November 25, 2012

Fated romanticizes, stereotypes Indians

I posted before about the teen paranormal novel Fated by Alyson Noel. Here's its blurb on things are happening to Daire Santos. Crows mock her, glowing people stalk her, time stops without warning, and a beautiful boy with unearthly blue eyes haunts all her dreams. Fearing for her daughter’s sanity, Daire’s mother sends her to live with the grandmother she’s never met. A woman who recognizes the visions for what they truly are—the call to her destiny as a Soul Seeker—one who can navigate the worlds between the living and dead.

There on the dusty plains of Enchantment, New Mexico, Daire sets out to harness her mystical powers. But it’s when she meets Dace, the boy from her dreams, that her whole world is shaken to its core. Now Daire is forced to discover if Dace is the one guy she's meant to be with...or if he’s allied with the enemy she's destined to destroy.
I suspected the Soul Seeker series would offer a stereotypical view of Indians. Now Debbie Reese confirms it in her American Indians in Children's Literature blog:

Alyson Noel's FATEDI'm guessing fans of Fated are people who wish to "honor" Native people with mascots...

What I mean by "people who honor Native people with mascots" means people with little substantive knowledge about Native people. Instead of factual knowledge of who we are, they embrace romantic ideas of us as warriors and shamans with feathers and drums. The people who want to "honor" us are people who mean well; they're people with good intentions.

But heck! How long is ignorance and stereotyping borne of good intentions going to go on?! I guess it'll continue as long as there is a market for stories with hunky "Native American" guys with high cheekbones, smooth brown skin, and long, glossy black hair.
And:Looking at Noel's page for the sequel, Echo, I see photos she took on a trip to NM, to do research for her book. She was in Espanola, which is about three hours north of Albuquerque. It is a small town, but much bigger than the fictional town of Enchanted (in Fated). She was also at Santuario, a church in Chimayo, New Mexico. If you watch the videos at her site, you'll see Noel talking about wanting to incorporate shamanism and witch doctors and medicine men into this "Soul Seekers" series, of which Fated is the first one. She's definitely quite taken with those that are other to her---but not in a good way.

In an interview (got there from a link on her site), she says she tried to portray shamanism and Native American spirituality "in an authentic way and to do so with reverence." Ms. Noel? You didn't do either. You can't be "authentic" if you're using "Native American" and there's the only reverence I see is the deeply flawed kind borne of romantic notions of American Indians rather than a reverence borne out of actual knowledge, personal relationships, and respect.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Shamanism Series Seeks Native Authenticity.

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