March 03, 2010

Fortune cookie inspired Walk Two Moons

The origin of Walk Two Moons, the Newbery-winning children's book by non-Native Sharon Creech:

Sharon Creech Interview TranscriptWas Walk Two Moons based on a real-life experience?
There is a part of the book that is based on a real-life experience, and that is the trip that Salamanca takes from Ohio to Idaho. My family took that trip when I was 12.

How did you come up with the title Walk Two Moons?
I had discovered a fortune cookie message in the bottom of my purse and the message was: “Don't judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccasins.” I realized that everything that I was trying to say in this book had to do with that message; that you need to get to know someone well before you form an opinion about them, and in a way, that's what we writers are doing every day with our characters. So I liked the parallel there.
Thoughts on Sharon Creech's WALK TWO MOONSIn the interview, she said that the saying itself captured what she was doing with the story, so, she used it for the title. In her Newbery Medal acceptance speech, she said:

My cousins maintain that one of our ancestors was an American Indian. As a child, I loved that notion, and often exaggerated it by telling people that I was a full-blooded Indian. I inhaled Indian myths... I crept through the woods near our house, reenacting these myths, and wishing, wishing, for a pair of soft leather moccasins. (I admit--but without apology--that my view of American Indians was a romantic one.)
"without apology"--I find that remark unsettling. Substitute "American Indians" with, say, "African Americans." One romantic view of African Americans is the one of happy slaves. Might Creech be unapologetic for holding a romantic view of African Americans as happy slaves?
(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 2/25/10.)

Comment:  I love the idea of a Native-themed book inspired by a fortune cookie. It's not unequivocally wrong, but it's a big clue about the author's mindset.

Reese goes on to list some of the book's problems. It doesn't appear to have any blatant stereotypes, but its view of Indians seems muddled and superficial.

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

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