Thursday, February 14, 2013

Public Lecture: Native American Misrepresentation in Books and Media

What are you doing on March 6, 2013, at 1:00 PM Pacific Time? If you're near Cal State Polytechnic University in Pomona, consider attending my lecture. It is open to the public, and there's no charge for it! I'll be speaking at the Bronco Student Center - Centaurus. Here's the flyer:

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Upon learning that Champaign Public Library's 110 Books for Every Child included books with blackface and that stereotype American Indians, Creek author Durango Mendoza wrote that children and their families "could feel ambushed by the foul among the good."

I'm going to ask him if I can use that phrase as a label for any time that I write about a book in which a child--Native or not--might be ambushed by the foul in a book that has received much acclaim by others.

Today's post is about three of those books.

First is Harry Allard's The Stupids Step Out. Though the text never mentions American Indians, James Marshall decided to put Kitty, their dog (so named because they're stupid), in a headdress:

In The Stupids Have A Ball, Marshall presents Kitty in a headband with one feather (leaf?!) in it:

The Stupids series is very popular. Scholars who write about how best to engage reluctant readers point to these books as ones teachers should use. Teachers that use those two books with Native children are likely giving then more reasons to be reluctant to read! And anyone with insight into stereotyping and why it is wrong will have found the foul among the good that Durango Mendoza expressed.

We can do better! If The Stupids books were the last books on earth, we might have to use them, but they aren't. We can set them aside, can't we?

And while you're in the 'setting aside' mode, take a look at Marshall's George and Martha, Encore. In it, he's got George playing Indian...

Why would we, in 2013, use books that stereotype American Indians? Doing so affirms (or introduces) playing Indian, and we don't affirm or introduce playing ______ (fill in the blank), do we?

Stupids Step Out, first published in 1974, by Houghton Mifflin
Stupids Have A Ball, first published in 1978, by Houghton Mifflin
George and Martha, Encore, first published in 1973, by Houghton Mifflin