Monday, February 12, 2018

Announcing This Year's Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Recipient!

AICL readers,

Please join me (Jean) in a roar of approval for the 2018 recipient of the American Library Association (ALA) May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture award:

(drum roll please)

Debbie Reese!
Photo credit: @librarygrl

Her lecture will be delivered in 2019, at a location to be decided.

For those who don't follow ALA matters, this is Kind of A Big Deal. Naomi Shihab Nye is the current Arbuthnot honoree. Past recipient/lecturers include Jacqueline Woodson, K.T. Horning, Walter Dean Myers, Ursula K. Leguin, and Maurice Sendak.

The announcement came today during the ALA annual midwinter meeting in Denver.

Wish I'd had the presence of mind to make a screen shot of the slide they showed during the announcement, but i was too busy screaming joyfully along with a lot of other people. (At 3:31 PM on Feb. 12, the above image was added.)

Click here to find out more about the award, and hear some past lectures.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Winners of 2018 American Indian Library Association's Youth Literature Award!

Every two years, the American Indian Library Association's Youth Literature Award committee selects books to receive its awards in three categories: Picture Book, Middle Grade Book, and Young Adult Book. From books published in 2016 and 2017, these are the winners

An important note: every single one is from a small press--where editors know what they're doing. In 2016 and 2017, "the Big Five" published a lot of books that purport to be about Native peoples, but they are not written by Native people. In one explicit or subtle way or another, they fail to provide Native children with mirrors. 

Books presented here, however, are exquisite. I highly recommend you get them for your classroom, school, or home library. Some of the books are ones where several people were involved. Look up each name! Get to know what they do! Visit the websites of these publishers! Promote and share their work, wherever you see it.

Here they are, in one image. Twelve books, but the creative work of almost 100 different Native people! 


Best Picture Book is Shanyaak'utlaax: Salmon Boy (2017), published by the Sealaska Heritage Institute. The book is edited by Tlingit speakers Johnny Marks, Hans Chester, David Katzeek, and Nora Dauenhauer and Tlingit linguist Richard Dauenhauer and illustrated by Michaela Goade. (Please see "A Watery World" -- an interview of illustrator, Goade.)

Picture Book Honors went to:

Black Bear Red Fox (2017), written and illustrated by Julie Flett (Cree/Métis). Native Northwest.

I'm Dreaming of...Animals of the Native Northwest (2017), written by Melaney Gleeson-Lyall (Musqueam, Coast Salish) and illustrated by First Nations artists. Native Northwest.

All Around Us (2017), written by Xelena González (Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation) and illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia. Cinco Puntos Press.

Mission to Space (2016), written and illustrated by John Herrington (Chickasaw). White Dog Press.

Fall in Line, Holden! (2017), written and illustrated by Daniel W. Vandever (Diné). Salina Bookshelf, Inc.

Best Middle Grade book is Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers, Volume 1 (2016), published by Native Realities, edited by Arigon Starr (Kickapoo) and featuring the work of Theo Tso (Las Vegas Paiute), Jonathan Nelson (Diné), Kristina Bad Hand (Sičháŋǧu Lakota/Cherokee), Roy Boney Jr. (Cherokee), Lee Francis IV (Laguna Pueblo), Johnnie Diacon (Mvskoke/Creek), Weshoyot Alvitre (Tongva), Renee Nejo (Mesa Grand Band of Mission Indians), and Michael Sheyahshe (Caddo).

Middle Grade Honor Book is The Wool of Jonesy, Part 1 (2016) written and illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (Diné). Native Realities.

Best Young Adult Book is #Not Your Princess: Voices of Native American Women (2017), published by Annick Press, edited by Lisa Charleyboy (Tsilhqot’in) and Mary Beth Leatherdale. Art, poems, stories, and photographs by Aza Erdrich Abe (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe), Claire Anderson (Taku River Tlingit), Joanne Arnott (Métis/mixed blood), Monique Bedard Aura Last (Haudenosaunee Oneida), Gwen Benaway (Anishinaabe and Métis), Nathalie Bertin (Franco-Métis), Stephanie Big Crow (Tsuu T'ina Nation), Maria Campbell (Métis), Tenille Campbell (Dene/Métis), Imajyn Cardinal (Cree/Dene), Adrianne Chalepah (Kiowa/Apache), Lianne Marie Leda Charlie (descendant of the Tagé Cho Hudan, Northern Tutchone-speaking people of the Yukon), Chief Lady Bird - Nancy King (Potawatomi and Chippewa from Rama First Nation with paternal ties to Moose Deer Point), Dana Claxton (Hunkpapa Lakota), Clear Wind Blows Over the Moon (Cree First Nations), Francine Cunningham (Cree/Métis), Danielle Daniel (Métis), Jessica Deer (Mohawk), Rosanna Deerchild (Cree), Sierra Edd (Diné), Kelly Edzerza-Bapty (Tahltan Nation of Telegraph Creek), Ka'ila Farrell-Smith (Klamath/Modoc), Melanie Fey (Dine), Isabella Fillspipe (Oglala Lakota), Julie Flett (Cree/Métis), Nahanni Fontaine (Anishinaabe), Karlene Harvey (Tsilhqot'in, Carrier, and Okanagan nations), Hazel Hedgecoke (Sioux/Hunkpapa/Wendat/Métis/Cherokee/Creek), Rayna Hernandez (Lakota), Linda Hogan (Chickasaw), Wakeah Jhane (Penatuka and Yaparucah bands of Comanche, and Blackfeet and Kiowa), Helen Knott (Dana Zaa and Heniyawak from Prophet River First Nation), Brigitte Lacquette (Ojibwe, Cote First Nation), Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe/Ojibwe), Cecilia Rose LaPoint (Ojibway/Métis), Gloria Larocque Campbell Moses (Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation), Winona Linn (Meskwaki), Shelby Lisk (Tyendinaga Mohawk Nation), Ashton Locklear (Lumbee), Darian Lonechild (White Bear First Nation), Lee Maracle (Sto:lo Nation), Madelaine McCallum (Cree/Métis), Tiffany Midge (Hunkpapa Lakota), Saige Mukash (Cree), Pamela J. Peters (Navajo), Ntawnis Piapot (Piapot Cree Nation), Natanya Ann Pulley (Diné), Zondra Zoey Roy (Cree/Dene/Métis), Shoni Schimmmel (Umatilla), Leanne Betasmosake Simpson (Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg), Janet Smylie (Cree/Métis), Tasha Spillett (Cree/Trinidadian), Patty Stonefish (Lakota/German/Russian/French/Polish/Mexican/HUMAN), DeLanna Studi (Cherokee), Jen VanStrander (Western Band of Cherokee), Tania Willard (Secwepemc Nation), Tanaya Winder (Southern Ute, Shoshone, and Paiute Nations), and AnnaLee Rain Yellowhammer (Hunkpapa/Standing Rock Sioux). 

Young Adult Honor Books are:

The Marrow Thieves (2017), written by Cherie Dimaline (Métis). DCB (submitted by Orca Books).

Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An Indigenous LGBT Sci-Fi Anthology (2016), edited by Hope Nicholson, including stories by Anishinaabe authors Grace L. Dillon, Niigaan Sinclair, and Nathan Adler; Richard Van Camp (Dene/Tłı̨chǫ), Cherie Dimaline (Métis), David A. Robertson (Swampy Cree), Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee), Darcie Little Badger (Lipan Apache), Gwen Benaway (Annishinabe/Mètis), Mari Kurisato (Ojibwe Nakawē), and Cleo Keahna (Ojibwe/Meskwaki). Bedside Press.

Fire Starters (2016), written by Jen Storm (Ojibway); illustrated by Scott B. Henderson and colorist Donovan Yaciuk. HighWater Press.

Members of the committee: 
Naomi Bishop, Chair (Akimel O'odham/Pima)
Sunny Real Bird (Apsaalooke Crow Tribe)
Linda Wynne (Tlingit/Haida)
Ofelia Zepeda (Tohono O'oodham)
Janice Kowemy (Laguna Pueblo)
Janet Mumford
Lara Aase

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Not Recommended: Keira Drake's THE CONTINENT (the 2018 revision)

You may recall that, back in 2016, there was a lot of pushback to Keira Drake's The Continent. 

I recommend you read Zoraida Córdova's critique on November 7, 2016, at YA Interrobang. It is excellent. 

In response to the intense conversations on social media, Drake and her publisher, Harlequin Teen (a division of HarperCollins), decided to postpone the release of The Continent to give Drake an opportunity to revise it. 

I wonder if their decision is based on a multi-book contract? 

The Continent is the first book in a series she is going to write. It is "Book 1" in the series, and will be released on March 27, 2018. 


In their announcement on November 7, 2016 (posted to their Tumblr page), Harlequin Teen said:
Over the last few days, there has been online discussion about racial stereotypes in connection with one of our upcoming 2017 titles, The Continent by Keira Drake. 
As the publisher, we take the concerns that have been voiced seriously. We are deeply sorry to have caused offense, as this was never our or the author's intention. We have listened to the criticism and feedback and are working with the author to address the issues that have been raised. 
We fully support Keira as a talented author. To ensure that the themes in her book are communicated in the way she planned, we will be moving the publication date. 
- HarlequinTeen

I wrote about the 2016 ARC (advance review copy) on January 31, 2017. Over the last couple of weeks, I've read the 2018 ARC. 

My conclusion? 
Drake's revisions are superficial. 
The Continent is not better now than it was in 2016. 


If you haven't read the book, here is what you need to know to make sense of my review:
The main character is a teen named Vaela Sun who lives on a land mass called the Spire. In their heli-planes, people of the Spire like to fly over a land mass they call the Continent, to see the battle there between two nations of people. It reminds them how far they've come. Vaela and her parents are on the tour with Mr. and Mrs. Shaw and their son, Aaden. When their heli-plane crashes on the Continent, Vaela is captured by the Xoe and rescued by Nomo, who is of the Aven'ei nation. 

Let's start with changes to the books description. The first and last paragraphs are unchanged. The middle paragraph has some changes. The word "uncivilized" is gone from the 2018 description. The significant change, however, as shown here in the highlighted text from the middle paragraph, is about who Vaela is:
For Vaela--a talented apprentice cartographer--the journey is a dream come true: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve upon the maps she's drawn of this vast, frozen land. 
For Vaela, the war holds little interest. As a talented apprentice cartographer and a descendant of the Continent herself, she sees the journey as a dream come true: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve upon the maps she’s drawn of this vast, frozen land.
In the revision, Drake has made Vaela a descendent of one of the nations on the Continent. That information is presented on page 18:
“Did you know, my mother says, addressing the Shaws, “that Vaela and I are of Aven’ei descent?”
 Aaden looks back and forth between the two of us. “Are you quite sure?” he says. “Many claim as much, but its rarely true.”
 She smiles. “We can trace it all the way back to one of my ancestors, a Miss Delia Waters. She was a cultural attaché for the East—an illustrious position, all told—and spent a great deal of time on the Continent, back in that all-too-short bit of time when we had contact with those living overseas. Anyhow, we haven’t all the details, but we know she married an Aven’ei by the name of Qia who died soon after their wedding. She returned to the Spire, kept her given name, and gave birth to a baby boy—Roderick—a man of considerable accomplishment, so the story goes.”

At her website, Drake said that she is Sicilian, Native American, French, Irish, and Danish and that she takes great pride in her ancestry. Vaela and her mother, in this revision, have pride in their Aven'ei ancestry. She's got it a bit odd, though. Miss Delia Waters was not Aven'ei. She fell in love and married an Aven'ei man. Their son, Roderick, is the ancestor with Aven'ei heritage. An interesting note: as this story unfolds, Vaela falls in love with Nomo, who is Aven'ei. 

For many years while I was at the University of Illinois, I worked towards helping the university get rid of its "Chief Illiniwek." It was stereotypical, but fans loved and love it. When I or others described its history and its stereotypical aspects, we were sometimes countered by a person who said "well I'm part Native American and I think it honors Native Americans." That claim was put forth as a shield to give their point of view credibility. When pressed, they could not specify a Native nation (some said "Cherokee" -- which is not surprising). For others, a research process was being done--much like the one that Vaela and her mother have done. It'd be interesting to know Drake's backstory for their claim. What was Drake thinking of as she developed this for them? And was she (or is she) undertaking similar research on her own Native American ancestry? Either way, her decision to give Vaela that ancestry feels to me like a shield that gives Drake a way to say that this is not a White savior story. If Vaela's actions in the rest of the story changed in some way as a consequence of that identity, it might have worked, but there isn't any change. That identity is just inserted. It is returned to at the end, but all those pages in the middle are unchanged.

When Vaela's mother tells Mrs. Shaw that they have Aven'ei ancestry, Mrs. Shaw has some racist ideas that she doesn't hesitate to speak aloud. Mr. Shaw replies to her. Here's that passage (p. 19):

“I do hope you haven’t inherited any violent tendencies,” says Mrs. Shaw, before sticking a forkful of duck confit into her mouth, chewing it carefully, and swallowing. “I suspect that sort of thing gets passed right down through the generations. Bit of a questionable lineage, isn’t it?

A hush falls over the table at this remark; my mother and father shift in their chairs, and I sit quietly, poking at my entrée, my face flaming even though I am certainly not the one who should be embarrassed. Eventually, Mrs. Shaw looks round at us, her eyes wide. “What? Have I said something off?”

Mr. Shaw clears his throat. “Now dearest,” he says, “that’s a rather singular way of thinking, isn’t it? An outmoded way of thinking? Violence itself is not a thing exclusive to the Xoe and the Aven’ei. After all, before the Four Nations united to become the Spire, the people of our own lands were ever locked in some conflict or another.”
In recent conversations about racist characters and the words they utter, writers and critics state that there has to be someway to immediately check that racism, on that page. Mr. Drake is doing that, above. But, seeing it in action...  it feels forced. It, like the passages about Vaela's identity, are simply pasted into this story. There's nothing to make them work as part of the story. Cut them out, and you wouldn't miss them. Why, then is all of this here? As I said above, it feels like Drake is inserting them as a shield to protect her from criticism. Another change to the 2018 ARC is that Vaela prays, here and there, to "Maker." I wonder if that is Drake's effort to turn that Aven'ei heritage into some semblance of an Aven'ei religion? That is possible, but I didn't find it significant enough to matter.  


Some of the changes Drake made were easy to do. She was able to easily replace every use of "Topi" with "Xoe." She was able to search for "natives" and replace that, too, sometimes making minor edits in the words before and after the change.  Here's an example (highlights are mine):
2016, p. 15:"Have you any thoughts, Mr. Shaw, about the natives on the Continent?" 
2018, p. 17:"Have you any thoughts, Mr. Shaw, about the Xoe and the Aven'ei?"
Those changes, however, are superficial. You can swap "natives" for "Xoe" and unless major revisions are done to the ways that group is depicted, it doesn't matter. We still see them as brutal, doing things like hurling a head at the heli-plane. There's one part in both books where Vaela tells Nomo that they are people, too, but--as before--that effort is overwhelmed by the rest of the book. Indeed, when the Topi/Xoe are attacking the Aven'ei village, Vaela sets out to kill one with her knife and she kills others, later, on a battlefield. Her statement to Nomo that they're people, too, is feeble in light of all else she says and does, and all the ways that Drake describes them. 

If you read my review in January of 2017, you may recall that I was especially troubled by Drake's description of the Topi village. That is gone, but the changes do nothing, because the Topi/Xoe's character (as a people) is unchanged. Here's a passage about their villages from the 2016 ARC. In each of these two excerpts, I'll highlight the major changes (p. 47):
The architecture is different from that of the Aven'ei: cruder harsher, yet terribly formidable, even in the frozen, icy territory the Topi call home. The little towns, too, are much closer together than Aven'ei villages; I am reminded of an ant colony, with many chambers all connected together, working to support a single purpose.

And here's the revised passage in the 2018 ARC (p. 51):

The architecture is different from that of the Aven’ei: the buildings are small, for the most part, with long triangular rooftops dipping low toward the ground. Roads and walking paths twist here and there, looking around and about the small homes and other structures. All is sturdy and formidable in this frozen, icy territory the Xoe call home. The towns, too, while small, are much closer together than Aven’ei villages. I have the sense of greater cooperation, of community, of connection—of something like we’ve established in the Spire. 
Where she used "war paint" to describe the Topi, Drake is using "colorful tattoos" instead. Instead of having "reddish brown" skin, their skin is pale. What they look like, though, doesn't ultimately matter. What they do, is unchanged. When the heli-plane flies over a field where the Topi/Xoe and the Aven'ei are fighting, there's blood everywhere, spattered on the snow. The Xoe have killed all the Aven'ei and decapitated an archer. The Topi/Xoe then scream, raise their fists in the air, "drunk with victory, reveling in blood" and heave the severed head at the heli-plane (p. 51/56). See what I mean? It doesn't matter if the Topi/Xoe are in face paint or tattooed. It doesn't matter how much Vaela's thoughts here and there seem to think well of them. 

At the end of the story, Vaela returns to the Spire to ask for help. In the 2016 ARC, her idea is that the Spire can use its resources to build a wall between the two nations of people. In the 2018 ARC, her idea is that the Spire can build towers. Here's those two passages:
2016 (p. 262):“Build walls. Destroy access points. Create defenses the likes of which have never been seen on the Continent! Spirian construction is vastly superior to anything the natives can contrive, don’t you see? You can save the Aven’ei without ever raising so much as a finger against the Topi. You have the power to end this. You have the power to stop another war." 

2018 (p. 265):“Build towers, so that the Aven’ei might see when a Xoe force is coming. Establish plain sight of all access points. Create defenses the likes of which have never been seen on the Continent! And then, down the line, perhaps the Spire can help the Aven’ei and the Xoe to meet in the middle, to accomplish a peace of their own accord. Don’t you see? You can help without ever raising so much as a single weapon. You have the power to end this. You have the power to stop another war." 
Having given Vaela Aven'ei ancestry, Drake must think that her not-Spire-alone identity solves the White Savior problem of those passages. Who Vaela is, however, doesn't matter. She went to the Spire--to the more "civilized" people--to get help. By the end of both versions, the Spire arrives. They are exercising their power to stop the war on the Continent. I should note that there's more than one nation on the Spire, and it isn't all four that come to help.

Back on Feb 9 to insert a screen cap of the method I use for this kind of analysis. First column is 2016 ARC; second one is 2018. These four pages are from the first chapter, where most of the book's new content appears.


I think that Drake was also criticized for the language she created for the Aven'ei. They, and the language they speak, she said on her website, were inspired by Asian and European peoples--in particular--Japanese. Here's some of them:

Name changes:
Inzu is now Kinza
Teku is now Nadu
Keiji is now Kiri
Shoshi is now Shovo
Yuki is now Raia
Hayato is now Kastenai

Some are words:
miyake is miyara (supposed to be a term of endearment)
takaharu is tanadai (supposed to mean something akin to a whore)

Some of the physical description of the Aven'ei is gone or changed, too. In the 2018 ARC, Nomo's eyes aren't described as being "almond shaped." 


As noted above, I do not think the revisions are substantial enough to address the issues raised in 2016. There are many who wonder what Drake could have done to fix The Continent. 

Frankly, I think these kinds of books rest on a flawed foundation. They're written by people who want to use race and racial issues, misrepresentations of the past and present, to help -- let's be real -- White readers learn about injustice. Along the way, readers of the groups that, historically and in the present, experience oppression and racism on a daily basis, are essentially asked to be patient. I think that's wrong. Drake is trying to be a savior. Her editor is enabling that motivation. Her publisher is putting money into this project. Those are my thoughts. I welcome yours.

Update, Feb 9, 2017: I will begin adding links here, to some of the conversations that are taking place elsewhere.

Courtney Milan, on Twitter, Feb 9, 8:13 AM: "It feels like the author thought the problem was 'this race described as violent and uncivilized is too much like earth races" and not "maybe your world-building shouldn't present an entire race as violent and uncivilized."

K Tempest Bradford, on Twitter, Feb 9, 8:32 AM: "Surprise, surprise, the revised version of #TheContinent is among us..."