Sunday, March 11, 2018

Some Questions for Book Clubs that Select Books Like NEWS OF THE WORLD by Paulette Jiles

Sometimes, readers of AICL write to me to ask about a book that has been chosen for their book club.

The books they ask about are usually best sellers or award-winning books in the adult market that have Native content. They wonder if it is accurate and one way or another, end up on American Indians in Children's Literature, hoping that maybe I've reviewed it.

A recent case in point is News of the World by Paulette Jiles. Mostly, I ignore those queries. Once in a while, I take them up, as was the case a few years ago, with Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks.

Obviously, books like News of the World have a compelling story, or they wouldn't be selected for awards (it was a finalist for the National Book Award).

One question is: compelling for what reader(s)? 

I haven't read the book, but please hold off on throwing that attack my way. I don't want to read it. The point of this post is to ask book club members to think about what they choose, and why such choices appeal to them.

Based on the description of the book, this story is about a White girl (Johanna) and a White man (Kidd). Set in 1870, the White girl is ten years old. When she was six, she was taken captive by Kiowas who killed her family. Kidd is going to help her get back to her aunt and uncle. Living with the Kiowas for four years, however, she's forgotten English, and she's learned some other things... like how to scalp.

Several reviews mention that part of the book, but they don't question it.

Let's think about that part, because from what I've read online (in professional and readers' reviews), no reader said STOP to that part of the story. The reason? My guess is that nobody noticed, because most people have been socialized to think that Native peoples were brutal and blood thirsty. So much so, in fact, that they taught little girls how to scalp their enemies. Instead of saying NO to that part, most readers blow past that part of the book. 

Is News of the World compelling to you because it affirms your pre-existing stereotypical ideas of Kiowa or Native people in the second half of the 1800s?

Another question is: what does a book like this do for you, after you've read it? 

Some of you are teachers. Are you developing lesson plans and selecting children's books for your classrooms, that have stereotypical ideas of Native people in them? Are you a librarian who purchases books for the library? Are you a book reviewer? An editor? A writer?

Books like News of the World shape what you do. How is it going to shape what you do, in your work?

And another question: who is helped by content like that? 

In asking that question, I'm pushing pretty hard at asking you to think about the work books with that sort of content do. Citizens of the United States like to think of this country as exceptional, as better than any other country... you know--"we the people"--and all that sort of thing.

To maintain that idea, the country and its institutions have to keep telling lies about Indigenous peoples and the history of our interactions with Europeans. We weren't primitive. We weren't blood thirsty. We didn't teach little kids how to scalp. What are you doing, unintentionally perhaps, that upholds that false idea? And what does it cost all of us when you do that? Who benefits from that lie?

My final question: what will you do, now? 

If you've read this far, then I hope you're wondering what to do to interrupt this cycle of lies.

What I'm asking is that you step away from what you think you know. I'm asking you to dislodge or decenter the "knowledge" you've received. For historical information, you can start by reading An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. If you listen to audio books, you can get the audiobook version of it.

You can also start by listening to the Media Indigena podcast. There, you'll hear Native scholars, journalists, writers, artists, etc., talking about issues specific to Indigenous communities (many of us, by the way, use both, Native and Indigenous, in our writings--except when we are talking about a specific nation). You could also listen to Native America Calling, a daily call-in radio show. You could read Native newspapers, like Indian Country Today

The overall point of this post? 
Do better. 
Make better choices for your book clubs. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Indigenous #KidLitWomen

My contribution to the month-long #KidLitWomen campaign is to lift Indigenous women who have written books for children and teens.

If we were sitting in a classroom or a lecture hall, I'd ask you to name a picture book about a Native woman or girl. Chances are most of you would name a book by Paul Goble or Scott O'Dell. I drew a line through their names to tell you... NO! Not books by those guys! Inside, I'd be cringing to hear you give me those answers. And I'd explain that books by those men have many many many many (how many times shall I write that word?!) problems.

My solution-oriented challenge for you, for the #KidLitWomen campaign is this: Next time you're at the bookstore, reach for books written by Indigenous women. And ask for them at the library! And if your children bring that Goble or that O'Dell book home, arrange a meeting with the teacher to talk about books by Indigenous Women.

Here's my list. Take it with you to the book store, to the library... to your next book club meeting!

Board Books

  • Wild Berries by Julie Flett (Cree-Métis), Simply Read Books, 2013.
  • Boozhoo: Come Play With Us by Deanna Himango (Ojibwe), Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior, Chippewa, 2002.
  • My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith (Cree, Lakota and Scottish)Orca, 2016.

Picture Books

  • Shi-shi-etko by Nicola I. Campbell (Nle7kepmx, Nsilx and Métis), Groundwood Books, 2005.
  • The Good Luck Cat by Joy Harjo (Mvskoke), Harcourt Brace, 2000.
  • Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk (Inuit), Inhabit Media, Incorporated, 2014.
  • Powwow Summer: A Family Celebrates the Circle of Life by Marcie Rendon (White Earth Anishinaabe), Minnesota Historical Society, 2013.
  • Girls Dance, Boys Fiddle by Carole Lindstrom (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians), Pemmican, 2013.
  • Hungry Johnny by Cheryl Minnema (Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe), Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2014.
  • The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson (Ojibwe), Orca, 2017.
  • Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek), Morrow, 2000.

Middle Grades

  • I Am Not A Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis (Nipissing), Second Story, 2016.
  • The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), Hyperion, 1999.
  • Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee (Creek), HarperCollins, 2002.
  • Super Indian, Vol. One and Vol. Two, by Arigon Starr (Kickapoo), Wacky Productions, 2012.

High School

  • #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited By Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale, Annick Press, 2017.
  • The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline (Georgian Bay Métis), Dancing Cat, 2017.
  • Murder on the Red River by Marcie Rendon, (White Earth Anishinaabe), Cinco Puntos, 2017.
  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich, (Turtle Mountain Chippewa). Harper, 2012.
  • Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend by Erika Wurth (Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee), Curbside Splendor, 2014.

Coming in 2018 and 2019…

  • The Summer of Split Feather Fever by Christine Day (Upper Skagit), HarperCollins.
  • Apple In the Middle by Dawn Quigley (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa), North Dakota State University Press.
  • We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci L. Sorell (Cherokee), Charlesbridge.
  • Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek), Candlewick.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Some thoughts on a big word: MYTH

This post is one that is in-process. A colleague asked me for some resources on the word myth. She's going to be doing a workshop with teachers. At the 4th grade level, teachers are required to do a unit on "Native American Myths." These are some of my initial thoughts on that word and how I approach thinking about it. You're on this exploration, with me, as I do the work. Come back for more. There will be more!


What does it mean? What does it mean to you? What does it mean in literature? What stories do we call myth? Is the word used to describe similar stories of all peoples? How do we start to answer these stories?

To start thinking about these questions, some people will go right to a dictionary. Let's do that now.

According to the English Oxford Living Dictionary, the origin of the word myth is "Mid 19th century: from modern Latin mythus, via late Latin and Greek muthos.

1. A traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events, like "ancient Celtic myths" or "the heroes of Greek myth".

Synonyms are "folk tale, story, folk story, legend, tale, fable, saga, allegory, parable, tradition, lore, folklore".

2. A widely held but false belief or idea, like "the belief that evening primrose oil helps to cure eczema is a myth, according to dermatologists".
2.1. A misrepresentation of the truth, like "attacking the party's irresponsible myths about privatization"
2.2. A fictitious or imagery person or thing. like "nobody has ever heard of Simon's mysterious friend--Anna said he was a myth".
2.3. An exaggerated or idealized conception of a person or thing, like "the book is a scholarly study of the Churchill myth". 
Looking over that information, we see "Celtic myths" and "Greek myth" and a set of synonyms. The Celts, according to the Oxford dictionary, were
... a member of a group of peoples inhabiting much of Europe and Asia Minor in pre-Roman times. Their culture developed in the late Bronze Age around the upper Danube, and reached its height in the La Tene culture (5th to 1st centuries BC) before being overrun by the Romans and various Germanic peoples.
A native of any of the modern nations or regions in which Celtic languages are (or were until recently) spoken; a person of Irish, Highland Scottish, Manx, Welsh, or Cornish descent. 
Greek, according to the Oxford dictionary, is:
A native or inhabitant of modern Greece, or a person of Greek descent. 
A Greek-speaking person in the ancient world, especially a native of one of the city states of Greece and the eastern Mediterranean. 
Thinking critically about who is named in these pages of the Oxford dictionary, and who is not, is important. We learn that the Celts had myths, and so do the Greeks. Of course, the dictionary can't be comprehensive. It can't name all the peoples who had or have myths.

Let's dive into cataloging and see how stories are categorized at WorldCat (which is "the world's largest network of library content and services).

In the Advanced Search option, I entered myth in the Keyword box, and limited the search to 2010-2018, Juvenile, Any Content (includes fiction, nonfiction, etc), Books (excludes videos, etc), and English. My search resulted in 3,191 books. The first page (shown in sets of ten) include the following titles:

  • Thea Stilton and the Missing Myth
  • Monsters: Myth or Fact
  • Dragons: Magic, Myth, and Mystery
  • How to Tell A Myth
  • Vampires: Magic, Myth, and Mystery
  • The Story of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor: A Roman Constellation Myth
  • Exploring the Life, Myth, and Art of Native Americans
  • Bigfoot: Magic, Myth, and Mystery
  • The Warrior Twins: A Navajo Hero Myth
  • Exploring the Life, Myth, and Art of Ancient Egypt
What did you notice as you read through the titles? Monsters, dragons, vampires... And, obviously, I noticed the two books about Indigenous peoples.

Here's the Big Question for all of us. The question has to do with who defines what counts as a myth, and what doesn't. What, in other words, is held sacred or considered to be a religious story, shelved and cataloged as such?

What is missing from those first ten titles is any books about Christianity.

If I take a look at the second ten books, will I find books from the bible, there, in that set? Take a look in your catalog. Repeat the search I did, in whatever database you use. What do you find? I'm happy to read your comments, if you want to share them.

Like I said, this is a post-in-progress. I'm hitting the pause button (I have other work to do) and uploading this post. I hope it doesn't have typos (but it probably will) or structural problems (but it will have them, too!). It is a draft. I'll be adding material from children's literature textbooks, and, material from Native scholars, too. A work in progress, that is paused at 8:45 AM Central Time on March 3, 2018.

Back, on Sunday March 4, 2018 at 10:15 AM or thereabouts...

I've got a copy of the 7th edition of Children's Literature in the Elementary School, published by McGraw Hill. It was revised by Barbara Z. Kiefer. The authors are Charlotte S. Huck, Susan Helpler, Janet Hickman, and Kiefer. Chapter six is about Traditional Literature. Here's the table of contents for that chapter:

  • A Perspective on Traditional Literature
  • Folktales
  • Fables
  • Myths
  • Epic & Legendary Heroes
  • The Bible as Literature

The Folktales section has "Native American Folktales." I assume you noticed that the Bible got its own section? It could have been put over in the Myths section, specifically in the subjection called "Creation Myths." But--it isn't. In the "Bible as Literature" section, the authors of the textbook write that:
We must clarify the difference between the practice of religious customs and indoctrination in one viewpoint and the study of the Bible as a great work of literature.
See the word "great" there, to characterize it? Do you think their use of "great" reflects bias? Re-read the sentence again, leaving out the word great. How does it feel to do that?

Now--let's look at some of the books (single stories, not collections) discussed in that section. Using WorldCat again, I looked up the first one discussed, Light, by Sarah Waldman. Its subject headings are:

  • Creation -- Biblical teaching -- Juvenile literature
  • Children's stories, American
  • Creation
  • Bible stories -- Testament
  • Children's writings
  • Creation -- Biblical teaching

The second one is Genesis by Ed Young. Its subject headings are:

  • Bible -- Genesis
  • Creation

The third one is The Seven Days of Creation by Leonard Everett Fisher. The subject headings are:

  • Creation -- Juvenile literature
  • Creation
  • Bible stories -- O.T.

None of the subject headings for those three books are folklore.

Now--let's flip back to the Folktales section of this textbook and look up the books listed there, in the Native American section. The first one is Paul Goble's The Gift of the Sacred Dog. It is imperative that I say right away that I (and others, too) have concerns with outsiders like Goble, telling/retelling/appropriating Native stories. They get a lot of things wrong. But let's look at the subject headings:
  • Indians of North America -- Great Plains -- Folklore
  • Children's literature
  • Horses -- Folklore
  • Indians of North America
  • Great Plains
See? Folklore. (I haven't analyzed Goble's book yet. I might very well find out that it is so inaccurate that--if anything--it ought to be categorized as White Man's Indian, or, fiction, or, fantasy... )

Well---I'm hitting the pause button for now (at 2:05 Central Time on March 4th, 2018). Gonna go outside and do some yard work. I'll be back!

And I'm back, at 3:12. I did enough yard work for the day... this project called me back inside! 

I've talked about this difference in cataloging in talks I've given in person and online, too. Because there's a cloud on Goble's work, I thought it'd be good to give you an example of a book written by Native people. The one I use to illustrate this bias against Native stories is Beaver Steals Fire: A Salish Coyote Story. Written by the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation in Montana, and illustrated by Sam Sandoval, it includes a note on one of the first pages, that says "In Beaver Steals Fire, fire is a gift from the Creator brought by the animal beings for human beings who are yet to come. Fire remains an important gift in our traditional ways of knowing and understanding." Lot of words there, all of which tell us that this is a sacred creation story. But, here are its subject headings in WorldCat:

  • Coyote (Legendary character) -- Legends
  • Kootenai Indians -- Folklore
  • Salish Indians -- Folklore
  • Coyote (Legendary character)
  • Kootenai Indians
  • Salish Indians 

See? Folklore again! (Insert angry emoticon face, and, hitting the pause button at 3:28.)


Notes from items written by Indigenous writers/scholars:

Younging, Gregory. (2018) Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples. Brush Education (in Canada). Take a look at this entry in chapter 6, which is about terminology:
These terms are often applied to Oral Traditions. This is offensive to Indigenous Peoples because the terms imply that Oral Traditions are insignificant, not based in reality, or not relevant. The term legends can also be constructed this way, although legends acceptable to Indigenous Peoples in the sense that Oral Traditions describe past events that are legendary. To avoid misunderstanding, it's best to use terms such as Oral Traditions or Traditional Stories. 

Silva, Noenoe K. (year) "Hawaiian Literature in Hawaiian" in The Oxford Handbook of Indigenous American Literature, Oxford University Press, page 115:
Loss of our mother tongue accompanied the loss of nationhood. From 1896 on, all schooling in Hawaiʻi was conducted in English. All the generations that followed were much more knowledgeable about English language and literature than Hawaiian. Only those privileged enough to be educated in the language and literature, either at home with a elder or at the university, were familiar with our stories and poetry. Anthropologists, folklorists, and children’s book authors recast this literature as myth, legend, folklore, and children’s stories.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

An Open Letter About Sherman Alexie

Eds. Note: Beneath the letter are links with more info and quotes I am adding, with permission, from Joy Harjo, Janet McAdams, and Susan Power. I will add additional ones as they become public. If you are looking for other Native writers, see the Best Books link.  

February 25, 2018

Dear Readers of American Indians in Children's Literature,

Yesterday, I removed Sherman Alexie's photograph from AICL's gallery of Native writers and illustrators. Since then, I have begun going through the eleven years of AICL posts, making edits to any page that has referenced Alexie or his work.

Based on private conversations I have had, I can no longer let his work sit on AICL without noting that he has hurt other Native writers in overt and subtle ways, including abuse, threats, and humiliation.

I've been studying and writing about children's and young adult books about Native people since the 1990s. There's been so little growth in all those years. Learning of his actions tells me that rather than helping grow the numbers of Native writers who get published, he's undermined that growth.

He's also undermined Native writers and writing in this way: his books feed mainstream expectations.

Alexie's books don't give readers the depth of understanding that they need to know who we are, what our histories have been, what we face on a daily basis, and what gives us the strength to carry on. Far too many people adore him and think that they're hip to Native life because they read his books. If you're one of those people, please set his books aside. Read other Native writers. Don't inadvertently join him in hurting other Native writers.

I understand that several news outlets, including NPR and the New York Times, are working on news articles about him, but that the people who are speaking to the reporters are afraid. I don't know what these news articles will say, when they get published. When I see them, I will link to them, below this letter.

In the first few years of AICL, I promoted Alexie's work, but that tapered off as I saw how little he did to help other Native writers.

To all of you who he has hurt, I apologize. I have no doubt that every time you saw his name mentioned here, it added to the weight you already carry. I'm sorry.

Debbie Reese
Editor, American Indians in Children's Literature

Update at 4:36 on 2/25/18: I will not publish comments that defend Alexie or that attempt to cast doubt on those he has hurt.



In this timeline, articles specific to, or that reference, Alexie are in bold font. Others are provided for context in children's literature and in Indigenous networks. If you see additional items I can add, please let me know in a comment (comments are open to those suggestions). This is a selectively curated list. The items listed are here because they each have something new or unique to offer.

October 10, 2017--Adrienne Keene published The Native Harvey Weinsteins at her blog, Native Appropriations. 

January 3, 2018--Drew Himmelstein at School Library Journal published Children's Publishing Reckons with Sexual Harassment in Its Ranks. Several people submitted comments about Alexie.

February 7, 2018--Anne Ursu published the outcome of her survey: Sexual Harassment in the Children's Book Industry at Medium.

February 12, 2018--Karen Jensen published Sexual harassment in Kidlit at her blog, "Teen Librarian Toolbox" at School Library Journal. See, especially, point #5, "Survivors don't owe you their stories."

February 13, 2018--John Maher published Sexual Harassment In Children's Publishing Reaches a Crisis Point at Publisher's Weekly. 

February 19, 2018--Drew Himmelstein published Unpacking Anne Ursu's Survey and the Fallout, with Changes Coming to Events, at School Library Journal. Comments refer to Alexie. 

February 21, 2018--David M. Perry at Pacific Standard published How Will Publishing Deal with Lemony Snicket Amid #MeToo? It is the first (to my knowledge) news outlet to name Alexie within the body of the article (he cited the comments at SLJ). 

February 21, 2018--I started a Twitter thread linking to both articles, and soon after that, added links to twitter threads from others who were writing about Alexie. It links to a writer and reporter named Litsa Dremousis, who was Alexie's friend for years before finding out he had sexually harassed women. See this thread for a recap she did Sunday morning, Feb 25th, where she says that eleven different news outlets are reaching out to her. She's helping people get in touch with the media. I will continue to add to my thread (which includes her earlier threads on Alexie). 
[Update on March 3, 2018: On Feb 28, Alexie issued a statement that disclosed a consensual sexual relationship between Alexie and Dremousis. She confirmed what he said and stated that her public tweeting about him is not retaliation over the affair. Reactions to that news range, widely.]

February 26, 2018--With her permission, I am sharing a Facebook comment (posted on Feb 25) from author and poet, Janet McAdams, that speaks to the mainstream's embrace of Alexie:
A number of years ago I submitted an article on the very fine, complex, and --to my mind--important writing of a Native poet to PMLA. One reviewer, in rejecting it, wanted to know why I was writing on this poet, whom he'd never heard of. Why not James Welsh (his spelling) or Sherman Alexie?  
No writing community should ever be / have been reduced to or defined by any one author. As a scholar and editor of Native writing, I've often felt frustrated by the ways Alexie's (very uneven) writing eclipsed other writing. Horrifying to find out that all that power, his anointment as The Native American Writer, also made way for other, much more material kinds of violence.
February 26, 2018--With her permission, I am sharing a Facebook comment (posted on Feb 25) from author, poet, and musician, Joy Harjo:
This has been going on for years. And have had women calling or writing me about abuse of different kinds for years.
February 26, 2018--With her permission, I am sharing a Facebook comment (posted on Feb 25) from author, Susan Power
This isn't a surprise since I've heard stories from friends who experienced abusive treatment firsthand, friends I trust without question.
February 26, 2018--The Institute of American Indian Arts issued a statement on their Facebook page (posted on Feb 26 at 4:06 PM). This is a change from their press release on January 20:
We have received several recent inquiries about Sherman Alexie’s relationship with the IAIA MFA program. For the record, Mr. Alexie served IAIA as an independent contractor intermittently between July 2013 and July 2017. His association with IAIA officially ended on October 27, 2017. 
Given he is no longer involved with IAIA, the Sherman Alexie Scholarship, funded by a third-party foundation, has been renamed the MFA Alumni Scholarship. The award and the terms of that award remain the same.

February 27, 2018--Sarah Graham published Revered Writer Sherman Alexie faces misconduct accusations at the Santa Fe New Mexican (posted on Feb 26). Here's an excerpt:
Jon Davis, director of IAIA’s Master of Fine Arts program, said officials “expedited” a name change to a scholarship that was in Alexie’s name as allegations against him mounted on social media sites and public forums.

February 28, 2018--Author and scholar, Deborah Miranda, published Inmate #A-93223: In the San Quentin of my Mind (posted on Feb 27). The first half of her post is about her own father; the second half is an account of her interactions with Alexie and her support of women who are speaking about being bullied, threatened, and sexually harassed.  

February 28, 2018--Kevin Abourezk published Sherman Alexie stays silent after being accused of sexual harassment (published on Feb 28) at Indianz

February 28, 2018--Claire Kirch published Indie Booksellers Grapple with Sherman Alexie Sexual Harassment Charges at Publishers Weekly. 

February 28, 2018--John Maher published Sherman Alexie Latest in Slate of Literary Harassment Allegations at Publishers Weekly. 

February 28, 2018--Kevin Abourezk published Sherman Alexie breaks silence on allegations of sexual harassment at Indianz. 

February 28, 2018--Claire Kirch published Indie Booksellers Grapple with Sherman Alexie Sexual Harassment Charges at Publishers Weekly

March 1, 2018--Vincent Schilling published Sherman Alexie Called Out for Sexual Misconduct for over a Twenty-Year Period at Indian Country Today.

March 1, 2018--John Maher published Alexie Addresses Charges in Statement at Publishers Weekly

March 2, 2018--Mary Annette Pember published Sherman Alexie and the Longest Running #MeToo Movement in History at Rewire. 

March 2, 2018--Felicia Fonseca of the Associated Press published Readers reevaluate Sherman Alexie amid sex misconduct allegations at KOMO News.

March 2, 2018--Liz Jones, Ann Dornfeld, and Gil Aegerter published Sherman Alexie on harassment allegations: I have 'harmed other people' at KUOW. 

March 2, 2018--Lauren Porosoff published Why I'll Never Teach This Powerful Book Again at Teaching Tolerance

March 4, 2018--Colleagues are sharing articles that say--better than I did, in my Open Letter--problems with Alexie's writings. I'll be adding them as I see them. See The Laughing Indian by Lou Cornum, published in The New Inquiry on November 12, 2012. 

March 5, 2018--Lynn Neary published 'It Just Felt Very Wrong:' Sherman Alexie's Accusers Go On the Record at NPR. 

March 6, 2018--Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr. published What do the Allegations Against Sherman Alexie Mean for Native Literature? at Electric Lit

March 6, 2018--Paul Constant published Finding My Way Through the Troubling Sherman Alexie Stories at The Seattle Review of Books. 

March 6, 2018--Liz Jones published What These Women Couldn't Say Publicly about Sherman Alexie Until Now at KUOW. 

March 6, 2018--Kevin Abourezk published Sherman Alexie Caused Hurt Even Before Sexual Harassment Scandal at Indianz. 

March 9, 2018--Hillel Italie of Associated Press published Sherman Alexie declines literary award at Washington Post. 

March 11, 2018--Lynn Neary published Sherman Alexie Postpones Memoir's Paperback Release Amid Sexual Harassment Claims at NPR.

March 12, 2018--Jacqueline Keeler published Why Reading Sherman Alexie Was Never Enough at Yes Magazine. 

March 21, 2018--The American Indian Library Association Rescinds its 2008 Youth Literature Award to Sherman Alexie

**Items added in April 2018**

In 1995, Gloria Bird published The Exaggeration of Despair in Sherman Alexie's Reservation Blues online (initially published in Wicazo Sa Review, a Native Studies journal).

April 4, 2018--Professor Elizabeth Cook-Lynn published After Thoughts on Forked-Tongues: A Review of Sherman Alexie at the website, Oak Lake Writers Society. 

April 21, 2018--Jim Milliot published Taking the Measure of Sexual Misconduct Charges in Publishing (Sales of books by Alexie, Asher, and Dashner have taken some hits...) in Publishers Weekly. 


When news of Alexie broke, writers in children's and young adult literature were in awkward positions. Some made statements:

On March 7, 2018, Christine Day tweeted a letter she wrote to her readers about an essay she has in Our Stories, Our Voices due out in August, 2018 from Simon Pulse (Simon and Schuster). In the ARCs, her essay includes references to Sherman Alexie. For the final copy, those references are being omitted. She said, in part that she "cannot move forward with these references in a collection meant to honor and empower women." 

On April 13, North Carolina's School of Information and Library Science held its 2nd Annual Symposium on Information for the Public Good.  The #MeToo in Kidlit: Dealing with Fallout of Sexual harassment in Public School Libraries panel at the conference referenced Alexie. See tweet thread by Samantha Kaplan (includes power point slides from the panel), and Ness Clarke Shortley's thread (suggestions on what librarians can do). 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Announcing This Year's Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Recipient!

AICL readers,

Please join me (Jean) in a roar of approval for the 2018 recipient of the American Library Association (ALA) May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture award:

(drum roll please)

Debbie Reese!
Photo credit: @librarygrl

Her lecture will be delivered in 2019, at a location to be decided.

For those who don't follow ALA matters, this is Kind of A Big Deal. Naomi Shihab Nye is the current Arbuthnot honoree. Past recipient/lecturers include Jacqueline Woodson, K.T. Horning, Walter Dean Myers, Ursula K. Leguin, and Maurice Sendak.

The announcement came today during the ALA annual midwinter meeting in Denver.

Wish I'd had the presence of mind to make a screen shot of the slide they showed during the announcement, but i was too busy screaming joyfully along with a lot of other people. (At 3:31 PM on Feb. 12, the above image was added.)

Click here to find out more about the award, and hear some past lectures.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Winners of 2018 American Indian Library Association's Youth Literature Award!

Every two years, the American Indian Library Association's Youth Literature Award committee selects books to receive its awards in three categories: Picture Book, Middle Grade Book, and Young Adult Book. From books published in 2016 and 2017, these are the winners

An important note: every single one is from a small press--where editors know what they're doing. In 2016 and 2017, "the Big Five" published a lot of books that purport to be about Native peoples, but they are not written by Native people. In one explicit or subtle way or another, they fail to provide Native children with mirrors. 

Books presented here, however, are exquisite. I highly recommend you get them for your classroom, school, or home library. Some of the books are ones where several people were involved. Look up each name! Get to know what they do! Visit the websites of these publishers! Promote and share their work, wherever you see it.

Here they are, in one image. Twelve books, but the creative work of almost 100 different Native people! 


Best Picture Book is Shanyaak'utlaax: Salmon Boy (2017), published by the Sealaska Heritage Institute. The book is edited by Tlingit speakers Johnny Marks, Hans Chester, David Katzeek, and Nora Dauenhauer and Tlingit linguist Richard Dauenhauer and illustrated by Michaela Goade. (Please see "A Watery World" -- an interview of illustrator, Goade.)

Picture Book Honors went to:

Black Bear Red Fox (2017), written and illustrated by Julie Flett (Cree/Métis). Native Northwest.

I'm Dreaming of...Animals of the Native Northwest (2017), written by Melaney Gleeson-Lyall (Musqueam, Coast Salish) and illustrated by First Nations artists. Native Northwest.

All Around Us (2017), written by Xelena González (Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation) and illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia. Cinco Puntos Press.

Mission to Space (2016), written and illustrated by John Herrington (Chickasaw). White Dog Press.

Fall in Line, Holden! (2017), written and illustrated by Daniel W. Vandever (Diné). Salina Bookshelf, Inc.

Best Middle Grade book is Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers, Volume 1 (2016), published by Native Realities, edited by Arigon Starr (Kickapoo) and featuring the work of Theo Tso (Las Vegas Paiute), Jonathan Nelson (Diné), Kristina Bad Hand (Sičháŋǧu Lakota/Cherokee), Roy Boney Jr. (Cherokee), Lee Francis IV (Laguna Pueblo), Johnnie Diacon (Mvskoke/Creek), Weshoyot Alvitre (Tongva), Renee Nejo (Mesa Grand Band of Mission Indians), and Michael Sheyahshe (Caddo).

Middle Grade Honor Book is The Wool of Jonesy, Part 1 (2016) written and illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (Diné). Native Realities.

Best Young Adult Book is #Not Your Princess: Voices of Native American Women (2017), published by Annick Press, edited by Lisa Charleyboy (Tsilhqot’in) and Mary Beth Leatherdale. Art, poems, stories, and photographs by Aza Erdrich Abe (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe), Claire Anderson (Taku River Tlingit), Joanne Arnott (Métis/mixed blood), Monique Bedard Aura Last (Haudenosaunee Oneida), Gwen Benaway (Anishinaabe and Métis), Nathalie Bertin (Franco-Métis), Stephanie Big Crow (Tsuu T'ina Nation), Maria Campbell (Métis), Tenille Campbell (Dene/Métis), Imajyn Cardinal (Cree/Dene), Adrianne Chalepah (Kiowa/Apache), Lianne Marie Leda Charlie (descendant of the Tagé Cho Hudan, Northern Tutchone-speaking people of the Yukon), Chief Lady Bird - Nancy King (Potawatomi and Chippewa from Rama First Nation with paternal ties to Moose Deer Point), Dana Claxton (Hunkpapa Lakota), Clear Wind Blows Over the Moon (Cree First Nations), Francine Cunningham (Cree/Métis), Danielle Daniel (Métis), Jessica Deer (Mohawk), Rosanna Deerchild (Cree), Sierra Edd (Diné), Kelly Edzerza-Bapty (Tahltan Nation of Telegraph Creek), Ka'ila Farrell-Smith (Klamath/Modoc), Melanie Fey (Dine), Isabella Fillspipe (Oglala Lakota), Julie Flett (Cree/Métis), Nahanni Fontaine (Anishinaabe), Karlene Harvey (Tsilhqot'in, Carrier, and Okanagan nations), Hazel Hedgecoke (Sioux/Hunkpapa/Wendat/Métis/Cherokee/Creek), Rayna Hernandez (Lakota), Linda Hogan (Chickasaw), Wakeah Jhane (Penatuka and Yaparucah bands of Comanche, and Blackfeet and Kiowa), Helen Knott (Dana Zaa and Heniyawak from Prophet River First Nation), Brigitte Lacquette (Ojibwe, Cote First Nation), Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe/Ojibwe), Cecilia Rose LaPoint (Ojibway/Métis), Gloria Larocque Campbell Moses (Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation), Winona Linn (Meskwaki), Shelby Lisk (Tyendinaga Mohawk Nation), Ashton Locklear (Lumbee), Darian Lonechild (White Bear First Nation), Lee Maracle (Sto:lo Nation), Madelaine McCallum (Cree/Métis), Tiffany Midge (Hunkpapa Lakota), Saige Mukash (Cree), Pamela J. Peters (Navajo), Ntawnis Piapot (Piapot Cree Nation), Natanya Ann Pulley (Diné), Zondra Zoey Roy (Cree/Dene/Métis), Shoni Schimmmel (Umatilla), Leanne Betasmosake Simpson (Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg), Janet Smylie (Cree/Métis), Tasha Spillett (Cree/Trinidadian), Patty Stonefish (Lakota/German/Russian/French/Polish/Mexican/HUMAN), DeLanna Studi (Cherokee), Jen VanStrander (Western Band of Cherokee), Tania Willard (Secwepemc Nation), Tanaya Winder (Southern Ute, Shoshone, and Paiute Nations), and AnnaLee Rain Yellowhammer (Hunkpapa/Standing Rock Sioux). 

Young Adult Honor Books are:

The Marrow Thieves (2017), written by Cherie Dimaline (Métis). DCB (submitted by Orca Books).

Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An Indigenous LGBT Sci-Fi Anthology (2016), edited by Hope Nicholson, including stories by Anishinaabe authors Grace L. Dillon, Niigaan Sinclair, and Nathan Adler; Richard Van Camp (Dene/Tłı̨chǫ), Cherie Dimaline (Métis), David A. Robertson (Swampy Cree), Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee), Darcie Little Badger (Lipan Apache), Gwen Benaway (Annishinabe/Mètis), Mari Kurisato (Ojibwe Nakawē), and Cleo Keahna (Ojibwe/Meskwaki). Bedside Press.

Fire Starters (2016), written by Jen Storm (Ojibway); illustrated by Scott B. Henderson and colorist Donovan Yaciuk. HighWater Press.

Members of the committee: 
Naomi Bishop, Chair (Akimel O'odham/Pima)
Sunny Real Bird (Apsaalooke Crow Tribe)
Linda Wynne (Tlingit/Haida)
Ofelia Zepeda (Tohono O'oodham)
Janice Kowemy (Laguna Pueblo)
Janet Mumford
Lara Aase