Monday, October 14, 2013

Happy Columbus Day

Finding a few articles (The Atlantic, The American Scholar) asserting that Columbus Day is to celebrate American diversity, I interpreted their claim as an opportunity to share some amazing literature on my reading list:

Just finished: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Having heard a lot about this book, I finally read it a few weeks ago. After the great expectations set up by the media I had a difficult time getting into the book... until about halfway in. Specifically I was hooked after the basketball game in the chapter titled "Reindeer Games." No spoilers from me, but after that chapter I was invested. It's an amazing book; I recommend it for all. I also congratulate Alexie for the status that comes with the censorship. It's not the worst thing to be challenged on par with Judy Blume's Deenie.

Just started: The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich. A couple of chapters in, and I'm in love with the protagonist, Omakayas. Pronounced "Oh-MAH-kay-ahs," Erdrich writes in the acknowledgements at the beginning of the book, "Dear reader, when you speak this name out loud you will be honoring the life of an Ojibwa girl who lived long ago." Erdrich and her sister linked the book to an effort to support indigenous language revitalization by beginning The Birchbark House Fund.

Next on my list: Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and No Parole Today by Laura Tohe. Both books are set in boarding schools. Lately I've been pondering formalized education's role in simultaneously empowering and oppressing children (for an introduction to the "oppressing" side of things, see this clip from the film Schooling the World and Ken Robinson: How schools kill creativity).

A cool blog: American Indians in Children's Literature by Debbie Reynolds. Reynolds is the leading scholar on American Indians in children's lit and maintains this blog as a way of making her scholarship accessible to teachers, parents, and students. It's been cited in the Handbook of Research on Children's and Young Adult Literature edited by Shelby Anne Wolf, Karen Coats, and Patricia Encisco, published in 2010 and The Oxford Handbook of Children's Literature by Julia L. Mickenberg and Lynne Vallone, published in 2011. I recommend starting with reading her thought-provoking post "Dear Jon Scieszka: I've got a bone to pick with you..."

My weekend reading: This article in Indian Country Today titled "Native History: Columbus- Icon and Genocidal Maniac- Lands in New World." Author Christina Rose asks, "...what is it about American culture that resists the truth more than 500 years later? Has it simply become a western tradition to do so?" She also cites and complicates the very articles I linked above.

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