Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "SHERMAN ALEXIE'S PROBLEM WITH CENSORSHIP":
Please don't bully our Indian writers!!!! If they don't promote your agenda just let them be.
I debated for quite a while about what to do with this comment. I didn’t want to just block it, but it IS anonymous and that’s a good reason to zap it. (Someone else made an anonymous comment, a rez person, who when challenged explained the danger he/she faced if he/she were named -- the post is about rez murders. This is a good reason to both remain anonyous and for me to publish the comment.) But this other comment is so clueless that it’s hard to know where to begin. For one thing, Sherman has been quite willing to bully other Indian writers -- plus white writers. (The "Old Bulls" among the NA writers joke "don't squeeze the Sherman.") For another, this commenter seems to think Sherman is a little beginner needing protection. He’s nearly fifty, a battle-scarred old warrior with white wings over his ears and a very nice apartment in Seattle.
The “our” in this comment sounds like he belongs to the writer -- why? Do all Indians own all Indians? Or is the commenter one of those fond whites who think THEY own Indians? The adjective makes it sounds as though he’s either a pet or a doll (“The Indian in the Cupboard”). Why FOUR exclamation points? Soooo emotional.
What possible agenda does this person imagine I have: the one about being a reservation English teacher? The one about reading and reviewing NA books and buying copies for rez libraries? Or does she imagine something about my friends who write, some of them Indians and some of them not?
Why does she ask me to “just let them be”? What makes her think that any writers should be “let be”? Like they’re nice statues in the garden. Collectible. Passive. Not involved in their own fates, let alone politics.
In the end I decided to simply use the comment as an epigraph for this post, which is a list of all the posts I’ve written about Native American lit. (Some books written by whites. Also, Metis are included as “Indians” in the Canadian way. And I count film as "lit.") When she ( sounds so sweet -- must be female) finishes reading all these posts, maybe she’ll be a little more aware.
This list doesn’t include Blackfeet, necessarily. I’ll make a separate list.
4-4-05 Book Review: “A Walk Towards OR” by Josephy
4-10-05 “Half Breed” (George Bent)
6-7-05 “Common and Contested Ground” by Ted Bennema
6-8-05 “Firewater” by Hugh Dempsey
6-13-05 “Catch Colt” by Sidner Larson
6-14-05 “Viet Cong at Wounded Knee” by Woody Kipp
12-8-06 Adrian Louis’ Strong Brown Wings
9-7-06 What’s a Native American Perspective?
9-20-06 A Quick Check-list of NA Writers
7-27-07 Ward Churchill: Lucky He’s Not a Bison
8-25-07 Native American Writers: A Constellation
8-26-07 Starboy: James Welch
9-15-07 Sherman Alexie Leads the Way
10-18-07 The Nasdijj Trilogy
12-23-07 Frank Bird Linderman
1-12-08 “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”
2-3-08 “Rez Dogs” -- the Video
3-10-08 “The Business of Fancy Dancing”: a Reflection
6-13-08 “The Stick Game” by Peter Bowen
6-22-08 “The Boy and the Dog Are sleeping: by Tim Barrus, A Review
8-16-08 Penny Derivative Native American Literary Critics
9-8-08 Joseph Epes Brown and Black Elk
10-29-08 The Forces at Play on Native American Literature
11-6-08 Alexie, Barrus and Louise
11-15-08 Native American Lit Renaissance: Where Did it Go?
11-25-08 Indian Trouble: a Double Chapter
10-29-08 The Forces at Play on Native American Literature
1-9-09 The Riel Rebellion Ends
1-21-09 Time and the Writer
6-4-09 Politics of Identity and Resentment
6-16-09 “Rain in the Mountains” (movie) a Review
6-29-09 What Can the Internet Do for Oral Literature?
6-30-09 Michael Two Horses
8-8-09 “Trickster”: Notes from Lewis Hyde
12-12-09 “The Education of Little Tree”: a Reflection
2-3-10 Gyasi Ross and the Native American Generations
6-18-10 “Rolling in the Ditches with Shamans”
8-16-10 Write This Down!
12-18-10 Metis Stand their Ground
1-20-11 Yu’pik “Swan Lake”
2-5-11 When it Comes to Indians, You See What You Expect
2-6-11 “The Edge of Eternity”
6-6-11 “Lost Birds,” “Split Feathers” and Roots
6-8-11 Trace DeMeyer: “One Small Sacrifice”
11-29-11 “American Holocaust and Survival”
1-24-12 Heather Devine on Joseph Kinsey Howard
1-31-12 “The People Who Own Themselves” (Metis) a Family Story
4-19-12 Directory to Reviews of Books by or about Indians on this Blog
6-19-12 “Shamans and Religion” by Alice Beck Kehoe
6-27-12 “Far North” (film)
7-30-12 “Always an Adventure” by Hugh A. Dempsey. A Review
1-31-13 Priests on the Prairie
2-2-13 “Gujaw and the Reawakening of the Haida Nation”
3-30-13 Knotting a Shawl for a Planet
5-3-13 What You Get Is What You See
5-23-13 Wendy Rose: Combustible
5-28-13 Sherman Alexie’s Problem with Censorship
This is the bottom line: being a successful published author has nothing to do with the actual writing, whether or not the writing is authentic, actual, of proper ethnic origin, etc. It doesn’t have much to do with the quality of the writing, though there is a minimum level and probably also a top end where writing becomes too intense and experimental to sell very well. (Like some poetry.)
BEING PUBLISHED IS ABOUT INFRASTRUCTURE: the pop-it-beads of publishing and how they connect. Discovering: finding something that will sell. Editing: rewriting as necesssary. Agenting: the interface between the writer and the publisher. Finding peripherals: illustrations, graphs, sourcing any quotes. Fact checking: making sure names are spelled right, dates are accurate, things are as represented. Layout: choosing a font, organizing the pages. Artwork: esp. cover and dust wrapper. There are other things about making a physical book which involves stacking up the objects, storing them in a warehouse, shipping them out to stores and keep track of all of this.
Print on demand means only printing after orders have arrived. Distribution services can contract to manage wrapping, mailing, paperwork like invoicing. There’s a LOT to all this. I do not know any Native Americans who do this work or who aspire to do any part of it or who think of being publishers through an institution like the tribe, the tribal college, Indian-focused museums, or a reservation church. I do not know of any tribal college that teaches this.
I do not know of any tribal bookstores except those in museums or tribal colleges. I do not know of any reading groups on the reservation who read books by or about Indians. My experience is that journalists, political figures, and even teachers have an EXTREMELY LIMITED knowledge about what NA writing is out there or where to get it. In general they know nothing about ordering online, esp. used books. We don’t need more cell phones: we need transmission towers and optical fiber connections.
TOO MANY PEOPLE WANT TO BE THE CHIEFS,
NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE WANT TO BE THE INDIANS.