Thursday, November 03, 2016

Debbie--have you seen CONTINENT by Kiera Drake?

I received a question about The Continent by Kiera Drake. Due out in January from Harlequin Teen, here's the synopsis from Amazon:
"Have we really come so far, when a tour of the Continent is so desirable a thing? We've traded our swords for treaties, our daggers for promises—but our thirst for violence has never been quelled. And that's the crux of it: it can't be quelled. It's human nature." 
For her sixteenth birthday, Vaela Sun receives the most coveted gift in all the Spire—a trip to the Continent. It seems an unlikely destination for a holiday: a cold, desolate land where two "uncivilized" nations remain perpetually locked in combat. Most citizens lucky enough to tour the Continent do so to observe the spectacle and violence of war, a thing long banished in the Spire. For Vaela—a talented apprentice cartographer—the journey is a dream come true: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve upon the maps she's drawn of this vast, frozen land. 
But Vaela's dream all too quickly turns to a nightmare as the journey brings her face-to-face with the brutal reality of a war she's only read about. Observing from the safety of a heli-plane, Vaela is forever changed by the bloody battle waging far beneath her. And when a tragic accident leaves her stranded on the Continent, Vaela finds herself much closer to danger than she'd ever imagined. Starving, alone and lost in the middle of a war zone, Vaela must try to find a way home—but first, she must survive.

Sounds awful, doesn't it? People who live in "the Spire" covet the opportunity to watch people on "the Continent" engage in bloody violence. Those two "uncivilized nations" on "the Continent" can't help it. It is their nature.

There's a lot of people tweeting about it. From what I glean, one of the "uncivilized nations" is described in ways that suggest it is Asian and that the other one is Native. If I get the book, I'll be back.

Updating on Nov 7, 2016 to add the Storify I did on the response to criticism of Drake's book:

A Native Perspective on Response to Kiera Drake's THE CONTINENT

  1. I started to see conversations about Kiera Drake's The Continent on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. The next day, I started a thread about what I was seeing.
  2. My remarks, as the title for this Storify indicate, are from a Native perspective. For those who don't know who I am, I'm tribally enrolled at Nambe Pueblo. I'm a former schoolteacher and assistant professor in American Indian Studies. I've got a PhD in Education, and a Master's Degree in Library and Information Science. I have research and professional articles in a wide range of books, journals, and magazines. I bring all that to bear on the analyses I do of children's and young adult literature.
  3. If you follow YA twitter, you likely know that people are talking about Kiera Drake's THE CONTINENT. Some use the hashtag #TheContinent.
  4. By then, I'd gotten some questions about it from readers of my site. Based on those questions, I did one of the "Debbie--have you seen" posts about it:
  5. The ways Drake depicts Native and characters of color is why people are talking about her book. My copy of #TheContinent is in the mail.
  6. Based on what I've seen in screen caps and excerpts, I am likely to agree that the book is a wreck.
  7. What I saw, specifically, were Justina Ireland's photographs of passages in her ARC (advanced reader copy) of the book.
  8. ...I mean, this isn't a great leap of logic here...
    ...I mean, this isn't a great leap of logic here...
  9. Justina's "great leap of logic" was about Drake using "Topi" as the name of the Indigenous nation. Change that letter T to an H an you've got Hopi. The Hopi Tribe is a federally recognized sovereign nation in Arizona.
  10. Feeling preeeety lucky the one black dude was the groundskeeper right about now.
    Feeling preeeety lucky the one black dude was the groundskeeper right about now.
  11. Justina's critique drew a lot of attention, with a lot of people condemning The Continent based on her critique. There were, of course, a lot of responses from people who said those who hadn't read The Continent, or, who hadn't finished reading it, shouldn't say anything at all about it.
  12. That response reminded me of work I did on Martina Boone's Compulsion, so I shared links to my review of it and an especially powerful comment.
  13. This "read the whole book" request is one that is put forth a lot. In summer of 2015, I read Martina Boone's COMPULSION. Did you?
  14. COMPULSION is the 2nd in a 3 book series from Simon Pulse (Simon and Schuster). It has problems, too: 
  15. In an interview, Boone said that all of this mess would be resolved in book 3.
  16. I received an anonymous comment to my review of COMPULSION that applies to Drake's #TheContinent:
    I received an anonymous comment to my review of COMPULSION that applies to Drake's
  17. I hope writers reading this thread on #TheContinent will share that anonymous comment with fellow writers.
  18. The conversation about The Continent is taking place in November, which is designated--by Presidential Proclamation--as Native American Heritage Month. Overall, I think designated months (or days) for this or that are best used to share resources and SHOUT that books by Native writers should be used all year long. So, I shared some terrific books.
  19. I have a request. If you've been tweeting about #TheContinent, could you take time to also boost Native writers?
  20. Or, maybe you're not tweeting about #TheContinent, but are nodding in agreement with criticism of it... can you boost Native writers?
  21. The last two tweets are bks/stories in science fiction/fantasy, by @CynLeitichSmith@aaronpaquette@JosephBruchac@TheDHTaylor...
  22. ... @ShiningComic@DaveAlexRoberts, and so many others! Get the books! Know their names! They do write other books, too.
  23. It is crucial that people move away from thinking abt how they can "honor" Native ppl w a story they write abt us, to BUYING BOOKS WE WRITE!
  24. Instead of writing a Native character or Native content into your story so you can "help" or "honor" Native ppl, buy bks by Native writers.
  25. Instead of honoring us by writing Native characters/content in your stories, buy and read stories by Native writers.
  26. And get some for younger sibs or nieces/nephews! Here's 30:  #NativeReads
  27. I'm picturing you all, driving to your local bookstore with the list in hand and not finding them on the shelves there...
  28. And given your reaction to #TheContinent, I'm picturing you walking to the order desk with the list in hand and asking for the books.
  29. My guess is you will probably get them online. If so, please consider getting them from @birchbarkbooks.
  30. If you DO go to your local store and look for them, could you please come back to Twitter and this thread and tell us abt your experience?
  31. Then, I asked people to go read Justina's thread. I'm asking you (who are reading this Storify) to go read her thread, too.
  32. In response to her critique, some childish and vicious things happened:
  33. These are not reviews. They are personal attacks driven by childish motives. Who are you, "Meg"?
    These are not reviews. They are personal attacks driven by childish motives. Who are you, "Meg"?
  34. I asked if people had seen those attacks on Justina, and, if they'd read that someone wrote to her editor, Jordan Brown. I linked to his response. Click through and read what he said.
  35. And that someone wrote to Justina Ireland's editor, anonymously? 
  36. As I continued to follow all this, I remembered another book from Harlequin Teen:
  37. Lest anyone think these problems are rare, I took time to point to Raina Telgemeier's Ghosts, which is a best seller that misrepresents the missions in California and Dia de Los Muertos.
  38. I know people love Raina. With good reason. But... she messed up in GHOSTS. See @booktoss review  or, see...
  39. As far as I can tell, @farre is the first to write a critical rev of GHOSTS:  That is 4 Native/WOC saying no to it.
  40. If you pay attn to graphic novels, you know Telgemeier is at the very top in terms of sales. GHOSTS first run was 500,000 copies.
  41. In the conversations about The Continent I began to read that Kiera Drake had sensitivity readers who'd read her manuscript.
  42. Author of Harlequin Teen's HOOKED had sensitivity readers too, but it was also a fail. White saviors. 
  43. On Sunday morning, I picked up the thread again. Sometime on Saturday night, Drake posted a statement to her blog.
  44. 5:00 AM, 11/6/17: Adding to the thread I started yesterday, on #TheContinent by Kiera Drake, to add to what others said overnight.
  45. Drake posted a response to conversations about her book: . What she says in it make things worse, not better.
  46. My guess is she had friends look it over, which tells us there's a lot of ignorance out there. Course, some of us know that ignorance.
  47. I shared examples of things that I think a lot of people never see, because they're living in bubbles of Whiteness that blind them to what I and a lot of other people see all the time.
  48. Some of us see it ever time we turn to a sports channel (think: Cleveland mascot), or, walk by dairy case (think: Land of Lakes maiden).
  49. Or, when we walked into a Halloween costume store (think: "Indian" costumes). And now, everywhere (think: Pilgrims/Indians narrative).
  50. My guess is that Drake and those defending her, and those at Harlequin who had eyes on her manuscript, don't see any of that.
  51. My social media feeds are full of updates from #NoDAPL. I wonder if Drake, her friends, and ppl at Harlequin know what is going on there?
  52. On Friday, I'd wondered if Little House on the Prairie was one of Drake's favorites. In her statement, Drake told us that Lord of the Rings is a favorite and that it influenced her work on The Continent:
  53. Anyway, in her response to criticism of #TheContinent, Drake said one of her favorite books is Lord of the Rings. The "Topi" are savage...
  54. ... like the Uruk-Hai. On Nov 4, I wondered if LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE might be one of her favorite books: 
  55. You could read through that thread. I think LITTLE HOUSE is one of the worst books ever, because it is so widely & uncritically, embraced.
  56. With Drake's disclosure that LORD OF THE RINGS is a fav that she reads once/yr, I think it is the same thing, causing same problems.
  57. Native writer @CyborgN8VMari used Justina's photo and two others to create a powerful image that challenges Drake's claim that she wasn't thinking of Native peoples when she created the Indigenous people in The Continent:
  58. When you read this passage ask yourself which one you really imagine.
  59. Here's a screen capture of Drake's post:
  60. In her statement, Drake says she and her editors are revisiting the manuscript.
    In her statement, Drake says she and her editors are revisiting the manuscript.
  61. That suggests to me she thinks they can take out phrases like "painted face" and "reddish-brown" skin and it will all be ok.
  62. I do not think it will be ok. Changing phrases will not change the underlying premise of the book.
  63. If @HarlequinTEEN decides to hold off on their planned Jan release of #TheContinent, it will join @Candlewick re WHEN WE WAS FIERCE.
  64. #TheContinent is due out on Jan 3, 2016. If Harlequin releases it & pulls it later, it'll be like A BIRTHDAY CAKE FOR GEORGE WASHINGTON.
  65. Here's another part of Drake's post about her book:
  66. Setting #TheContinent itself aside, I join others who noted that Drake's response included a claim to having Native American heritage.
    Setting #TheContinent itself aside, I join others who noted that Drake's response included a claim to having Native American heritage.
  67. She said "nationality and race." Is "race" in there because of the Native American part of who she is? If so, I wonder if she knows that...
  68. ... we're nations of people.
  69. And of course, claiming "Native American" rather than a specific nation tells us a lot, too. Does she not know, specifically?
  70. Drake offers up pride in her "Native American" ancestry in the same paragraph where she said the savage Topi in #TheContinent aren't Native.
  71. I guess she's telling us she wouldn't create savage Natives because she's Native herself.
  72. That's a fail, too. Read @Kate_Hart's thread on that. She wrote it some time ago and shared it again last night. 
  73. And, another screen capture. This part is about sensitivity readers:
  74. Drake's statement about #TheContinent also says she had sensitivity readers on the manuscript:
    Drake's statement about #TheContinent also says she had sensitivity readers on the manuscript:
  75. I pointed to a post I wrote about who you (writers/editors) hire to do vetting, or, sensitivity reads. In short: readers take your work seriously. Don't shoot yourself in the foot by getting sensitivity readers who can't, or won't, give you the critical feedback you need.
  76. Who you have, writers/editors, as sensitivity readers, is important. I wrote about that in 2015: 
  77. I did vetting for awhile and then quit. It was too exhausting to have the same conversations over and over with writers.
  78. Two years ago, I asked an editor at a major house if the editors of that house ever sit down together & talk abt all this. The answer? No.
  79. I think the many levels of fail of #TheContinent can be attributed to lack of diverse staff AND ignorance of staff, at Harlequin.
  80. To Kiera Drake, I'd say, your educational system failed you. From early childhood to university, people failed to educate you.
  81. My saying that is not an effort to hold you blameless. Anyone writing a bk like yours MUST read critical writings abt privilege/race/nation.
  82. So should your editors and all those who gave and are giving your manuscript rave reviews at Goodreads.
  83. From another of Justina's tweets (this was a photo of the acknowledgements), I read that Natashya Wilson was Drake's editor.
  84. Curious, I looked back at Hooked to see if, by any chance, Wilson had been the editor of it, too. Fichera acknowledged Wilson but didn't say she was the editor. Re-reading Fichera's note, however, I decided to share this screen cap of it.
  85. I see that Wilson was editor of HOOKED, which had problems. Oh, and this in acknowledgements from its author (Fichera):
    I see that Wilson was editor of HOOKED, which had problems. Oh, and this in acknowledgements from its author (Fichera):
  86. Which prompts me to ask Native friends/colleagues: just how do YOU share your "enduring spirit" with white people?
  87. And of course, dear Native friends, how do you share your "beautiful cultures and lands" with white people?
  88. Fichera's thank you is sick. It reminds me of picture bks abt Thanksgiving where Pilgrims thank Indians for sharing land, resources, etc.
  89. I'm pretty sure Natashya Wilson at @HarlequinTEEN is following all this abt #TheContinent. I want to hear from her abt it, and HOOKED, too.
  90. Later on Sunday, I saw that a petition was circulating:
  91. I also saw tweets from another person who was reading The Continent:
  92. Tell me again how this isn't a White  Savior narrative
    Tell me again how this isn't a White Savior narrative
  93. This morning (Monday, Nov 7), I see that @amzngbookshelf has posted a review:
  94. When I get my copy, I'll read and review it. As usual, I will focus on the Native content. If the publisher and Drake decide to withdraw the book, my review will still be useful to writers who are doing similar stories--or contemplating doing one.


Last night, I received an email about Runs With Horses, by Brian Burks. It was published in 1995 by Harcourt Brace. My quick look into the book indicates that Scholastic published it in 1996.

Based on a review of it in A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children, I'm tagging Runs With Horses as "not recommended."

Here's the description, from Amazon:
Sixteen years old in 1886, Runs With Horses is a member of the last small band of Apaches continuing to resist the U.S. Army. His training for manhood as a Chiricahua Apache has been difficult but thrilling, and he is eager to accomplish the final two of the four raids required to become a warrior. Sadly, this is not possible when they at last surrender to the U.S. Army.

The review is by Beverly Slapin. She made several points in her review that I believe I'd make, too, if I read Runs With Horses. Here's one:

About the line, "My son, you are not yet a Chiricahua Apache warrior.", Slapin writes that a person of that time period, speaking to another person of their nation, would use their own name for their nation. They wouldn't use an outsider name. Realistically, that line ought to read "My son, you are not yet an Ndee warrior."

"Chiricahua Apache" versus "Ndee" might seem a small point to most readers, but if it was a story about someone of my tribal nation and the people in it were speaking about us in ways that outsiders do, I'd object.

Get a copy of A Broken Flute. Use it when you are selecting books to use in your classroom and to make decisions about what to remove from your classroom or library. You can get a new copy from Birchbark Books.

Monday, October 31, 2016

John Herrington's MISSION TO SPACE is exceptional!

Regular readers of American Indians in Children's Literature know that I emphasize several points when reviewing children's or young adult books, especially:

  1. Is the book by a Native author or illustrator?
  2. Does the book, in some way, include something to tell readers that we are sovereign nations?
  3. Is the book tribally specific, and is the tribally specific information accurate?
  4. Is it set in the present day? If it is historical in structure, does it use present tense verbs that tell readers the Native peoples being depicted are part of today's society?

John Herrington's Mission to Space has all of that... and more! Herrington is an astronaut. He was on space shuttle Endeavor, in 2002. Mission to Space begins with his childhood, playing with rockets, and ends with Endeavor's safe return to Earth.

Here's the cover:

That is Herrington on the cover. Here's a page from inside that tells readers he is Chickasaw.

While he and the crew were waiting for Endeavor to blast off, the governor and lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation presented a blanket to NASA.

Those are two of the pages specific to Herrington being Chickasaw, but there's photos of him, training to be an astronaut, too. There's one of him, for example in a swimming pool, clad in his gear. And there's one that is way cool, of his eagle feather and flute, floating inside the International Space Station:

I absolutely love this book. There is nothing... NOTHING like it.

Native writer? Yes.
Sovereignty? Yes.
Tribally specific? Yes.
Present day? Yes.

The final two pages are about the Chickasaw language. In four columns that span two pages, there are over 20 words in English, followed by the word in Chickasaw, its pronunciation, and its literal description. And, of course, there's a countdown... in English and in Chickasaw.

Published in 2016 by the Chickasaw Nation's White Dog Press, they created a terrific video about the book. You can order it at their website. It is $14 for paperback; $16 for hardcover.

I highly recommend it! Hands down, it is the best book I've seen all year long.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

What is wrong with the phrase "First Americans"?

Characterizing Native peoples as "First Americans" is not accurate. You've probably seen that phrase used to describe Native peoples, right?

The Very First Americans by Cara Ashrose, with illustrations by Bryna Waldman, is one example. Here's the cover. As you see, I've put a large red x over the cover to let you know, visually, that I do not recommend the book:

So: what is wrong with the phrase "First Americans"?

The Native peoples of this continent were not "Americans". They were--and are--organized societies who chose/choose their leaders and who engaged in trade with other Native Nations.

See? We were nations before the United States of America was a nation. Our nations decided who its citizens were, and, we still do that.

The other problem with this book? The use of past tense verbs, as shown in these two sentences from the book:
Tribes like the Chinook, the Makah, and the Salish made their homes near the water along the northwest coast of America.
The Makah were very good whale hunters. 
Aimed at pre-school and elementary aged children, The Very First Americans was published in 1993 by Grosset & Dunlap. You can still get a new copy which probably means, unfortunately, that it is still in print.

Divided into several geographic locations, the book provides an overview of several nations, but the language is all past tense.

And then, on the final page, the author opens with present tense, saying that
Today, almost two million American Indians make their homes in this country. More than a third live on reservations. The rest live in cities and towns. Many Indians say they "walk in two worlds." 
But her final sentence goes back to that error, calling Native peoples "first Americans":
They are part of today's America, but at the same time, they keep the ways of their people--the very first Americans.
I wish that I had a nonfiction book, in-hand, to recommend for young children... A book that would give them accurate information. The only one that comes to mind is Simon Ortiz's The People Shall Continue, but it is out of print. You can get a used copy online. Find one, get it, and use it instead of ones that use "First Americans" in them. You can also choose picture books like Cynthia Leitich Smith's Jingle Dancer, that provide children information that is accurate. In it, a young girl is learning to do a dance. Through the author's note, Smith tells us that the girl is a member (citizen) of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.