August 08, 2012

"Books that Shaped America"

Debbie Reese writes about a book exhibit in her American Indians in Children's Literature blog (7/24/12):

"Books that Shaped America" at the Library of CongressRecently, I began to see links to a new exhibit at the Library of Congress. Titled "Books That Shaped America," it consists of 91 books.

When I learned of the list, I wondered who selected them and if those individuals had an inclusive view of the peoples of America. I've since learned that the list was developed by "curators and experts from throughout the Library of Congress."

There are some great items on that list, but, there isn't a single title on the "Books that Shaped America" by an American Indian, which makes me wonder about the curators and experts who selected the books. Is there not an American Indian amongst them? Or, perhaps, an expert in American Indian writings?

That list of books should include Vine Deloria Jr.'s bestseller, Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto. It led a great many people to think critically about the U.S. government and American Indians. Deloria's ideas shaped a lot of thinkers who were and influential in government policies that shaped and continue to shape America. Custer Died For Your Sins was (and is) very influential in other places, too. It shaped the ways that many American Indian Studies programs at universities are structured, and, it changed the shape of the ways that anthropology departments study American Indians. Deloria's work is so influential that symposiums are named after him.
Comment:  The list does include Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, which is the first "Native" book I thought of. I presume that's supposed to fill the "Native" slot even though a non-Native wrote it.

The list includes several works of fiction that I doubt did much to "shape America." There's arguably room for another Native book, and Deloria's book is probably the best choice.

For more on a related subject, see Alexie and Erdrich Deserve Nobel Prizes.

No comments: