Discussion: Problematic Authors

When problematic information about an author comes to your attention…

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So…  I’ve read, enjoyed, and highly recommended one Sherman Alexie novel.  As you can see on my 100 Indigenous Books challenge page, I’ve purchased two others, one of which I’ve since read (my page needs some updating) and the other I DNF’d but was attempting to re-read.  That’s two reviews that would have gone up later this year.

I’ve been a bit behind on reading blogs so I was very grateful this issue was highlighted on BookToss.  If you want more info, AICL has an exhaustive list of the best articles and commentary about the topic.  If you are looking for alternative books to read, both have lists (note especially these two), or you can check out my reviews.

However, this all leaves me with a bit of a dilemma.  While I don’t plan to buy any more Alexie books, I have a review and a half to go up, and one already up.  When this post goes live, I intend to edit my previous review with a link and comment about this new development and how it’s changed my opinion of Alexie.  But what about the other books?  I have a review ready, and another book that wasn’t going to get a very favorable review anyway.  It takes a lot of time and effort to read and review books, but I don’t want to promote a problematic author either!  Right now I’m leaning towards just giving up on those two reviews, but I’m curious what others think.

What would you do when an author you have scheduled reviews for turns out to be problematic?

Review: First in the Family

“If you want to go to college, right from the start you have to raise your voice, ask for what you need, and keep your eyes open about what classes and opportunities your high school offers you.” page 32

First in the Family: Advice about College from First-Generation Students – Your High School Years by Kathleen Cushman.
Next Generation Press, Providence, Rhode Island, 2005.
Nonfiction, 80 pages.
Not leveled.

This book gives encouragement and advice to high school students who may be the first in their families to attend college.  It includes many personal stories and quotations from students who have similar journeys.

First in the Family

One of the main focuses of this slim volume is encouraging teens from minority groups to attend college and pursue careers rather than jobs.  This book is specifically aimed at diverse high school students who have no family members that have attended college.

I bought this book because it was on clearance for a dollar at Barnes & Noble. I’m not the first member of my family to attend college, and neither was Husband.  I don’t work with high school students, but wanted to review it here.  After reading it and starting to write this review, I discovered there is a free interactive online version of the text.  The second book The College Years, is also available online for free in a PDF format.  I look forward to exploring those resources more at a later time.

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Exciting News from WPT

I know, two posts on the weekend!  But I am finally catching up on old (aka non-urgent) emails and saw the news that Wisconsin Public Television is going to be coming out with a new series about Wisconsin First Nations!

We’ve really enjoyed The Ways and I’ve used it at home and school.  Their Wisconsin Biographies series has a few diverse figures as well.  Both are free to the public.  They also have a lot of free resources in various categories just for WI educators.  I have high hopes for the quality of their new series.  If nothing else I hope to at least educate myself further about WI indigenous peoples – ideally it will work for my students and family as well.

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The twelve tribes of Wisconsin locations and seals (image from UW Madison School of Education)

Web: Whiteness

Some black authors of the 1800s available free online, and exploration of whiteness and color in modern art.

After reading Nell Irvin Painter’s The History of White People (which I highly recommend), I have a long reading list.

David Walker’s Appeal: in four articles, together with a preamble, to the coloured citizens of the world, but in particular, and very expressly, to those of the United States of America, a 1829 tract by a free black man who also wrote for Freedom’s Journal and delivered addresses on Haitian independence and other topics.

Hosea Easton was another activist, who wrote A Treatise on the Intellectual Character and Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the U. States; and the Prejudice Exercised towards Them: with a Sermon on the Duty of the Church to Them.  (Also found here.)  Interestingly, his father was descended from Wampanoag and Narragansett peoples, but he disavowed any Native blood to ensure his citizenship.

William Wells Brown is an author with prolific and varied output.  He’s written a novel, collection of hymns, memoir, travelogue, and the 1874 book Painter cites, titled The Rising Son; or, the Antecedents and Achievements of the Colored Race.  I have yet to find that one online but am sure it must exist.

Aside from those new-to-me reads, this book also got me thinking about the concept of whiteness.  Not just racially, but also in art (since race and art can intersect beyond literature).

Vox has an interesting take on all white art found in museums (warning for swears):

The Art Assignment has a conversation with Odili Donald Odita about whitescapes and the use and meaning of color, ending with an assignment to try:

 

Board Book Review: My Heart Fills with Happiness

Our tenth board book will bring joy to your heart.
And has narwhals!

My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith, illustrations by Julie Flett.
Orca Books, 2016.
Board book, 24 pages.
Lexile:  AD280L  ( What does AD mean in Lexile? )
AR Level: Not yet leveled.

This simple book asks us “What fills your heart with happiness?” and gives many examples of things that might make us happy.

My Heart Fills With Happiness cover resized
My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Julie Flett.

Julie Flett is one of my favorite children’s book illustrators.  She has a great sense of color and space.  As soon as I saw the review at AICL, I wanted this book!  Most of the libraries I work at don’t circulate board books, so this was high on my wish list, but it took a while to arrive which is why this and We Sang You Home were not in use sooner.

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Web: Board Book Lists

Some other diverse board book lists.

So, a while back I mentioned that when I started reviewing board books, it was difficult to find diverse board book lists.  That wasn’t so much because they don’t exist, as because most of the ones I found have problematic content, or are board and picture books mixed together.  Here are a few pretty good ones.

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We Sang You Home back cover with text “When wishes come true.”

AICL has a great list of Native board books.

This is important because most other lists (including some I’ll share) have poor indigenous representation.  I always look for a review from AICL or an #ownvoices reviewer, and check if the author/illustrator are Native.

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Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin.

PragmaticMom has a good top ten of multicultural board books.  The caveat is that I would NOT recommend Mama, Mama, Do You Love Me? – see above for better Native books.

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It’s Ramadan, Curious George by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mary O’Keefe Young.

While it wasn’t recommended as a “diverse books list”, I loved that most of the books on this list are diverse, including Hawaiian, Native, and specialty religious books that are diverse.

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Whose Knees Are These by Jabari Asim, illustrated by LeUyen Pham.

And finally, Drivel and Drool has a list broken down by ethnicity of the main character, with again the caveat to please check the Native books against AICL’s listing as some are problematic.  I like that this book includes some nonfiction board books.

 

Board Book Review: We Sang You Home

Just go buy this book. I’ll wait.

We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp, illustrations by Julie Flett.
Orca Books, 2016.
Board book, 26 pages.

This lyrical book is the story of a family – two parents, and the baby they sang home and love.

We Sang You Home cover resized

The book starts with a couple on a blanket in the forest, singing.  Then they are joined by a tiny baby as they go about their day.  Baby sleeps and snuggles and grows teeth and crawls and gardens with mom and even walks until eventually they are back in the forest singing with baby.

The text is a poem or a prayer written in the second person, which normally I dislike, but works perfectly for this book intended to be read from parent to child.  There are two lines on the left page of every two-page spread except the final one, which ends with the final picture across from the copyright page.

Continue reading “Board Book Review: We Sang You Home”