Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November update

Life is happening, indeed. Busy month!

Debbie Reese visit- I was a complete deer in the headlights meeting her- I didn't know that she would be stopping in to visit in the morning and she was super-gracious about my awkwardness. I liked what she said in her discussion with J___ about "expanding the narrative." Too often, I feel like there is this sentiment of well, what do we have to take out to put these things in? What's she's advocating for isn't the complete and total destruction of the American canon, and I've had some very interesting discussions to that effect. (That said, I noticed today when I was pulling books for a group coming in that many of the titles were Native author and recommended books. Yay for librarians from W___!)

Meeting with the Stockbridge Historical Committee- I had never sat in a Historical Committee meeting, but I found it to be far less intimidating than I had imagined. We got some great advice on the direction of R__'s project and we definitely have a lot of new ideas for the work that is to come with it. We're definitely surrendering control of the content the further it moves along, which to me is a good sign. My only goals for the project are that our recommendations collection is accurate and actually gets used.

Grants writing- There's a reason that people pay other people to do this-it's a bit like learning how to write lab reports-only there is a slight chance you might get thousands of dollars from said lab report. I'm reading through a stack of sample grants right now trying to find one that is close enough to our project to use as an example. I notice that all of them have detailed "history" sections-which is hard for a project-based proposal. My goal is to get the narrative done by the end of the month-just in case I wasn't busy...or anything...

Other project-ness- I made an info sheet on libraries, education programs, and local media for all of the eleven federally recognized Nations of Wisconsin. Love the Oneida website.

TLAM Meeting- Met with some of the students in next semester's tribal libraries courses. I finally got to meet some first-years in my department outside of youth services! The curriculum will be a lot more flexible than courses I have ever taken before, but it isn't my first service learning course. If I had it my way, I would pretty much only take service learning classes. It looks like a visit to Oneida is in the works, which I am really, really ridiculously excited about since I haven't been back since the DPI workshop.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Word of the Day is... this. Must it be done in reference to others or can it be directed towards oneself? It's been the sort of day for the latter...

So I've decided not to pursue a school media specialist certification/license. Maybe I'll go back for it at some point, but as of now I feel confident that I would prefer to work in a public or nontraditional academic library. The good news-it frees me up to take the tribal libraries, archives, and museums course in the spring, which looks promising. I'm hoping to become engaged with larger issues outside of the literature side of American Indian studies, which is what I've been doing these past few months. The bad news? I have no idea what comes next, then...and seven months is a very short time indeed..."I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain"....

But I do know this...I will never dress a dog like slide 23 of this website that my sister sent me... I couldn't get the image, but I found one quite close...seriously, I hope this is a joke-but I don't think it is. I could deconstruct the many ways that this costume bothers me, but indeed, public mockery might the only healthy response at this point in the night. Seriously? People seriously buy this costume for their animals? **facepalm**

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Jamake Highwater

In my research project, one of the authors I'm reading reviews of is Jamake Highwater. I sincerely hope someone writes a book about all of that someday-a media studies/history of print media person would surely find him the perfect subject. I went back and read many of the original interviews and it certainly didn't take a genius to figure out the pieces in his story didn't match up and were changed at his convenience.

I don't want to delve into that too deeply, but since he is still featured on bibliographies of American Indian children's literature, that's the point when I feel compelled to respond. His work isn't condemned just because of his deceit but because it simply isn't good. Is it nostalgia or laziness that keeps him in the public eye? The Newbery honor for Anpao is a big part of that, but certainly that doesn't explain why so many of his other works are still included. I think there is so much else out there right now-time to move on. Of course, I would say the same thing about ...Little Tree but that was just featured on one of the most popular homeschooling blogs as a recommended work. Not to be cynical, but based on the statements of many commenters, I doubt many of these people picked up a book with an American Indian character since. Some brave publishers, writers, and librarians have a lot of work cut out for them...

Speaking of writers, I was talking with a patron about ideas for encouraging teenage Native writers. I spoke with her about many of the oral history projects that have been done, but I like her idea of bringing in Native writers and storytellers to not only speak to young people, but also teachers and education students. I think it's a promising idea for the future, especially on this campus where there is more funding for guest speakers.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Young Adult Fiction

I went over to work this afternoon to pull some books for a patron who asked me about American Indian fiction for young adults. After going through the lists in my files, I came up with a fairly small number of recommended books. If it were picture books, I would have had half a cart instead of such a little stack. The push for multicultural reading in high school curriculum, at its best, skips past young adult literature entirely in favor of Ceremony or Love Medicine (at least in the school in St. Paul where I tutored). I will have to look into this thought more--my initial impression is that it's harder for white researchers to write from the young adult perspective of another culture-it's hard enough to write as an adult in that voice without other differences to consider.
I am hopeful that the success of ...Part-Time Indian will inspire publishers to pursue Native writers for this age group, because otherwise Joseph Bruchac has a near-monopoly and the American Indian characters most teenagers read about will be magical shirtless werewolves.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Late on this one...

I am thinking over some of the thoughts proposed by Jonathan Hunt about who has a right to claim insensitivity. Since I'm working on a project about how reviewers considered the accuracy of books with American Indian content that went on to win the Newbery or Newbery Honor, it's been on my mind this week in a different way. I'm surprised how readily the reviewers accepted author's claims regarding research and tribal affiliation-maybe I come from a more skeptical era. Is that to say I would catch every error in a book myself? Of course not-that's why the reviewing community needs experts who can make these arguments rather than give the general impression of "it seems right" that was the case with many Newbery winners now deemed offensive.

Where I take issue with this post (besides the bringing in of Hitler Youth and the Shoah...I'm not going there although I want topic and ranty...) is when he extends the argument to criticize Reese for not evaluating for content outside of her own area of expertise. No one reviewer can respond to every possible offensive thing in a work-does that mean they lack credibility, then? The Internet has given those seeking reviews such a wonderful chance to gain multiple perspectives-so let those who have objections voice them, provided they can make a well-substantiated argument.

Book of the Week: Lately, we've gotten more works from the Emily Post Etiquette series for toddlers than on American Indians....I wish I was joking......

Monday, September 14, 2009

Book of the day

Alego by Ningeokuluk Teevee (Groundwood Press)

This book came across the cataloging desk yesterday, so I will preface by saying I haven't had time to do a close reading or investigate the author. I have to admit that I had never seen a book in Inuktitut before and I'm definitely more curious about the language after reading Alego. Although the pictures aren't a style that I personally enjoy, the text captures a child's sense of curiosity about the natural world without being sentimental.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Speaking as a gringa...

I was reading about yet another white author posing as a Native writer today, and my frustration level has increased on this whole matter. The selfishness that goes into such a set of lies is so against the values they are pretending to espouse. It's the worst sort of cultural appropriation, to make up facts about another culture from the position of experience or authority. I personally get upset at the multimillion dollar publishing industry surrounding the near-annihilation of my own culture, so I can't imagine what it feels like to have one's entire culture in literature exploited.

It makes me careful with my work, certainly. I am a white person working on this project from the Eurocentric perspective of my profession, hoping to integrate American Indian worldviews into the thoughts and practices of both myself and others. We are too content to categorize, simplify, and homogenize American Indian cultures at the expense of taking the time to truly listen. We also have to be discerning in those that we choose to listen to in that process. I don't mean to be preachy as I say these things, because I am only just beginning to learn more myself.

Someone asked me the other day if this project means I will become a Native American expert. Ha! I actually worry about that....but at least in my department there's no danger of such a mistake. I am just hoping to train those from my culture about how to do better than we have done before. No one is perfect...but let's be honest with ourselves and each other so that we might gain from experience...

Another "On a Lighter Note" to balance out a quasi-rant...
Quote from The Office ("Diversity Day" episode):

Michael: I am Michael and I am part English, Irish, German and Scottish. Sort of a virtual United Nations. But what some of you might not know is that I am also part Native American Indian.
Oscar: What part Native American?
Michael: Two fifteenths.
Oscar: Two fifteenths, that fraction doesn't make any sense.
Michael: Well, you know what, it's kind of hard for me to talk about it. Their suffering. So who else? Let's get this popping. Come on. Who's going? Who's going? Let's go here!