Five Books About Native Americans by Authors Who Aren't
"Every time I venture into a bookstore, I find another book about Indians. There are hundreds of books about Indians published every year, yet so few are written by Indians," writes award-winning poet, author and filmmaker Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d'Alene) in his poem "The Unauthorized Autobiography of Me." "A book written by a non-Indian who identifies as mixed-blood will sell more copies than a book written by a person who identifies as strictly Indian," he claims, which perhaps helps explain bogus memoirs such as Love and Consequences by Margaret B. Jones and The Blood Runs Like a River Through My Dreams by the "Navahoax" Nasdijj.
A wise reader of Native American literature learns to be discerning. Simon J. Ortiz (Acoma), Vine Deloria Jr. (Standing Rock Sioux), N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa), Linda Hogan (Chickasaw), and Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain
Ojibwe) are a few of the distinguished native voices. Read on, though, for a list of books on Indians by non-Indians, and what Native Americans think of them. And then tell us who your favorite indigenous authors are.
1. "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" by Dee Brown. "The epic tragedy which Dee Brown described so vividly and thoroughly in his iconic history . . . As students in the early 1970s, members of my generation of American Indians carried paperback copies in our backpacks as talismans of hope," says Hanay Geiogamah, director, UCLA American Indian Studies Center, on a NativeWeb blog.
2. "Thirteen Moons" by Charles Frazier. "To me it is a fictional account of Cherokee history, including the Trail of Tears ... that will possibly be read by thousands, if not millions, [that] some of these readers will no doubt believe to be historical fact," laments MariJo Moore (Cherokee) in her essay in Sovereign Bones: New Native American Writing (Eric Gansworth, editor).
3. "On the Rez" by Ian Frazier. "Indians' relationship to this country is still that of the colonized, so that when non-Indians write about us, it's colonial literature. . . . What really bothered me about Ian Frazier's book is how everybody kept talking about it as some sort of special work, and it's not. It's a really ordinary book. There are flagrant inaccuracies. The galley had at least fifty historical errors. And I really had a problem with the point of view," says Sherman Alexie in an interview on theatlantic.com.
4. "The Indian in the Cupboard" by Lynne Reid Banks. "Although the little 'Indian' is called Iroquois, no attempt has been made, either in text or illustrations, to have him look or behave appropriately. For example, he is dressed as a Plains Indian, and is given a tipi and a horse," complains Doris Seale in Through Indian Eyes.
5. "Little House on the Prairie" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. "I would not want my child to read [it]. I would shield him from the slights she slings upon his ancestors. They appear in her book only as beggars and thieves, and she adds injury to insult by comparing the Osages . . . to reptiles, to garbage or scum," says Dennis McAuliffe, Jr., on oyate.org's list of books to avoid.
What American Indian writers would you want your children to read?
-- Mary Morris
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: mary morris | March 13, 2008 5:49 PM
Posted by: John Luke Flyinghorse Sr. aka Eya Mani | March 13, 2008 10:40 PM
Posted by: Johnnie | March 14, 2008 10:18 AM
Posted by: mary morris | March 14, 2008 1:40 PM
Posted by: mary morris | March 14, 2008 1:56 PM
Posted by: mary morris | March 14, 2008 2:03 PM
Posted by: Naiche | March 14, 2008 4:25 PM
Posted by: Michael Bartley | March 14, 2008 5:32 PM
Posted by: John Luke | March 16, 2008 2:54 PM
Posted by: Mari Anton | March 17, 2008 4:30 PM
Posted by: shw | April 11, 2008 10:03 AM
Posted by: mary morris | April 14, 2008 8:47 PM
Posted by: Erin | April 22, 2008 2:44 PM
Posted by: Sappho | April 25, 2008 9:40 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.