November 02, 2007

Beware of "Native" books

Column:  Sifting through ‘Indian' themesBook reviewers, award committees, teachers, parents, librarians, educators, bibliophiles and all others ought to think twice before buying or promoting Native-themed literature aimed at children.

Just because a book is endorsed by institutions such as the Chicago Tribune, School Library Journal or Booklist--or the authors are Newberry or Caldecott winners--doesn't mean the judges or writers understand anything about cultural authenticity or historical accuracy.

It goes to the old adage: Write about what you know about.
How many "Native" books are acceptable?“We read about 200 books before we find one good one,” said Beverly Slapin, a book reviewer at Oyate, a nonprofit Indian education organization based in Berkeley, Calif. “After we read them and throw them against a wall, we have to pick them up and review them.”

Slapin said about 99 percent of children's literature books with Native themes “are absolutely horrible,” a wrenching conclusion for an organization that promotes truthful and honest representations of Native people.

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