August 19, 2007

Controversy over Little Tree

Ahearn:  'Native’ book on 7th-grade list a 'slap in the face’Kernodle's principal, Charles Burns, said teachers chose the title from a National Middle School Association list. Burns was unaware of the furor over the book and said the goal of the reading was a standard lesson in content and grammar, and there was no consideration of the source.

"I think you're reading too much into it," said Burns, who called the reading suggested, not required. "If there's anything inappropriate in it that is pointed out to us, we have no problem removing it."

Although the back story of the book remains well-known in literary and Indian circles, where it has been dubbed "Little Fraud," the casual reader would today have no clue to its bizarre lineage. The current edition has dropped the words "A true story" from the cover, and the book has moved from the "biography" shelf to "young adult/fiction."

Still, the reissued edition by the University of New Mexico Press makes no mention of the hoax in its foreward or cover notes, and after selling a million copies, the book in 1991 won a coveted ABBY, the American Booksellers Book of the Year. That's the same award "Cold Mountain" received in 1997, as a book that dealers "most enjoy recommending."
Ignorance is no excuse:At Kernodle, principal Burns said the national middle school approved reading list was "so extensive that there is no way of reviewing everything that's on that list."

But in an age when Google puts information at teachers' fingertips, observed a veteran Lumbee leader, such facts are readily available.

"Ignorance is less and less of an excuse," said the Guilford Native American Association founder, Ruth Revels. She is Kernodle parent Jennifer Revels' mother, and is the widow of former Greensboro City Councilman Lonnie Revels.

"I'm 71. I'm tired. Every time we go forward, we regress again. Would you assign 'Little Black Sambo' for black children to read? Imagine."

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