UNM Press.
  • London, Jonathan. (2015) Desolation Canyon. Published by West Winds Press.
  • Lumbard, Alexis York. (2015) Pine and the Winter Sparrow. Published by Wisdom Tales.
  • Revelle, Rick. (2015) Algonquin Spring. Published by Dundurn Press.
  • Robinson, Gary. (2015) Billy Buckhorn: Paranormal. Published by 7th Generation.
  • Schwartz, Simon. (2015) First Man: Reimagining Matthew Hensen. Published by Graphic Universe. 
  • Silver, Sarah Dickson. (2015) Dream a Pony, Wake a Spirit: The Story of Buster, a Choctaw Pony Survivor. Published by Luminare Press. 
  • Tripp, Analisa. (2015) A Is for Acorn: A California Indian ABC. Published by Heyday Books.
  • Williams-Garcia, Rita. (2015) Gone Crazy in Alabama. Published by Harper.
  • Zobel, Melissa Tantaquidgeon (2015) Wabanaki Blues. Published by Poisoned Pencil. 

Debbie--have you seen... Joseph Bruchac's THE LONG RUN

Out this year from 7th Generation is Joseph Bruchac's The Long Run. It is in their PathFinders series.
Follow Travis Hawk on a cross-country trek as he escapes a world of brutality and uncertainty and puts his trust, and even his very life, in the hands of total strangers. Travis's story is one of struggle, survival, risk and resilience, navigating a solo journey of hundreds of miles to seek a safe haven far from the demons of his past.
I'll be back with a review!

Debbie--have you seen... Michelle Modesto's REVENGE AND THE WILD

A reader sent me a copy of Michelle Modesto's Revenge and the Wild. Published in 2016 by HarperCollins, here's the synopsis.

True Grit meets True Blood in this delightfully dark and fantastical Western perfect for fans of Gail Carriger, Cassandra Clare, and Holly Black. This thrilling novel is a remarkable tale of danger and discovery, from debut author Michelle Modesto.
The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s just perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler.
Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Seven years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She’s determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there’s nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways.
But Westie’s search ceases when a wealthy family comes to town looking to invest in Nigel’s latest invention, a machine that can harvest magic from gold—which Rogue City desperately needs as the magic wards that surround the city start to fail. There’s only one problem: the investors look exactly like the family who murdered Westie’s kin. With the help of Nigel’s handsome but scarred young assistant, Alistair, Westie sets out to prove their guilt. But if she’s not careful, her desire for revenge could cost her the family she has now.

When I get a chance to read it, I'll be back. I don't know if westerns are seeing an uptick of late. I'm definitely seeing them, but they may have been out there a long time and I didn't know about them. I don't mean historical fiction--I mean westerns, which as a genre, feel different to me than historical fiction.


Debbie--have you seen... Sarah Dickson Silver's DREAM A PONY, WAKE A SPIRIT: THE STORY OF BUSTER: A CHOCTAW PONY SURVIVOR

Sarah Dickson Silver's Dream a Pony: Wake a Spirit: The Story of Buster, a Choctaw Pony Survivor, is on my to-read list this year. Published in 2015 by Luminare Press, here's the synopsis:
In the Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory, in the year 1900, friendships between children of white “intruders” and their Choctaw and Chickasaw schoolmates had to cross a deep cultural divide. It was also a time when public ignorance could make a mockery of the ambitions of a boy with dwarfism and a place where children had to grow up fast. Trouble begins when a beautiful wild stallion, a supposed man killer, is rescued by two adventurous young brothers. When the stallion is identified as a rare Choctaw horse, the question of who should own him threatens to destroy cherished friendships. Then a courageous decision by a young boy allows the ancient spirit of Buster, their Choctaw Pony survivor, to live on for future generations to love and respect.

If I am able to read it, I'll be back with a review.

Debbie--have you seen... Joseph Bruchac's BROTHERS OF THE BUFFALO

Out this year from Fulcrum is Bruchac's Brothers of the Buffalo: A Novel of the Red River War. Here's the synopsis:
1874, the U.S. Army sent troops to subdue and move the Native Americans of the southern plains to reservations.Brothers of the Buffalo follows Private Washington Vance Jr., an African-American calvaryman, and Wolf, a Cheyenne warrior, during the brief and brutal war that followed. Filled with action and suspense from both sides of the battle, this is a tale of conflict and unlikely friendship in the Wild West.

I'll put it in my to-read pile. It is being marketed as for kids in grade 7 and up.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

AICL's Recommended/Not Recommended Reads in 2015

This is a list of books I read in 2015, sorted into categories of Recommended (total of 16), and Not Recommended (47 in all). As you see, it is not a list of books that came out in 2015. Grand total: 60 (and counting). There is one writer on the recommended list who is not Native (Daniel José Older) and one on the Not Recommended list who is Native (Tara White). Links go to my review on AICL, and some of the links go to my article at School Library Journal

This is not a comprehensive list. There are books that I bought or received but wasn't able to read or finish writing up. One example is Ann Martin's Claudia and the First Thanksgiving. That's a book in the Babysitters Club series. It was one that will end up with a Recommended tag when I write it up. 

Recommended



Not Recommended



Here's my Recommended/Not Recommended List for 2014. Last year, there were 26 books on the Recommended list, and 35 on the Not Recommended list. Grand total then: 61.