Mar. 15th, 2011


The Ear, The Eye and The Arm by Nancy Farmer

... I start a children's book. I flip the pages. Something seems wrong, off. Finally I can't take it anymore, I look up the author (not Black), I look up the plot. I sigh. By page 9 I knew, by page 27 I was sure. Newberry Winner or not, the messages in this book... Perhaps it would not twitch others, but it did, does, twitch me. Am I possibly seeing that the culture represented seems viewed from the outside in, no matter how fantasitical/futuristic it is? Or am I just seeing the subtext that privilege obscures?

For me, I think it is the twitchy assumption that even 100years in the future, various tribes of the African Continent will still be at arms with one another. A powerful black man in such a situation must be a General (complete with uniform w/ gold shoulder braid) - not a doctor, librarian, business man. A general who keeps his family in a fortified compoud.

And the concept of a 'Priase Singer' would likely be less twitchy if in this case it wasn't an English descended white male, hypnotizing the black characters with 'praise'.

Reading the summary on Wikipedia didn't help either when it seems less like the children advance because of their own smarts and wit and determination, than 'the spirits' show up and give them the strength of the ancestors and help save them through the possession of them, or the people sent to find them.

By page 27, I know the 'Praise Singer' is white with blonde hair. I do not know much of what the Mother, Father or three children look like. I do know that 100 years in the future it is still important that the children learn to chuck spears, and one child is considered too sensitive to be a warrior. Then there's the twitchy making of the General Father being a distant authoritarian - perhaps if he were white I wouldn't see so much subtext of 'Dictator'.

And then. there's the depiction of one set of African tribe being animal mutilating sadists......

Sometimes it feels I'm just an open wound and all these books keep cracking open my attempt to scab.

Jul. 14th, 2010


The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter - Susan Wittig Albert

I don't even KNOW where to start. Oh. In case that sentence is misleading - these books make me REALLY REALLY HAPPY. I'm currently about to start book 4; The Tale of Hawthorn House. And I admit to being ever so pouty that there will only be 8 books in the series. I currently own two - picked up a year or so ago at a library sale that I only got around to reading now (the joys of discovering yet another box that hasn't been unpacked). And I've borrowed four from the library.

I love these books. The mysteries involved so far, aren't always murder (most foul). I love the continued characters of the village. I love the description of village life. Despite even one occasion of 'cannibal savages' mentioned (eta: and now *sigh* 'gypsies' stealing babies), I can still identify with the gossip, and nosiness and sense of extended family. And in this case it's not just the humans who're extended family, the village animals are too. Cats, dogs, an Owl, a family of badgers - it's wonderful.

I remember when I picked up the first two, Zvi cracked up. "You're buying RPF? You're buying professionally published RPF!" And then there was the laughter. And there I was going. "But it's RPF about Beatrix Potter. BEATRIX POTTER! How can you not understand how cool that is?!!" But I'm going to bet that the adventures of cotton tail rabbits and kittens who lose their mittens aren't as set in her heart as happy childhood memories of good booky times, as Potter's books are for me.


I thought I'd posted, turns out I hadn't. So I get to do the eta about the 'gypsies' and sigh about how tired I am of looking away or trying to let things slide in order to have some form of entertainment and more importantly, not implode on myself with continued fury at the casual isms of the world and the obvious ways authors show which isms are important to them to address. Still at least there's been some pointing out so far in this book 4, that everything gets blames on gypsies and foxes because it's easier and oblique reference that the more the farmers believe tales and run off the caravans, the less work the Rom find as harvest hands, the more they need to poach etc, to make ends meet.