November 22, 2006

Missing:  Native voices

The Voices of Power and the Power of Voices:  Teaching with Native American LiteratureThe weight and thickness of Mike’s new literature book in English class intimidated him. He opened the book searching for Native American writers whose work he loved to read. Sherman Alexie was his favorite. As he fingered through the table of contents, all he found was a poem about Hiawatha, two stories in the mythology chapter, and one short story in the “Other Literatures” chapter in the back of the book. Sighing heavily, he gazed out the classroom window feeling bored and knowing that this English class would be more of the same. He closed his eyes and his mind, questioning the system and wondering to himself, “Why can’t we read the good stuff in English class?”

3 comments:

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
writerfella has been included in so many high school and college literature texts, especially with the story, "Rite Of Encounter", that he wonders where 'Mike' was going to school. writerfella's stories are in MYTH, MIND & MOMENT from Scott, Foresman; NATIVE AMERICAN LITERATURE from NTC/Contemporary Press; A NATION'S VOICE from Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; THE REMEMBERED EARTH from Univ/New Mexico Press, and AMERICAN INDIAN LITERATURE from Univ/Okla Press to name a few. Some of these texts even are taught at various tribal and government schools around the US. The Newberry Library uses "Rite" as one of its Native American Literature teaching tools. Both surprising and pleasing were writerfella's reactions when he learned that "Rite" is used in various state-sponsored traveling library discussion groups and in various Laubach Literacy programs nationwide.
So, where is 'Mike'?
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

Don't a lot of schools require teachers to choose between the textbooks on hand? Or between those on an approved list? I doubt teachers can go out and buy whatever books they want.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Yes, that usually is the policy but it also depends on the state and geographical region. Some states are trying to eschew various texts that contain 'too much diversity' or even those that discuss evolution but not 'intelligent design'. writerfella had to go to bat for a teacher here in Anadarko whose senior elective class was called Social Problems after the name of the selected text. Parents seeing the book were scalded and scandalized because the book contained the words and concepts, 'homosexuality' and 'drug addicts' and 'domestic terrorism' and 'conscientious objectors' and 'the homeless' and so on. NOT advocating one way or another but discussing these as 'Social Problems'. Parents and ministers and a group calling itself 'Concerned Citizens' called for the cancellation of the class and the firing of the teacher and even the burning of the textbook. writerfella put an editorial letter in the local paper that ridiculed the knee-jerk responses, then asked one small question: what did the protestors want a book on social problems to discuss, THE WEATHER? The protest died, the class went on and even was overbooked, and the teacher kept her job. The class still is taught today.
'Rite Of Encounter' first was published in the May 1973 issue of THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION and never has been out of print since. Consequently, writerfella has met people nationwide who read 'Rite" or some others of his stories in junior high, high school, or even in college. And writerfella has made innumerable personal appearances in many states, honoraria or no, in public and government schools to do readings and discussions of his stories that appear in their texts. Colleges and universities do not get such a 'cheap date' boon but he still has made scores of such appearances over the past 30 years. In a manner of speaking, 'Rite' became for modern generations what Carl Stephenson's 'Leiningen vs. The Ants' was for writerfella's generation and before.
The books exist but once again it seems that Native students get put behind the door when it comes to being served by public schools. Majority rule, majority rules, and majorities rule...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'