Saturday, December 05, 2009

Chamoru Childhood

On Tuesday of this week (December 1st), I was given an astounding gift. My colleague and friend, Keith L. Camacho, came into my office and handed me, John McKinn and Matt Sakiestewa Gilbert copies of Chamoru Childhood, edited by Michael Lujan Bevacqua, Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero,  and Craig Santos Perez. John flipped through it right away and noticed that Keith has a poem in the book. We asked him to read it aloud to us.

The book and his reading were (and are) terrific gifts that will warm my heart whenever I think of that day. Keith has a deep, warm voice and a terrific sense of pace.

I met Keith in August when he joined us in American Indian Studies as a post doctoral fellow. He is a Chamorro scholar from the Mariana Islands and is an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. His area of expertise concerns the study of colonization, decolonization and militarization in the Pacific Islands, with an emphasis on indigenous narratives of survival and sovereignty.

And as I learned that day, he is also a poet. His "my friend, jose"  is a thoughtful piece about how money and some experiences can corrupt us, turn us into something else.

Published by Achiote Press, Chamoru Childhood includes poems and stories by three generations of Chamorus. The last piece in the book is by Samantha Marley Barnett, who was eleven years old when the book went to press. Samantha's "The Stick" is a letter that starts "Dear Everyone," and recounts a game that sent her (inadvertently) to the hospital with a gash on her head. I leave you to imagine the details! Playing with sticks is something we did a lot at Nambe Pueblo, so, reading "The Stick" I found myself laughing out loud.

I laughed a lot, too, reading "The Back of the Pick-up" by Evelyn Sam Miguel Flores. Other than the beach, that particular story could have been me, my cousins, and one of my uncles---again---at Nambe!

Some of the stories are sad or painful to read. Coming from three generations of Chamorus, they provide a broad and deep story of the Chamorus experiences. Meeting Keith and talking with him, I'm learning a lot about the Chamoru people, Guam, and some more ugly truths about the United States and its treatment of Indigenous peoples in the Mariana Islands. 

A chapbook, Chamoru Childhood is ten dollars. In November, it was in the spotlight on Critical Mass: The blog of the National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors. See "In the Spotlight: I HEART Poetry Chapbooks, by Rigoberto Gonzales.

Order a copy from Achiote Press. I'm pretty sure most libraries have nothing at all like it... That is, I'm sure most libraries have nothing at all written by Chamoru writers. You should. We should all know more about Guam and the Mariana Islands.

[Update, December 6, 8:47 AM----A reader wrote to ask who (age group) the book's audience is....  Chamoru Childhood is not a picture book, but I would definitely read-aloud "The Stick" to a group of children in elementary school. As for who-would-I-hand-the-book-to, I'd say middle and high school students and of course, adults.]

Friday, December 04, 2009

American Indians in Children's Literature in TRIBAL COLLEGE JOURNAL

The Winter 2009 online issue of Tribal College Journal includes a link to American Indians in Children's Literature. The link is in an article by Michael W. Simpson, J.D., M. Ed. Titled "Evaluating Classroom Materials for Bias Against American Indians," it is a resource guide.

Read the history of Tribal College Journal on its Our History page.   It is published by the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), which is comprised of 35 Indian-controlled colleges in the United States and Canada. Spend time on the site! There's a lot to learn about tribal colleges... 

Sunday, November 29, 2009

We saw NEW MOON on Friday...

Friday afternoon, daughter Liz and I went to see New Moon. Sitting next to each other in the dark, we heckled, rolled our eyes, and laughed in the wrong parts. Not wanting to draw the ire of others in the theater, we weren't obnoxious. We kept our critiques relatively quiet.

Once settled in our seats, Liz said she wished we could live-blog our viewing. She's right! That would have been cool. I don't know how theater managers feel about such things, but maybe its worth finding out.

Perhaps the best line in the film is the one delivered by Graham Greene. When he learns that the Cullens have left, he says "Good riddance." Later in the movie, while on the hunt for the bear the townspeople think is killing people, he is attacked by Victoria, one of the vampires that kills humans. She's not a Cullen. (Remember, the Cullens are good vampires. They don't attack humans. They drink animal blood.) Greene plays the part of Harry Clearwater.

When Jacob whispers to Bella in another language, Liz and I wondered "was that supposed to be Quileute?!" Looking at the Quileute Nation's facebook page, the status is:
"Dear Fans: Thank you for all the calls and emails regarding the scene in the movie where Jacob whispers to Bella in Quileute. Please know, we would love to translate the phrase for you, but out of respect for Jacob's feelings for Bella we are unable to at this time."

There are several Native men in New Moon. I hope the massive exposure creates opportunities for them to do other films. (The woman in the film who is saying she is Native... well, it looks like that may not be the case.)  

I don't recommend the books or the film for many reasons. Of course I make that statement based on the Native content of them, but there are other reasons as well. This is a good analysis:  Running With the Wolves - A Racialicious Reading of the Twilight Saga.

And last year, I blogged about a couple of sites about the Native content. One of those essays is also excerpted in Running With the Wolves (linked above).
Terrific essays about Meyer's character, Jacob.

The Quileute Nation has been inundated with fans of the film. A few weeks ago, I pointed readers of American Indians in Children's Literature to a statement on the Quileute's website: "Has Stephanie Meyer Seen this?" More recently, it looks like the Quileute's are doing what they can to address the flood of visitors to their reservation. I've been following the Quileute Nation facebook page for awhile now, and traffic is definitely up. Its amusing, reading what people write on the wall...

If you want to read more on the ways that the Quileute's are portrayed in the series, look over to the right side of this page. Scroll up or down till you see the section labeled TWILIGHT SAGA. There you'll see several links to posts about the series.