Sunday, November 1, 2009

Native American Heritage Month

This post is my 102 post! :D Unfortunately, I don't have the money to have another giveaway, but I will have one asap in honor of this exciting achievement (in my opinion since I wasn't sure I would even make it to this many posts).

Onto the business at hand

November is Native American Heritage Month or American Indian Heritage Month. Now of course, the goal of Reading in Color is to review books with Native Americans for YA all year round, but so far that hasn't been going too well. The only Native American book I've reviewed is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I must do better and I will! November is the perfect time to help get me started.
Some good resources can be found at author Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog, Cynsations (I adore this blog. It always contains a plethora of information about the publishing world, authors, upcoming books, reviews and giveaways) and a post on her website. Another good sight is Professor Debbie Reese's blog and Oyate. Finally this is a great resource for Native American Heritage Month.
However, my library has very few books about Native Americans for young adults, so I'm definitely going to need to swap some books.
This is my current line up. A * means I don't own it and neither does my library so if you have a copy of the book you would be willing to share, please email me.
1. Rain is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith (I love this title, the author and all her books so I need to read this!)*
2. Code Talker: A novel about the Navajo Marines of World War II by Joseph Bruchac
3. Bone Dance by Martha Brooks*
4. I Am Apache by Tanya Landman (although it sounds like Native Americans want this book to be avoided so I'm going to review it and explain why it should be avoided).
5. The Lesser Blessed by Richard Van Camp*
6. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech-not recommended (Oyate)
7. The Talking Earth by Jean Craighead George-not recommended
8. Sweetgrass Basket by Marlene Carvell
9. Who Will Tell My Brother? by Marlene Carvell
10. Sorceress by Celia Rees
11. Spirit Line by David & Aimee Thurlo*
12. Walker of Time by Helen Hughes Vick*
All these books sound so great and I really want to be able to read them all!
Also, if you're Native American please email me or leave me a comment telling me if you prefer to be refereed to as Indians, Native Americans or American Indians (and if you could explain why that would be so helpful). Thanks.
Happy Reading and I hope to see more books with Native Americans being reviewed this month as well as all the other months!


  1. This would be a good month to review Journey of Dreams, as the characters are Ki'che Maya from Guatemala.

  2. Unfortunately I don't have any of those books. I loved Walk Two Moons though and really want to read the others.

    If you ever want to trade anything else though let me know!

  3. Hi, great Heritage month. I am Native American, I have an Indian name given to me by my elders. As far as what title I prefer, I know a lot of people make a big deal about it, but I don't. I just think it is important to acknowledge the history especially this time of year. The settlers in the New World weren't exactly considerate of the Natives. There is tons of history that is swept under the rug. (rambling) anyways, great post. I will be dropping by all month.
    Elie (Ellz Readz)

  4. BTW, I don't know too many YA books with Native American heroines. The only one that comes to mind is the House of Night Series. They use a lot of legends (Cherokee I believe). I will have to check around for more.

    Elie (Ellz Readz)

  5. Walk Two Moons is another book that Oyate does not recommend (link goes to Deb Reese's site, but the review is by Beverly Slapin of Oyate). And at least two of Jean Craighead George's books have been panned by Oyate, too (which may or may not indicate anything about The Talking Earth).

    And that's much of what is frustrating re books about American Indians: so many non-Native people consider us mascots, or symbols, or romantic mythic beings from a simpler time, that a LOT of what gets published about American Indians reflects those ideas, and thus ranges from problematic to outright offensive. And unfortunately, because those stereotypes are so popular, the books are often hugely popular, too. Often it's the worst books about American Indians that are the easiest ones to get one's hands on. :-/

    On a more upbeat note, two author recommendations. First, Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve. What I've read of hers has been for readers a little younger than you (I think), but you might yet enjoy The Chichi Hoohoo Bogeyman. And Louise Erdrich's Birchbark House series is excellent.

  6. When I'm off deadline, I'll see about sending you a copy of Rain--thanks for the cheer! That said, I prefer to be referred to as Cynthia and, after that, by my official tribal affiliation.

  7. This is such a great post/resource, Ari! I reposted your list of books, and linked to you at my blog...

  8. Reading this posts makes me realize what a complete lack of books I've read by Native American authors and/or stories about Native Americans. Must rectify. =/

    @Elizabeth, the link to Oyate's review of Walk Two Moons was an eye-opener. I was given WTM as child (Gr. 3?? can't remember) to read and it worries me how much I must have absorbed about the images of Native Americans WTM presents to us. I no longer quite remember the novel very well, except there was a romantic gesture by the way of a chicken and the over use of the walk two moons expression. *debates whether or not to reread to see what I've missed as a child*

  9. Elizabeth- thanks for telling me about WTM and Jean Craighead's books needing to be avoided! I should check these things out more throughly, I apologize! I'll cross it off my list. Thank you also for the recommendations :)
    Cynthia-Ok sorry about that and thank you :D
    Ah Yuan-I agree, I really need to read more books about NAs that are approved.
    Elnice-thanks for the recommendations and I would love to hear any others that you have.

  10. Hey Ari! Thanks for welcoming me back! GAH I hated geometry soooo much. Plus, I had a teacher who didn't want to do his job and explain things. It was like self-teaching. Ack.

  11. @Ah Yuan -- Oyate has published two big compilations of reviews. They're both eye-opening reads, if you can stomach that much at a go. (And you will find some recommended books among all the dreck, I promise!)

    @Ari -- Yeah, I've gotten to the point where if the author isn't Native, I'll assume the worst and check first. There are non-Native authors writing great books about American Indians -- I've seen some great reviews of Marlene Carvell's books -- but I've only got so many reading hours, and I don't want to toss them away to authors who are just reinforcing bad stereotypes.

    I'm somewhat uncomfortable with referring to books as "approved" or not: Oyate and Debbie Reese do not, and cannot, speak for all American Indians. They're not the approval committee -- they're "just" knowledgeable, respected people with really good taste. ;-)

    Oh, and I should have said: Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve is Rosebud Sioux and Louise Erdrich is Anishinaabe. Tribal affiliation is usually more respectful than a group noun like "Native American" or whatever.

  12. Ari,
    I meant to do a Native American post. I did get a non-fic review up today. I'm thinking the grand parents in Education of Little Tree are Native American. I think Walk Two Moons really had little to do with native culture. (What you need to know is my memory of what I read is all short term memory.) A while ago, I reviewed Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse. Seems like I've read othe books about Aleut women, but I can't remember the titles!

  13. Edi-I'll be sure to check out your post. I'll check and see if Aleutian Sparrow is considered a respectful book.

    Elizabeth-you rock! Thank you for 1)more recommendations (I'll have to check and see if my library has them) and 2) for informing me that it is more respectful to refer to people by their tribal affiliation.
    And I agree, the term 'approved' wasn't a good word for more to use, resptful is what I meant. I don't want to offend anyone (and while that's not always possible!) and I want to help explain why some of these books are considered disrespectful and bring more light to the beautiful cultures of various tribes.

  14. Ok... I guess this will work now. I've written this comment four times, using Firefox, and Explorer, and it keeps disappearing!!!

    EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE is not by a Native person, nor is it a good story about Cherokee Indians. Its author "Forrest" Carter was outed by his brother. He was actually Asa Carter, a former Klansman and the man who was speechwriter for George Wallace. Carter wrote that famous speech, "Segregation today/tomorrow/forever."

  15. I've written about EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE several times over on my site.

  16. Thanks Debbie,although I don't think campbele was reocmmending Education of Little Tree, just stating a fact.

  17. I am Chrokee and prefer that to any other generic term. However if a generic term is applied I prefer Native American because people often confuse "Indian". Other than that I don't really care.

    Also I have been looking for books featureing heroines for young girls. Seems that all the American fairy tales have a guy rescuing them and marrying them. I want to read books to girls that show strong women. Cherokees are maitriarchal and show strong women so I have found some there and saw some on your site as well... any other books for children under 5?

  18. Sorry for the typos in previous message... Anonymous = Laura or my e-mail name spacecadetlms. LOL

  19. Hi Laura/spacecadetlms. I actually don't review books for young readers. However, I would recommend the HappyNappy Bookseller for a good range of books with strong girls for young readers of multicultural backgrounds (a really good picture book I recently saw on her blog is about the first female Asian movie star in Hollywood). Thanks for stopping by and i'm thrilled some of my reviews helped!


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