April 28, 2009

Smith on Everything You Know

A look at author Paul Chaat Smith and his new book, Everything You Know About Indians Is Wrong:

Scribblings:  Paul Chaat Smith

By Ben H. RomeIn a way, his latest book seeks to force the reader to confront the “modern mythology” slowly coming to form about Native Americans. Public understanding gravitates to what popular culture says, while the variety of Indian voices are slowly drowned out in the static. It’s a duality that is hard to wrestle with, but one that Paul embraces with his work at the NMAI. “We try to show the collection of voices here,” he said, “which is not an easy road, and we fail as often as we succeed. But I think in the end as long as the visitor walks away questioning what they thought they knew, then I think we’ve made a start.”

Everything You Know… attempts to do that, through Paul’s own voice. It’s a very entertaining read; while it does critique at times the (often) disputed role Indians have had in the U.S., it also explores with dry wit and humor how today’s media portrays “the noble savage.” The book walks the line between skepticism and empathy, and at the end the reader has to admit that the book title is indeed, accurate.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Books.

1 comment:

Simone said...

Funny..I just put this on my to read list..looking forward to it! Thanks for the heads up.