October 15, 2008

"Authentic Indian" romance writer

I came across this writer accidentally while searching for something else. I was impressed by her claims of authenticity until I scanned her site.

Karen KayA little about Karen Kay, the authentic American Indian romance author.

Karen Kay's love of writing is combined only with her love of the American Indian culture and this is most evident in her writings by her depiction of the Indian way of life, incorporating little known facts with the overall picture of the way the Indian truly lived.

"Hollywood in the 50's and many cowboy/western novels of that time," says Kay, "did not paint a true picture of the American Indian. And anyone who will spend any time researching, will discover this for himself.

"The American Indian was a gentleman, in the true sense of the word. Roaming the prairies, he did not fight or kill the white man until so betrayed and driven by the incoming culture, the Indian had no choice but to turn and defend his homeland.

"My books center upon the American Indian culture as it was--a true picture--not colored with the sensationalism of death and destruction as was depicted by the newspapers and 'eyewitnesses' of the time, who often carried more political ambition, than truth.

"I do exhaustive research," says Karen Kay, who prefers to be called Kay. "Even to the extent of spending my honeymoon (I've just recently 'tied the knot') on the Blackfeet reservation in Montana.
All of Kay's "Indian romances" seem to be based on the same premise:Many centuries ago, a village killed the children of the Thunder God. For their crime, the Creature banished them to live a half existence in the land of mists, neither dead nor alive."

But once in a generation, a brave is given the opportunity to save his clan.
For example:In 1892, that warrior is Black Lion

There was only one way for Black Lion to melt the Thunder God's anger; listen for a sacred white-man's song--and sing it perfectly with the one who introduced him to it. He joins Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and travels to London, where he encounters the daughter of two opera singers--the most beautiful woman he's ever seen. However, Suzette Joselyn is already engaged to another man...

But the two are destined to meet again when Suzette shows up in America, pregnant and abandoned by her fiance. Reunited with Black Lion she finds it impossible to turn down his offer of marriage to save her child from life as a bastard. But she doesn't realize that her brave new husband is consumed with a mission that may force him to choose between his people and the woman he loves...
Comment:  "Black Lion"...right. Because Indians knew all about African lions. And followed the white man's occasional practice of calling cougars "lions." Not.

I read through Kay's blurbs for four of her books. Apparently all her Indians were "children of the Thunder God" but are now a "Lost Clan." Tellingly, there's not a single mention of a genuine Indian person, place, or thing. The only historical reference is to Buffalo Bill's Wild West shows.

Is she serious about Indians living in "the land of mists"? That might work if the Lost Clan's tribe lived on the Pacific coast, but not if it roamed the prairies. The prairies aren't known for their mists.

I hope that phrase is a metaphor and not a reference to some sort of mystical Brigadoon. Whatever it is, it sounds like a variation of the vanishing Indian stereotype. Needless to say, most tribes didn't vanish into the mist. Wherever the US government put them or left them, they didn't go into hiding. They remained where they were in plain sight.

Where the deer and the Indians roam

Of course, most Indians didn't "roam the prairies" either. They roamed the coasts, the deserts, the bayous, the forests, and the tundra as well as the prairies. Many didn't roam at all but lived in one place.

It's a good guess that all of Kay's Indians are stereotypical Plains Indians. The half-naked warriors on her book covers only reinforce this impression.

Moreover, "Black Lion" looks like a white man. In particular, like a white woman's fantasy of a Caucasian-like "Indian" who's no more savage than an Anglo "gentleman." The other three book covers also feature white "Indians." Kay might as well have gone with the "white man adopted by Indians" cliché, because that's what her protagonists resemble.

In short, Kay's website doesn't inspire me to want to read her books. Readers seeking authentic Indians may want to search elsewhere.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Books.

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