July 05, 2009

Reviewing books based on Westerns

In Imagining a Girl Warrior, I posted a scathing review of Apache: Girl Warrior. This was in contrast to the mainstream press, where the book got mostly good reviews. That happened despite the author's being "a Brit, doing research from afar," according to educator Debbie Reese.

Here's another reviewer who noted the book's flaws and Reese's thoughts on the reviewers who didn't:

Tanya Landman and Can't-be-relied-on reviewsThe only reviewer that got it right is Jenny Ingram at VOYA. I am just now reading all these reviews, and was surprised to read her words, and, that she pointed readers to Oyate and to American Indians in Children's Literature. Thanks, Jenny! In VOYA, the book was tagged as "Hard to understand how it got published." Jenny wrote: "The narration by Siki is awkward and unnatural, written as if the British author drew upon American Indian movies to write her book. In her afterword, Landman writes that she made no attempt to create an accurate historical novel, yet a bibliography follows, which will mislead readers about the credibility of the book."

Having read Apache: Girl Warrior, and now, reading the reviews of it, I think it is clear that the reviewers, with the exception of Jenny Ingram, are writing reviews based on their memories--to use Jenny's words--of American Indian movies. She means, I think, all those westerns where bad Indians slaughter innocent pioneer families or tragic Indians lament their losses. It was and is all bogus, and it is disappointing that the reviews of Landman's book are good. They should not be.
(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 7/3/09.)

Comment:  I wouldn't be surprised if Reese was right. Old Westerns have had a profound effect on how we view Indians. They're arguably the primary source material about Indians for most Americans.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Books.

No comments: