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15 May 2012 @ 11:32 pm
A few things to think about when reading fiction about American Indians  
Note, this is by no means a complete list, and I'm not even capable of that; this is merely a list of some things on my mind right now, that are useful to ask when reading fiction about American Indians.

- Are the people in the book noted as having a specific tribe/nation?

- Are the facts of their lives consistent with the real lives of that specific tribe/nation?

- Whether or not a specific tribe/nation is named, does the book use details from various parts of Indian Country all at once, for example clothing from one tribe and religion from another, as if it were pick-and-choose by the author's decision?

- Does the geography match the tribe/nation?

- If the people are contemporary, are the details of their lives entirely traditional? Entirely modern? A mixture?

- If the book is set in the past, does the text imply that the people won't be around until contemporary times?

- Does the book value modern technology and modern culture over older, traditional ways? Does it do the opposite? Does it imply that the two are in conflict? Does it make anyone choose? Does anyone get punished or rewarded for such a choice?

- Does the book show traditional ways to be thriving or under threat? If they're under threat, whose fault is it?

- Are the people mystically wise, such that they seem more like archtypes than fully complex humans?

- Do the people exist to teach some white person/people or any non-Native person/people a particular lesson?

- Do the people exist to enact anything that is for the especial benefit (in-book) or plot-advancement (textually speaking) of white people or any non-Native people?

- Do the people live in Indian communities, or is there a focus on one lone Indian?

Those are the things on my mind right now. Feel free to question, disagree, or add. Be sure to go read, and pass around, Beverly Slapin's HOW TO WRITE A HISTORICAL YOUNG ADULT NOVEL WITH AN INDIAN THEME FOR FUN AND PROFIT at Debbie Reese's blog American Indians in Children's Literature.
Sanguinitysanguinity on May 16th, 2012 04:54 pm (UTC)
- If the book is set in the present, does it imply that Native people exist only (or primarily, or most authentically) in the past?

- Is the book set during the colonial conquest of a Native people? [see note]

- If set in the past, but after contact with Europeans, are Native people helpless victims of history? Or do Native people and their actions help shape their own history? Do they help shape white colonial history?

- If set after contact with Europeans, are Native people's lives ruined forever and ever?

- Does the book refer to traditional stories as "myths" or "legends"? Or does it use the same language it might use to refer to Biblical stories?

- If adapted from a traditional story, does the book cite a specific Native storyteller and people as the source of the original material? Or is the story adapted from vague and/or multiple sources? Does the author explain how and why the story was adapted?

[note about setting the story during a conquest] I'm still casting about for good wording on this. It's not as if setting a book during a conquest is intrinsically skeevy; one can legitimately do that, and many authors have. And yet setting a story during a conquest seems to be reflexive in a way that is inherently skeevy. There are other stories that could be told; why is society forever telling and retelling this one story? Whenever Yet Another Conquest Story crosses my path, I find myself poking at it: WHY are you set during the conquest? What purpose does that serve? Why should you exist, book, in a world that already has trouble perceiving anything other than the conquest? Justify your existence to me!

There's a bunch of 201 stuff I want to add, too, like "Is Native identity defined by pedigree or by culture and community?" and "Do only Native and white people exist? Or do other races and ethnicities exist and interact within the story, as well?"

...continuing into 301 stuff, like "If set after European contact, are Native people mono-racial or multi-racial?"
Rebecca Rabinowitzdiceytillerman on May 16th, 2012 05:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you!!!