Books...

Aug. 1st, 2009 10:35 am
arualms: (Default)
[personal profile] arualms
...have a lot of power. Now, I am not someone who would ever advocate that a book should be forbidden because it is problematic in content, but I do think that we should be more critical when it comes to what we read and especially what we tell our children to read. The fact that a lot of these books are on the list of recommended reading for children in school? Is saddening.

I actually think the whole site should be required reading for educators who are dealing with the topic of Native Americans with their students. And then maybe, they could read one of the  recommended books. Or at least address why the other books are problematic, make it clear to their students that those were written by white people with a limited understanding of the topic and often with the intend to make the white people in the story look good at the expense of the Native Americans- for whatever reason.

I am not saying that the only person who can write about a culture/ country/ problem/ is a person who has experienced it zeirself. But I do think that when it comes to the question of whether or not something is hurtfull or untrue to a culture, people who are part of that culture are usually better able to judge it. And they deserve to be heard and at least given consideration.


Date: 2009-08-01 10:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beachtree.livejournal.com
Books really do have so much power- as do teachers. I'd read many of these as kid, either for school or for certain summer reading programs. At least I was fortunate enough to have teachers/librarians/program directors who were enlightened and used the books as educational tools, no matter what the perspective of the author and the context of the time and place in which the work was written. It's important to have some guidance for kids as they read. They can still learn so much from content that poses problems and raises questions of conscience and appreciate differences due to culture and history.

PBS just had a series about Native Americans this spring. It was fairly well done, but only scratched the very top layer of the surface. It has to start with being more inclusive as a society in general, and then moving for archives and texts to be broadened. I guess it will be an ongoing process and a real journey to expand viewpoints in general and the more specific vehicles used for teaching. They're inexorably linked. I do hope that the sort of global village mentality will encourage more acceptance of diversity looking back as well as looking forward. It's so true that history and news shouldn't just be written by the so-called winners.

I think I'm starting to rant- and ramble!

Date: 2009-08-06 07:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arualms.livejournal.com
I have been very invested in learning more about issues of racism lately, and this site was one that I spend hours reading.

I am glad that you had teachers who were able to alert you and the other children to the danger of the hidden messages. But I stil think that a book full of stereotypes should not be the first "enforced" (meaning it's on the sylabus) contact with Native American culture. Why not one of the books they recommend?

And to make something clear: I do not for one moment think that we are any better here. The "Indians as wild killers" stereotype may not be as wide spread because there is no need to make ourselves feel good about our past dealings with them, but the orientalisation of "Indians" that is common here isn't any better. And while I was happy to see that only two of the listed books are available at my lokal library, I was then frustrated that none (of the books I checked) of the recommended ones were available.

The same thing happened when I wanted to check for some of the books recommended over at the 50books_poc - community.

Now, I am not placing all the blame on my library- after all, they can only give us books that are available in Germany (and most would need to be translated, as there is only a small section for books in other languages - most people don't want to have to "work" when reading for fun). But the fact that peoplen who scout foreign markets for books to translate have not felt any need to try for a more diverse representation is troubling.

I think the issues of limited access to the publishing market are compounded even more by the fact that only the most commercially successfull or critically acclaimed books are translated for the foreign market. So lack of media coverage and publicly visible interest in the US leads to no coverage here.

Only the really, really big ones make it into syndication. That is sad, though the same can definitely be said about the German market. We pay way to little attention to divercity (racial, gender, sexual orientation, class, disability, religion), unless a topic is currently of big public interest. So a book about a Turkish immigrant girl trying to escape the oppression of the family would probably receive at least some interest, but a book about a girl with a Turkish immigrant background solving mysteries in Berlin most likely wouldn't.

*sighs* I need to check the university library, maybe they will have more (since I actually like reading books in English, I don't need translations).

Heh. Can you tell how much I have been reading about these things? I tnd to ramble on and on when I learned something new.

Date: 2009-08-09 06:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beachtree.livejournal.com
Don't apologize for venting and so-called rambling, since I'm right there with you. I've also been involved in publishing since childhood, because it was something the 'rents were doing as an extension of their professions/careers. Child labor begins at home with editing and proofreading and such! Then it was my turn later on. I've always taken issue with the growing, disturbing emphasis on marketing and the very limited access within the industry. That means fewer and fewer authors and books ever make it to the final stages for publication and those that due tend to be packaged for maximum profit.

Even worse, educational publishing houses or divisions within commericial/literay ones have lost funding and staff because of profit margins and viability. Of course that's missing the point when the purpose of the books is to enlighten and educate and copies will be sold to numerous schools and libraries. Priorities are so completely out of whack, but we knew that- sadly.

At least the growth of educational software has opened new doors and channels. Books can be produced quickly and cheaply in virtual form and college and university presses can make software or even hard copies very economically. That's a huge plus.

Since I grew up in the Boston area, which is populated with colleges and universities than any other part of the U.S. for a metropolitan area, I was fortunate to have access to some lesser known works in limited distribution. Native Americans and minorities had archived works, including for children and young adults, and we were able to read those side by side with some of the more biased ones that reflected the predominant misconceptions of their times. But that was the exception since most didn't and don't have that experience unless someone seeks out those sorts of books and archival sources.

It's very commendable that you can read so extensively in English. I only wish my German or French were so good! Hopefully, university presses, catalogs and the Net can help you find more options. Maybe? I was able to find classical Greek translations of some modern novels that way for Christmas gifts for my father. Who knew?

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