Join 3,424 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Education of Little Fraud
November 10, 2009 9:12 AM   Subscribe

Many kids read The Education of Little Tree in school, but the author of the book, Forrest Carter, was actually Asa Carter, a staunch racist and charlatan.
posted by reenum (101 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is not new information!
posted by parmanparman at 9:32 AM on November 10, 2009


The link is from 2001!
posted by parmanparman at 9:33 AM on November 10, 2009


Yes, but those Jayhawks totally raped aOnd killed his family
posted by TedW at 9:36 AM on November 10, 2009


Aren't racists usually staunch?
posted by Joe Beese at 9:43 AM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, it's new to me!
posted by magstheaxe at 9:44 AM on November 10, 2009


The link is from 2001, but the information is timeless. As someone who was forced to read "The Education of Little Tree", I find myself experiencing some schadenfreude when I think of my English teacher and all the praise she heaped on the book.
posted by reenum at 9:46 AM on November 10, 2009


I kin ye, Bonny bee! :) Great book, I'm definitely checking that out from the library ASAP. Thanks for reminding me of it.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 9:48 AM on November 10, 2009


BREAKING: Iron Eyes Cody was not an actual Native American.
posted by everichon at 9:49 AM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Is the book somehow racist? If not, does it really matter that the author was? A book can still be good reading, even if the author was a total shitshow in their personal life.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:57 AM on November 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


BREAKING: Iron Balls McGinty did not actually have iron balls.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:58 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorta like how Orson Scott Card is a douchbag, but Ender's Game is awesome.
posted by Balisong at 10:00 AM on November 10, 2009 [13 favorites]


BREAKING: TWO ELECTRIC BOOGALOO
posted by YoBananaBoy at 10:00 AM on November 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


"Wagner's racism led him to create some of his most complex, rich, and enigmatic dramatic figures, as well as some of his most haunting, iconoclastic, and beautiful music."
posted by jbickers at 10:03 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is always interesting to find out about racist or anti Semitic or anti gay attitudes of well known folks: to name a few, I haven't thought about Mel Gibson, Erroll Flynn, Henry Ford, the Mitfords or Owen Wister (author of The Virginian) or their creations the same way since.
posted by bearwife at 10:11 AM on November 10, 2009


Is the book somehow racist? If not, does it really matter that the author was?

The book purports to be an autobiography of a Native American Indian, not a novel. The author, who claims that the events detailed in the book were the events of his life, was not only not a Native American Indian but a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

So, yeah, that really matters.

Also, it's a shitty book and misrepresents the cultural traditions it's supposed to be an insider's look at.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:11 AM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


This is a lot more like Margaret Seltzer's fake "I Was a Chicana Gangbanger" memoir than, say, Wagner being an anti-Semite.

The only thing "Forrest Carter" was famous for was his autobiography about how he was an amazing NDN in tune with the Earth blah blah blah. He was not an amazing NDN, in tune with the Earth, or even named Forrest.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:14 AM on November 10, 2009


Barra's article on Carter is superb. Thanks, reenum.

Having lived in the South during the collapse of segregation, I had no idea that Carter was the ghost behind Wallace's infamous "Segregation forever" speech. Carter's reinvention of himself is a fascinating story of what a Chauvinist must do to remedy his cognitive dissonance when The Cause fails irretrievably.
posted by rdone at 10:15 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Aren't racists usually staunch?

I would argue the exact opposite -- most racists present outwardly the appearance of being decent, loving human beings, until that one time when they've had a bit too much to drink and it's just a few guys in the room and they let some jaw-droppingly foul shitnugget of racist thought escape.

Or in other words the distribution of racists has a very long tail.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:15 AM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Roald Dahl was an anti semitic asshole but he sure wrote some amazing books
posted by lalochezia at 10:16 AM on November 10, 2009


Don't forget Heidegger.
posted by monospace at 10:19 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Aren't racists usually staunch?

I would argue the exact opposite


Racists are always "staunch" in the same way that parking is always "ample" and there are only two kinds of "sprees"--"crime" and "shopping". It's a cliche.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:21 AM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


So, can we blame Mr. Carter for James Frey?
posted by dortmunder at 10:23 AM on November 10, 2009


Next you'll be telling me that Joe the Plumber wasn't really a plumber. Or named Joe.
Yeah. Right.

PALIN/PLUMBER 2012!
posted by tkchrist at 10:24 AM on November 10, 2009


L. Frank Baum ("Wizard of Oz) on Native Americans: "With his fall the nobility of the Redskin is extinguished, and what few are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them. The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians. Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; better that they die than live the miserable wretches that they are. History would forget these latter despicable beings, and speak, in latter ages of the glory of these grand Kings of forest and plain that Cooper loved to heroise.
We cannot honestly regret their extermination, but we at least do justice to the manly characteristics possessed, according to their lights and education, by the early Redskins of America.[
"
posted by caddis at 10:25 AM on November 10, 2009


Wordfilter--
Staunch:
"steadfast: firm and dependable especially in loyalty; "a steadfast ally"; "a staunch defender of free speech"; "unswerving devotion."

So, yep, I'd say racists are usually staunch, in that they are unswerving, firm and dependable especially, in their misplaced loyalty,
posted by cccorlew at 10:26 AM on November 10, 2009


You have the racists who are "out" and will publicly advocate for their racism unapologetically. Those are what I would call staunch. But you also have a great number of people who if asked, "do you consider yourself racist?" or "do you believe [horrible racist notion] is true?" will answer no to both, even though they privately consider [horrible racist notion] to be partially or wholly true. These I argue are not staunch racists -- they are not "firm or dependable in loyalty" to the cause of racism since they can't even publicly admit that they are racists in the first place, but nevertheless they are.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:31 AM on November 10, 2009


I prefer my racists dyed in the wool.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:31 AM on November 10, 2009


Isn't there an inherent fallacy in discrediting the content of the book based on the previous racial leanings of the author. Isn't this EXACTLY 'Judging a book by it's cover (author)' - a distinct allusion to a racial metaphor.
posted by lexpattison at 10:33 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just deleted this book from my library's collection. (I probably weeded 50-60other terrible biographies from the children's room at the same time.) As far as Native Americans in kids' books are concerned, this blog by a Pueblo educator and author is a great resource for teachers, librarians and parents.
posted by Biblio at 10:40 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Isn't there an inherent fallacy in discrediting the content of the book based on the previous racial leanings of the author.

Seeing as it purports to be the autobiography of a Native American Indian, and was actually written by a white Klansman, NO! THERE IS NO INHERENT FALLACY HERE! THE BOOK IS A LIE FROM START TO FINISH!!!1!
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:41 AM on November 10, 2009


Isn't there an inherent fallacy in discrediting the content of the book based on the previous racial leanings of the author. Isn't this EXACTLY 'Judging a book by it's cover (author)' - a distinct allusion to a racial metaphor.

Even if you set aside the "he was a racist" element of it, then you still have the issue of actual Cherokees reading what he claimed was "Cherokee tradition" and saying, "um, no."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:41 AM on November 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


The cover says it's a biography of a Native American. It isn't; It's a work of fiction by a KKK member. Critiquing it based on that is the opposite of judging a book by its cover.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:42 AM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Isn't this EXACTLY 'Judging a book by it's cover (author)' - a distinct allusion to a racial metaphor.

Also, what? "Judging a book by its cover" is not "a racial metaphor." It means "don't make judgments about content {either of a book, or of someone's character} based on superficial appearances" and has nothing to do with race.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:44 AM on November 10, 2009


I prefer my racists unrepentant
posted by found missing at 10:45 AM on November 10, 2009


Well, except insofar as you can say "Don't judge a book by its cover" in contexts where you're encouraging people not to make judgments based on racial prejudice. But the origin of the maxim isn't connected to either racism or anti-racism.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:46 AM on November 10, 2009


I read the book a couple of months ago, after hearing about all the controversy. I pretty much* agree with Christina Berry's take in The Story Behind The Education of Little Tree at All Things Cherokee:

I was moved to tears the first time I read it, and when I first learned of the author's past I was angry and hurt, but I still like the book.

I would argue that the book has actually made an incredibly positive impact. It wasn't long ago that books and films filled with blatant sterotypes of savage Indians (played by white actors in red paint) was the norm. The mere fact that this title has generated so much debate and discussion regarding the plight of Indians in American popular culture is a positive step forward. Personally, I think that this is a great book, both for the themes of culture and life that the author himself addresses, and for the heated historical and cultural debate which has grown out of it.


*"Pretty much" because I think the book's simplistic, with characters sketched in broad strokes, but I'm a damn English major. What do I know? It's still a powerful story.
posted by shetterly at 10:46 AM on November 10, 2009


I prefer my racists unrepentant

I prefer my racists to get the fuck over their hateful, childish nonsense, but that may just be me.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:47 AM on November 10, 2009


What do I know? It's still a powerful story

In what way? It's an inaccurate depiction of culture, the characterization is horrible, and the prose is clumsy at worst, workmanlike at best. Not to mention that it's a lie posing as truth, as opposed to fiction.

Of course, people disagree on books all the time, but I'm kind of astonished that you (whose prose style I dig) weren't turned off by the shitty writing.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:49 AM on November 10, 2009


I prefer my racists to get the fuck over their hateful, childish nonsense, but that may just be me.

Well, then they really wouldn't be racists.
posted by found missing at 10:50 AM on November 10, 2009


BREAKING: Iron Balls McGinty did not actually have iron balls.

Well, how was I to know?!
posted by Spatch at 10:56 AM on November 10, 2009


Well, then they really wouldn't be racists.

That's a feature, not a bug.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:58 AM on November 10, 2009


I prefer my racists to hate NASCAR, an privilege other forms of racing.
posted by everichon at 10:59 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just deleted this book from my library's collection. (I probably weeded 50-60other terrible biographies from the children's room at the same time.) As far as Native Americans in kids' books are concerned, this blog by a Pueblo educator and author is a great resource for teachers, librarians and parents.

Biblio, though pulling books from libraries makes me a bit uneasy, I fully support your desire to educate people about American Indians, so I thought I'd let you know that the majority prefer to be called American Indians if they're going to be called by a group name. See Russell Means' I AM AN AMERICAN INDIAN, NOT A NATIVE AMERICAN! or Christina Berry's What's in a Name? Indians and Political Correctness or Native American name controversy.
posted by shetterly at 10:59 AM on November 10, 2009


As a Jewish person I frequenly have to edit out stupid details in order to enjoy the whole of something. An example would be singing solos in the school choir during the Christmas season. It still amazes people that I pretty much know all the words to all the Christmas carols, even the really religious ones. In my brain I just edit out Jesus and I'm okay with it. (No I don't replace it with Baby.)

I love T.S. Eliot's work, and really, it's full of anti-semetic references. Shall we cover the Merchant of Venice? Many works proir to the later part of the 20th century are full of really horrible references to Jews, as a matter of course. It was the prevailing attitude of the time.

Do you throw out Huckleberry Finn because Twain uses the N-word?

We are agreed that many fine authors and artists had some pretty heinous beliefs. Some of the work has to be taken in a historical context. Some is just noxious. In some cases, it taints their work so that it renders it unreadable.

I do think that is kind of gross that a KKK member would purport to write an autobiography about being a member of a marginalized race. I think that while the line may be faint and fraying at the edges, that this kind of thing pretty much crosses it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:03 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


As a Jew, I sing Christmas songs, because Hannkuka songs suck so fucking hard.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:04 AM on November 10, 2009


Do you throw out Huckleberry Finn because Twain uses the N-word?

Huckleberry Finn using teh enn-word is a deliberate and antiracist act, even though we can argue over whether it's successfully antiracist. It's not something which calls the entire work into disrepute.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:06 AM on November 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Sidhedevil, self-linking alert: I wrote a review for Good Reads.

I agree with you about the lumpy prose and simplistic characterization, but if that was a reason to pull a book from a library, we could solve the homeless problem by letting people sleep on the shelves.
posted by shetterly at 11:07 AM on November 10, 2009


I do think that is kind of gross that a KKK member would purport to write an autobiography about being a member of a marginalized race.

He had a Cherokee uncle. I'm still trying to find an article I read months ago that claimed some of the apparent inaccuracies are due to regional differences among the Cherokee.
posted by shetterly at 11:12 AM on November 10, 2009


One of the horrifying aspects of this story is that the book was first published by the University of New Mexico Press. It's made a lot of money for them but I'm sure it's something of an embarrassment to them at this point. Not enough to let the book go out of print, of course.
posted by Toekneesan at 11:13 AM on November 10, 2009


"I would argue that the book has actually made an incredibly positive impact..."


I understand the argument here (quoted by shetterly), because there was so much about the offensive, stereotypical American Native in need of correction.

But it's excruciating that a racist should have had quite such a knack for creating an enduringly adorable counter-stereotype!

Between the "impact" of the two stereotypes, there's not a lot of room for the truth.

(All the more kudos to Alexie Sherman.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:15 AM on November 10, 2009


I thought I'd let you know that the majority prefer to be called American Indians

It's a very slight majority, and the people who prefer "Native American" are just as staunch in their preference, actually. See, for instance, NativeWeb.

Hence, many people use "Native American Indian" in order to please or offend the people who prefer either locution.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:21 AM on November 10, 2009


As a Jew, I sing Christmas songs, because Hannkuka songs suck so fucking hard.

If you think Hannkuka songs are bad, try singing the Hannkakke songs.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:27 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Shetterly, the author of the blog I linked uses "Native American" and "American Indian" interchangeably. I prefer to refer to someone by their tribal identity, if I know it.

Anyway, weeding books is a fact of librarianship. I only have so much space, and I prefer to devote that space to excellent children's books that don't need a caveat.
posted by Biblio at 11:28 AM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


"`Little Tree' is a lovely little book, and I sometimes wonder if it is an act of romantic atonement by a guilt-ridden white supremacist, but ultimately I think it is the racial hypocrisy of a white supremacist," says author Sherman Alexie

I think that says it all.

He had a Cherokee uncle.

Not according to his brother, Doug Carter, who should know.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:28 AM on November 10, 2009


Shetterly, the author of the blog I linked uses "Native American" and "American Indian" interchangeably.

Like many, many people who are enrolled tribal Native American Indians, whose lead I also choose to follow.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:30 AM on November 10, 2009


Sorry, the citation for Asa Carter's brother's statement that they had no Cherokee relatives (or Native American Indian relatives of any tribal affiliation) is here.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:31 AM on November 10, 2009


And, last in a string of posts: I meant "tribally enrolled" not "enrolled tribal". Now I go take more cough syrup.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:32 AM on November 10, 2009


Jody Tresidder, I keep thinking it's wrong to assume that Forrest Carter and Asa Carter are the same person. Yes, some people take new names to avoid responsibility for the past, but others take them to reflect significant changes in their lives (see Malcolm Little becoming Malcolm X, who then became El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and regretted his older "blindness" about race).

Uh, I'm not claiming Forrest Carter completely transcended his past. But he still wrote a book that made many people of many races agree that racism sucks, and there's no evidence that he did it cynically. Frankly, I don't think he could do it cynically. Writing what you don't believe is close to impossible.

Hence, many people use "Native American Indian" in order to please or offend the people who prefer either locution.

Sidhedevil, add "amuse" to that list.
posted by shetterly at 11:35 AM on November 10, 2009


I remember seeing a documentary about white supremacists in which they were all going on about their Native American ancestry, and claiming that Indians were a lost tribe of Israel. Maybe it was Blood in the Face? Claiming a faux-Indian heritage or inflating a Native American heritage with which you had no direct experience with is equally popular among New Agers, rock stars, and certain independent filmmakers, and makes me uncomfortable in exactly the same way: Because people borrow coolness points from this heritage, but frequently offer nothing back. They think it's awesome to be a eighteenth Chippewa, but they know next to nothing about the subject, and contribute nothing to actual Chippewa causes or organizations or etc.

So I suspect the need to be cool trumps many racist's need to be pureblood.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:37 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


BREAKING: Iron Eyes Cody was not an actual Native American.

I'd only just found this out myself :( I've been listening to a bunch of 70's era OTR taped from the air and there were a bunch of PSAs featuring Cody reading a traditional Cherokee prayer and, wondering how dead he was, wiki'd myself into a sad state: HE WAS CRYING OVER MEATBALLS....
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:37 AM on November 10, 2009


But he still wrote a book that made many people of many races agree that racism sucks, and there's no evidence that he did it cynically

I think saying "This happened to me" when it didn't happen to him is a cynical gesture. I think lying about his fictitious Cherokee heritage is a cynical gesture.

Sidhedevil, add "amuse" to that list.

Guess what, Shetterly? I don't give a fuck what you think. I do give a fuck about showing respect for both the people who self-identify as "Native American" and the people who self-identify as "American Indian," not deciding that whatever my ideological allies think must be right and then lecturing people who are actually following the lead of other Native American Indian activists and writers about how they're doing it wrong.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:40 AM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


And, Shetterly, please don't spread the canard that Carter had a Cherokee uncle anymore. That was a lie he told his wife and his agent, but it has been exploded by his family.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:41 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I only have so much space, and I prefer to devote that space to excellent children's books that don't need a caveat.

Biblio, I completely get that. Among the reasons I admire librarians is literary triage is so very painful.

Not according to his brother, Doug Carter, who should know.

Ah! Good to know! Off to update Wikipedia now...
posted by shetterly at 11:44 AM on November 10, 2009


Writing what you don't believe is close to impossible.

Sorta, shetterly!

But myths are made out of stories we want to believe at some level - whether we do or not.
(And the row here is about the mythical nature of the actual Little Tree, at least in part.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:51 AM on November 10, 2009


Sidhedevil, I've been to Wikipedia, and Something Is Now Less Wrong On The Internet.

Jody, total agreement that in Carter's troubled mind--and there's no question that Forrest Carter carried a lot of Asa's baggage--he wanted to be Cherokee.

Also, the Cherokee have their own problems with racism: Cherokee Freedman Controversy.
posted by shetterly at 12:00 PM on November 10, 2009


Clearly Carter was a classist, not a racist, amirite?

BTW, I'm not sure renaming yourself after Nathan Bedford Forrest is exactly the best way to distance yourself from your racist legacy.
posted by kmz at 12:05 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


For a microscopic view of a more modern version of this sort of thing, check out the excellent documentary Forbidden Lie$.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:09 PM on November 10, 2009


kmz, have you read the book? In it, the good people come in all hues, and the bad people are exclusively white. (There are good whites, too.)

As for the "classist" charge, there's a poor white man who mistreats his daughter, but it's a scene involving pride and poverty. He's the only bad poor character that I remember. All the other poor characters are unambiguously good. But the rich whites do not come off favorably.
posted by shetterly at 12:24 PM on November 10, 2009


I tend to use "Native American" because while some people find "Indian" or "American Indian" noxious, I haven't yet met anyone who objected to "Native American".
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:25 PM on November 10, 2009


Jody, total agreement that in Carter's troubled mind--and there's no question that Forrest Carter carried a lot of Asa's baggage--he wanted to be Cherokee.

Shetterly:

Ah, a racist - with a deeply romantic streak! That actually makes a lot of sense. He wouldn't be the first by a long shot.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:40 PM on November 10, 2009


Pope Guilty, do you know anyone whose people have been in North America for more than five hundred years who actually prefers "Native American" to First Nations or American Indian? From one of the sites I linked to earlier:

Charles C. Mann noted in his 2005 book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus that "every native person whom I have met (I think without exception) has used 'Indian' rather than 'Native American'." Russell Means, an activist in the American Indian Movement, said in 1998, "I abhor the term Native American...I prefer the term American Indian because I know its origins."

My experience has been the same as Mann's, but maybe it's a regional thing.
posted by shetterly at 1:11 PM on November 10, 2009


Shall we cover the Merchant of Venice?

Off topic, but this was the first Shakespeare play I read in high school that I actually enjoyed reading. Up until the ending, anyway. I was rooting for Shylock the whole time, and really hoping to see him get his pound of flesh. As a typically awkward 14-year-old male, revenge fantasies were a big thing for me at the time. I read it thinking Shylock was the protagonist and something of an underdog, and didn't pick up on the anti-semitism at all. Every page was getting closer to the gruesome comeuppance owed to that jerk Antonio, and I waited patiently...

What a let-down.
posted by Hoopo at 1:12 PM on November 10, 2009


bearwife, what is there about the Mitfords as a group? I know at least two of them were pretty foul, but there were a couple of others who seemed possibly admirable. Honestly curious.
posted by dilettante at 1:22 PM on November 10, 2009


Oddly enough, I have a relative who was half-Cherokee AND in the KKK.

Neither here nor there, though, is it?
posted by kathrineg at 1:31 PM on November 10, 2009


shetterly, the only NA/AI people I've met have been from around the midwest, so that's all I can speak for. It's also possible that it's a subcultural or tribal thing, or that luck alone has had me meeting with people who prefer "Native American".
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:32 PM on November 10, 2009


I dated a Mandan-Hidatsa girl from North Dakota, and she didn't really care which phrase you used, as she considered them all sort of inaccurate; given her druthers, she'd rather be identified by her tribal affiliation than a manufactured phrase intended to warehouse thousands of different tribes with hugely different experiences into one distinct group. Since dating her, I've met anumber of Native Americans who share that viewpoing. They recognize that people are going to call them something, collectively, but aren't especially concerned with what. Although AmerIndian has gotten me some funny looks, and she hated the word inginous, which she found clinical, and also didn't like the sound of it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:42 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Indiginous, rather.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:42 PM on November 10, 2009


Somewhere along the way I managed to absorb the information "Beloved children's book with 'Tree' in the title actually written by racist" and, without really thinking about it, half-consciously connected it with "The Giving Tree." So thanks for exonerating Shel Silverstein to my muddled brain.
posted by yarrow at 1:47 PM on November 10, 2009


I think we already established that Silverstein was a bit insensitive to gays and lesbians.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:53 PM on November 10, 2009


I do give a fuck about showing respect for both the people who self-identify as "Native American" and the people who self-identify as "American Indian," not deciding that whatever my ideological allies think must be right and then lecturing people who are actually following the lead of other Native American Indian activists and writers about how they're doing it wrong.

I was going to let that slide, then realized I could make a useful point: If you really want to show respect, learn the name of their people. To the best of my knowledge, no one self-identifies as "Native American" or "American Indian," 'cause those are both white terms. For example, at Mishkeegogamang First Nation, where my family lived for a number of years, the people identify themselves as Ojibwe.
posted by shetterly at 1:54 PM on November 10, 2009


I see you have also met people who share that viewpoing, shetterly.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:55 PM on November 10, 2009


Oops! Must learn to preview before posting. What Astro Zombie said about tribal affiliation. Also, about liking "Amerindian" only to find no real American Indians seem to like it.
posted by shetterly at 1:56 PM on November 10, 2009


Astro Zombie, I am so previewing this comment before posting it.

Okay, looks safe.
posted by shetterly at 1:57 PM on November 10, 2009


Afro American also seems to have been dumped, in case that's still in your vocab.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:58 PM on November 10, 2009


One of the horrifying aspects of this story is that the book was first published by the University of New Mexico Press. It's made a lot of money for them but I'm sure it's something of an embarrassment to them at this point. Not enough to let the book go out of print, of course.

UNM press is pretty much an academic publishing house exclusively. Even given what we know of the true history of the author, the book is still relevant, precisely because we do know. I don't think it's necessary to bury or burn the book, because we can still view it in the light of historical context, although I don't think it's a good book for little children who have no way to understand a larger perspective in which it might fit.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:01 PM on November 10, 2009


As for the "classist" charge, there's a poor white man who mistreats his daughter, but it's a scene involving pride and poverty. He's the only bad poor character that I remember. All the other poor characters are unambiguously good. But the rich whites do not come off favorably.

Yeah, but there's a strong streak of the "noble savage" running through it. Looks harmless at first glance, but it's patronizing. And as mentioned numerous times, the references to culture are not accurate.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:06 PM on November 10, 2009


Afro American also seems to have been dumped

Losing that one made me kind of sad, 'cause I loved the simplicity of Afro Americans, Euro Americans, Asian Americans, and just plain Americans for the folks who were here first. But I liked that when I was young enough to think names should make sense.
posted by shetterly at 2:09 PM on November 10, 2009


I think we already established that Silverstein was a bit insensitive to gays and lesbians.

Damn, can't win for losing.
posted by yarrow at 2:11 PM on November 10, 2009


I was reading the wikipedia entry for Carter and realized I had read an account of the castration of Edward Arron by men from the group he founded last summer. Check out William Bradford Huie's Three Lives for Mississippi for an insight into the sort of person we are talking about here. I remember reading that the crime shocked Alabama and the men got stiff sentences but were later pardoned when Wallace became governor. I wonder if Asa Carter had something to do with that.
posted by Tashtego at 4:29 PM on November 10, 2009



bearwife, what is there about the Mitfords as a group?

It may be true that not all the Mitfords were dreadful, but some that came to mind were Unity and Diana, who were respectively Hitler and Oswald Mosely groupies, and Thomas Mitford, known as a British Fascism supporter.
posted by bearwife at 4:58 PM on November 10, 2009


Ah. I'm aware of the others, but the one that comes to my mind first is Jessica. Thought maybe you meant there was something wrong there, too.
posted by dilettante at 5:37 PM on November 10, 2009


I dunno why I'm defending a writer whose style I don't like--

Well, actually, I do. It's because the question of redemption fascinates me. Forrest Carter wanted to cast off being Asa Carter as desperately as he could.

According to this, "In 1958, Carter himself quit the Klan group he had founded after shooting two members in a dispute over finances."

It also has this: "Although Mr. Carter, who wrote four books, failed to address the issue of his bigotry publicly, Mr. Friedenberg said he believed that "his apology was in his literature." For example, he said, the handful of blacks and Jews in his books are depicted sympathetically. "The bad guys are almost, without fail, rich whites, politicians and phony preachers," Mr. Friedenberg said."

I would love to read this Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s "'Authenticity', or the Lesson of Little Tree" from the New York Times Book Review, because it sounds like he does an interesting job of talking about whether a work is still valid as fiction when you had thought it was fact.

There's a strong attack on Carter's lack of research here, but I wonder if the writer is failing to recognize that bands in tribes can have different accents and use different words. For example, he says the "Carterism" for "crow" is "Ka-gu," but the Cherokee word is "Ko-ga," and ditto for "Awi usdi" versus A-wi-us-di", which sounds to me like "you say potatoe, I say potatah." It may be that to damn Carter's inaccuracy, the writer is just trying a little harder than necessary.
posted by shetterly at 6:18 PM on November 10, 2009


Sidhedevil, I went to Nativeweb, the site where you say they prefer "Native American." The people behind it are listed here. It appears that the majority are very sincere white folks.
posted by shetterly at 6:33 PM on November 10, 2009


David Duke wrote a book called "African Atto" under the pen-name Mohammed X, and a self-help book for women under the name Dorothy Vanderbilt.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 8:40 PM on November 10, 2009


L.P. Hatecraft, you are not helping me stop researching this.

Ahem.

I was trying to find out if anyone fell for Duke's pseudonymous work. It appears the books quickly became footnotes. But it did lead me to White Supremacist Represents School for Poor Minority Kids.
posted by shetterly at 9:13 PM on November 10, 2009


I read this years ago when I was in college and found it genuinely moving. My literary taste has matured in the years since, so I wonder if it would pass muster for me now. It's really odd that a man so rooted in hate could write something beautiful. Similar to Ender's Game and OSC, though I wouldn't exactly call that book beautiful--it's actually rather brutal.

I skipped some comments, has anyone brought up the other big literary fraud, that of Carlos Castaneda and how Don Juan was, like, totally made up and stuff. I was rather disappointed about that one.
posted by zardoz at 9:40 PM on November 10, 2009


Regarding the Mitfords, that's part of what makes them so fascinating: the six sisters were an author, a Nazi, a fascist, a communist, a lesbian housewife, and a Duchess. Growing up, Unity (the Nazi) and Decca (Jessica, the communist) were each other's favorite sister, but during the war were driven apart by their radically different political views.

I find the family totally fascinating; I read The Mitford Sisters, which is a joint biography, and Letters Between Six Sisters which contains their correspondence from childhood through old age. I want to read Hons and Rebels, Decca's book about their childhood.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:02 AM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the links to the books, ocherdraco. I read Hons and Rebels a few years ago, and now have started on the letters. Unity sounds horrifying; Diana quite human. Of course Diana's daughter in law was the editor. Me, I feel like a voyeur, but these are very engaging.
posted by dilettante at 10:04 AM on November 15, 2009


many people use "Native American Indian" in order to please or offend

When people want to be offended, you don't have to go out of your way to do it, they'll be very happy to be offended no matter what tortured formalism you employ.

Not that you'll get any thanks for it, of course.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 11:53 AM on December 6, 2009


I prefer my racists discredited and deceased.

So I am good.
posted by LarryC at 12:35 PM on December 6, 2009


Oh look, another racist fan of Karl May. Yawn.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:00 PM on December 6, 2009


« Older When the Toronto Star announced that they were out...  |  Defending the Arsenal: In an u... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments