May 08, 2012

Imitating Indians in Sendak's books

A reaction to Maurice Sendak's death:

Mixed Reaction to Work of Where the Wild Things Are Late Author Maurice Sendak“Tributes to Maurice Sendak swept through the Internet today,” she told Indian Country Today Media Network by e-mail. “A great many people loved his books for children, and no doubt his books hooked children, turning them into lifelong readers. That, in itself, is a good thing.”

However, she added, there was another side to his work.

“Most readers, I think, never paused—or pause—to consider his stereotyping of American Indians,” she wrote. “In his alphabet book Alligators All Around, published in 1962, he literally advocates playing Indian with the text on the I page that reads ‘Imitating Indians.’ Nearly 50 years later, he was still drawing characters playing Indian in Bumble-ardy.”

He was “a gifted artist and storyteller,” she said. “Imagine the story he would tell, and the impact it would make, if he had brought those skills to a new story that was critiquing his stereotyping of Indians!”
Comment:  People didn't think much about Native stereotypes in 1962. But Sendak could've updated the "I" page, and there's no excuse for a redface scene in a 2011 book.

For more on the subject, see Playing Indian in Not Me! and Whites "Play Indian" in Swamplandia!

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