Friday, March 11, 2011

Smiling Indians and an apology for my absentee ways

So let's start off with the apology. My blogging tendecies lately have been lax. I've said before and will probably say repeatedly over the next year that I have a good reason. Namely, Grad School. There is no getting around the fact that it is a major time suck. Rightly so- I would hate to be paying a small fortune for something that didn't require some time and effort- that would seem like a waste, right?

So the reviews have been trickling in. I'm reading when I can, but the time to put together a thoughtful and intelligent review has been slim. That being said I do have some stuff on the horizon, obligations that must be filled. Reviews of Wither by Lauren DeStephano and The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander are on the horizon and with Poetry Month looming, be ready for some of my favorites to be featured.

I also recently stumbled upon a great video. It's not directly book related but it is important. Some of you know that I have a degree in History and a deep love for all things Old West. I also did my major undergrad paper on the misrepresentation of Native American's in the media. Recently, while talking to my Graduate Advisor, she pointed me to a great blog that deals with a lot of the same issues, but as they relate to children's and YA books. Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature. It's a veritable treasure trove of information and I wish I had it as a resource 6 years ago as I worked on my paper. If you have any interest in the subject head over there- you won't be dissapointed (although you will likely lose hours as you dig through all the information!).

It also provided some great insight on a video that I've seen a few other places. Ryan Red Corn's Smiling Indians. It's a response to those photos that you see everywhere, of the stoic Indian, taken by photographer Edward Curtis. I have a book of those pictures on my shelf, nestled in between other books by the likes of Joseph Marshall III, Sherman Alexie and Russell Means. The historian in me has always taken research with a grain of salt. You can't be told to "question everything" for 4 years and not take it to heart. Who wrote the history? What were they hoping to accomplish? What was their bias? All questions I've been taught to ask of history books.

It's why I struggle to write my own books. I have set my stories in the old west. Children's books and YA alike always find their home between 1860 and 1890 somewhere west of the Misssissippi and all are lacking in Native characters. Want to know why? Because despite all my reading and researching and studying I am no expert. I don't want to offend anyone. I don't want to perpetuate those misrepresentations. I don't want to be part of that cycle. So instead I bypass them, which is just as bad. It's why I am stuck in the 40,000 words into my YA novel. The so called "Plains Indian Wars" are looming along the Bozeman trail and my characters are walking into it. This is not a story of savages and innocent white men. I want to realistically represent what happened out there, during a time when tension ran high. I'm lacking the resources to go for it at this point. I'm hopeful that once Graduate School is over I will have a little more time to persure the quality research I need to present a fair look at the time even while writing a work of fiction. Time will tell if I can do it well. I would hate to do it poorly.

So to wrap this bad boy up:
1. Sincere apologies for the sorry amount of actual blogging that's taking place here at A Reader's Ramblings. Hang in there, it will get better!
2. Check out Debbie Reese's blog American Indians in Children's Literature.
3. Watch the video and think about the images you've seen and read about.

1 comment:

  1. Grad School. Been there and it was a brutal time suck. Glad I did it directly after undergrad otherwise I don't think I would be able to ever finish. Good luck to you.