Conflicted

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child releases soon and the world is once again engulfed in Harry Potter Mania. People are starting to freak out, my bookstore is preparing for a Midnight Release, we have a cute display up and fans are getting that magical feeling again. This is the excitement that J.K. Rowling so brilliantly created for us; we’re anxious to return to the world of Harry Potter and see where she takes us next.

Except…I can’t get over how J.K. Rowling continues to ignore Native voices.

These voices are speaking up about her cultural appropriation in Magic in North America. I wrote a bit about it here, around the time the first chapter was released on Pottermore, and though it’s been months, Rowling has been silent. No engagement and no dialogue. Her only response so far to this problematic piece of writing has been to block a Native person on Twitter.

There’s a very bitter taste in my mouth. I’ve been trying to re-read the series in anticipation of the new book and I just…can’t right now.

One great thing about the internet and social media is that it’s a powerful platform; Native authors and academics are discussing J.K. Rowling’s work and major news outlets have amplified their voices. This is a big deal.

I’ve also been thinking about the lines between respect, fandom and criticism of authors/illustrators. Sam Bloom wrote a really good piece about Lane Smith’s book A Tribe of Kids, “playing indian” and critically examining an author’s work. Authors make mistakes and they can also learn from them. Especially in children’s literature, it’s important to listen to criticism because THIS IS ABOUT THE KIDS. When you’re writing about/alluding to cultures that aren’t your own, you have the responsibility to be respectful.

With great power comes great responsibility, J.K. Right?

Harry Potter and the Goblet of NOPE!

magicinNA copy

Image Credit: Pottermore/Warner Brothers

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET of NOPE!

Dear JK Rowling,

Alia here.

There’s no denying you’re one of the most brilliant minds of our era. You’ve created worlds that we get lost in and complex characters that we love dearly. But with MAGIC IN NORTH AMERICA, something went wrong.

Maybe it’s that you’re not from North America? But surely you did your research into the complexities that are the native peoples of this continent…Maybe it’s that you didn’t grow up constantly bombarded by stereotypical images of native people on TV, in movies, as Halloween costumes, etc.? Maybe it’s because you didn’t go to school here and didn’t receive an incomplete history of native peoples that basically stops after “First Contact” & “Thanksgiving” and ignores modern native people? Perhaps…

There are real issues here. You’re dealing with real people, cultures, traditions and religions and with that comes a lot of responsibility. Native people are already heavily stereotyped around the world as “Magical Beings” and now…they’re in your magical canon! Not only do you refer to them as a monolithic group (there are hundreds of nations in the US alone), you *seem* to imply that native wand-less magic is powerful but not as refined as European magic (due to the power of a wand).

I encourage you, Ms. Rowling, to respond to native academics, fans, etc. who are asking you tough, but important questions. Debbie Reese, Dr. Adrienne Keene and many others have tweeted at you. Herehere & here are some EXCELLENT articles that delve into your work from a native perspective. This one is excellent as well. I ask you to check out Debbie Reese and Dr. Adrienne Keene’s websites in general. Just look around. They do great work.

Let’s get this discussion going and please let us know who you consulted for this project because we’re SUPER CURIOUS. (at least I am…)

Representation Matters.

It really does and yes, anyone CAN write a story, but I’d hope they LISTEN and learn as much as possible before releasing it to the world, especially when you’re dealing with living people, religions, and NATIVE KIDS. There’s a long history of misrepresentation, exploitation and stereotyping of native peoples.

MAGIC IN NORTH AMERICA is problematic and we await your response…

Sincerely,

A Fan

**SIPS TEA (out of the Goblet of Fire)**

Thanksgiving PSA

ThanksgivingTurkeys

My Korean students’ hand turkeys. Assignment was to write what they were most thankful for. 🙂 Click image to view more closely, then click again to zoom! 

 

Well, it’s that time of year when teachers and parents look for books that celebrate Thanksgiving. Ultimately, Thanksgiving in the United States is a holiday to give thanks, eat copious amounts of food and spend time with family. The history of the holiday however is very much sugar coated and this is evident in a lot of Thanksgiving children’s literature…

If diverse literature is necessary for our children’s growth, we must be sure to let diverse voices speak, and speak clearly and true.

Most people don’t even know that the Pilgrims interacted with Wampanoag Indians. People just know about “Pilgrims and Indians.” There is rarely any discussion about what happened after the sharing of food (broken treaties, take-over of land, violence and disease). Some people think that children are too young to know the real history but I beg to differ; almost any topic can be brought to a level that children can understand and handle. The relationship between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag involved understanding and protection. There were treaties, agreements and opportunities for celebration. The Wampanoag taught the Pilgrims how to harvest and survive on their land. The first “Thanksgiving” as we’ve come to call it, happened in 1621 and was a result of the Pilgrims shooting off guns to celebrate a successful harvest. Wampanoag leader Massasoit sent warriors to check out the ruckus but realized they were just celebrating, so he and his men joined in on the celebrations, hunted and brought food.

Perhaps many teachers are anxiously waiting to see their students dressed up as Pilgrims and Indians but please keep in mind that 1) There is a long and problematic history of “playing Indian” and cultural appropriation in our country’s history 2) dressing up as Native peoples reinforces the idea that Native people are only in the past; most people in the U.S. can’t name any contemporary Native American activists, musicians, writers, actors, lawmakers, etc. Also, many children’s books don’t bother to accurately illustrate the regalia (not costumes) of Wampanoag people; any old “Indian outfit” will do as long as it is cute. Representation is important.

Listed below is one really cool book and several GREAT links and resources for your consideration this Thanksgiving season.

Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble Gobble!


 

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving (I Am American) by Catherine O’Neil Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac, 2004 National Geographic Children’s Books, ISBN: 9780792261391

American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving– Really great resource from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

The Real History of Thanksgiving Teacher’s Guide– History Channel Resource

Best Thanksgiving Books for Children– Good list of books

Are You Teaching the Real Story of the “First Thanksgiving?”– Great Education World article

What Really Happened on the First Thanksgiving? -Indian Country Today Media Network Article

Oyate.com Thanksgiving article and book list