January 13, 2008

Trashy novels trash Indians

A Romance Novelist Is Accused of CopyingThe controversy began when smartbitchestrashybooks.com, a blog devoted to romance novels, posted excerpts from Ms. Edwards’s novels this week alongside passages from other sources to show the similarities, which the site’s authors said they had discovered by plugging some of Ms. Edwards’s writing into Google. The novels they checked include “Running Fox,” “Savage Longings,” “Savage Moon” and “Savage Beloved.” Ms. Edwards often writes about romances between Native American men and white women, complete with vivid descriptions of Indian life.

In the novel “Shadow Bear,” published by Signet in 2007, the bloggers said a reader was able to find lines that appear to have come, with little or no modification, from a few sources, though mostly from a novel, “Land of the Spotted Eagle” by Luther Standing Bear, and an article about black-footed ferrets from Defenders of Wildlife magazine.

At one point, for instance, a character in “Shadow Bear” says, “Researchers theorize that polecats crossed the land bridge that once linked Siberia and Alaska, to establish the New World population.”

An article by Paul Tolme in the summer 2005 issue of Defenders of Wildlife, headlined “Toughing It Out in the Badlands,” contains this line: “Researchers theorize polecats crossed the land bridge that once linked Siberia and Alaska to establish the New World population.”
The publisher backtracks on its shaky position:“Our original comments were based on Signet’s review of a limited selection of passages,” Mr. Burke’s statement said. “We believe the situation deserves further review. Therefore we will be examining all of Ms. Edwards’s books that we publish, and based on the outcome of that review we will take action to handle the matter accordingly. We want to make it known that Signet takes any and all allegations of plagiarism very seriously.”

Earlier this week, when the allegation became public, Signet had maintained that “copyright fair-use doctrine permits reasonable borrowing and paraphrasing of another author’s words, especially for the purpose of creating something new and original.”
The copying is unethical if it isn't illegal:Candy Tan and Sarah Wendell, the blog’s co-authors, said that while Ms. Edwards may not have infringed copyright law, they consider her actions unethical.

“It’s disappointing because, as a reader and a consumer, I assume it’s something this person wrote,” Ms. Wendell said in an interview. “A good many historical romance novels contain author’s notes listing where you can go for more information. There are romance novelists who use footnotes.”
Why the plagiarism hurts Indians:

Romantic Fiction, Historical Fiction, and American IndiansQuestionable use of sources aside, Edwards' books are best sellers, but they're dangerous in this way. She does some research, enough to be able to introduce plots that hook the reader with a semblance of authenticity.

For example, the heroine in one of her books is the daughter of an anthropologist who works for the Smithsonian. He's out west to gather information about Indians before they vanish. That activity did, in fact, take place. The Smithsonian sent people out west to collect information, under the notion that Indians were about to vanish. So, Edwards has a hook.

Now we're learning, according to the news reports, she's using material from Native and non-Native sources to flesh out her stories. If she acknowledged her sources, that could be seen as a good strategy.

However! The stories themselves are so deeply enmeshed and woven with romantic, tragic, stereotypical characters, that the novels work towards strengthening and affirming the readers mistaken ideas about who American Indians were and are.
(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 1/12/08.)

Comment:  Any book with a title such as "Savage Longings," "Savage Moon," or "Savage Beloved" should be treated as suspect. If it isn't plagiarized, it's probably stereotypical.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree. Her books are shite. So stereotypical.