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.