August 05, 2007

No such thing as "Indian fiction"?

Fletcher:  'Native American Fiction' tough on Indian cultureUniversity of Minnesota professor David Treuer, Leech Lake Ojibwe, offers a new way of looking at the culture of Indian people in his 2006 book of literary criticism, "Native American Fiction: A User's Manual." He takes on other literary critics, especially those who critique the work of Indian novelists such as Sherman Alexie, Louise Erdrich, Leslie Marmon Silko and James Welch for creating a genre of literature that Treuer does not believe exists--"Native American fiction." Treuer argues that the work of great Indian writers isn't any more authentic than "The Education of Little Tree" or "Hanta Yo."

Treuer concludes that there can be no such thing as "Native American fiction," in part, because Indian people never wrote fiction in the form of novels. Indian storytellers were not novelists and any Indian writing novels cannot possibly be writing in the vein of "Native Americans." His argument goes beyond a jab at literary critics--he attacks Alexie, for example, as perpetuating stereotypical images of Indian people by using motifs such as "Indian tears" in his story collection "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven." He lands similar body blows on both Silko's "Ceremony" and Welch's "Name of Book." But he reserves special disapproval for Erdrich, focusing on her imperfect use of Anishinaabemowin (the language of the Anishinaabek) in her novels. He lauds her earnest attempts to learn the language and to incorporate the language into her writing, but ultimately concludes that her work is not authentic Indian culture. He compares Erdrich's work to a copy of a Van Gogh masterpiece and asserts that no one would pay big bucks for a mere copy.

1 comment:

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Wow, a Native American 'fundamentalist'! By the same logic, however, there must be no such thing as "European fiction" as EuroMan in his tribal days DID NOT WRITE FICTION IN THE FORM OF NOVELS, EITHER. And the same proviso would hold true for any other race of humans on the face of the planet who did not write fiction in the form of novels in their tribal days, as well. The Library of Congress must be a ghost edifice devoted to futility, as there cannot be either American fiction nor even world fiction to adorn its shelves and databases. The scientists translating the hundreds of papyrus pages adorning one particular mummy's sarcophagus might as well give it all up, as there cannot be anything approaching Egyptian fiction.
What David Treuer fails to recognize is that he has decided to play EuroMan's game, judging and critiquing by rules he did not make on forms of writing that he did not write. Further, he has written his own fiction, again not realizing that his own logic dictates that there can be no such thing as "Native American critique" because Native Americans were not critics and never wrote in the form of 'scholarly' critique.
writerfella hopes that Treuer never has a nosebleed in a strong Minnesota wind or he will have to surrender his CDIB card, that is, IF he has one...
All Best
Russ Bates