Coming this November, Marvel Voices expands with the first issue of 'Marvel's Voices: Indigenous Voices'. Answering the call for diversity? Excelsior!
This year the Disney classic Pocahontas turns 25, but besides a huge case of nostalgia, this is a moment of reflection. Has Native American representation gotten better? Let's dive in.
Joy Harjo has been named the U.S. Poet Laureate for a second term. Harjo is the first Native American to hold the position. As a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation she is an important figure in the second wave of the literary Native American Renaissance.
‘What is the U.S. Poet Laureate position?’ You may ask. Well a Poet Laureate serves as the official poet of the United States. During their term, the Poet Laureate raises awareness and appreciation for the reading and writing of poetry.
Joy Harjo brings in big topics into her poems in a seamless way. Tying in native stories, tribal histories, spirituality, and even feminist issues, Harjo presents a striking repertoire of poems that invite the reader to see life in a whole new way. Not only does Harjo use poems to express her story but has written a memoir, a play, essay collections, and even two children’s books.
In her first term as U.S. Poet Laureate she concentrated on her digital presence in order to connect other Native poets and to bring together music and poetry. For her second term Harjo will focus on developing an interactive map of contemporary Native poets.
This is exciting news not only for the Native community but for literature as well. Native American literature holds one of the biggest gaps in literature, meaning not a lot of Native American stories, especially those written by Native Americans, aren’t published. Out of all the kids books, less than 1% of them are NA (the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the U of Wisconsin). That is why Harjo’s dedication to promoting Native American stories is so important and inspiring.
image via amazon
Here is one of Joy Harjo’s poems, An American Sunrise. In order to write this poem Harjo drew from a spiritual connection with her ancestors by traveling to the site where her ancestors were forcibly removed in the 1800’s.
“We were running out of breath, as we ran out to meet ourselves. We
were surfacing the edge of our ancestors’ fights, and ready to strike.
It was difficult to lose days in the Indian bar if you were straight.
Easy if you played pool and drank to remember to forget. We
made plans to be professional — and did. And some of us could sing
so we drummed a fire-lit pathway up to those starry stars. Sin
was invented by the Christians, as was the Devil, we sang. We
were the heathens, but needed to be saved from them — thin
chance. We knew we were all related in this story, a little gin
will clarify the dark and make us all feel like dancing. We
had something to do with the origins of blues and jazz
I argued with a Pueblo as I filled the jukebox with dimes in June,
forty years later and we still want justice. We are still America. We
know the rumors of our demise. We spit them out. They die
Featured image via Poetry Foundation.org
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It’s April 22nd, do you know what that means? It’s time to celebrate Earth Day! While this year it will be a little harder to celebrate what with everyone in quarantine, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop to appreciate the planet we call home. In honor of having some extra time to read in quarantine, here are some books that one can read to connect more with nature.
1. ‘Braiding sweetgrass’ by Robin Wall Kimmerer
image via amazon
In this memoir, Robin Wall Kimmerer uses her experiences as a woman, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and a scientist, to express the relationship between people and nature. Kimmerer unifies these perspectives to show us how to strengthen our relationships with other living beings. Kimmerer emphasizes the importance of other living things, including the small animals we find in the forest, and how much we can learn from the workings of nature when we choose to listen. This is an inspiring read that expertly knits together identity, science, and spirit.
2. ‘RAIN’ by Cynthia Barnett
image via amazon
If you are interested in history or the study of humans, this book is the one for you. Cynthia Barnett tells the story of rain and how humans have tried to control it, from rain dances to levees. This book takes you on an anthropological journey from the beginning of time to now, and how we as humans have changed rain for the worse. This book speaks about climate change and rain; how it benefits, how it damages, and ultimately leads to a conversation about how we as a society treat the Earth.
3. ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben
image via amazon
This book shares the case that the forest is a social network. Drawing on scientific discoveries, Wohlleben describes how trees are like human families – complete with tree parents and children. Wohlleben explains how they live together, communicate and support each other as they grow, share nutrients when one is struggling, and even warn each other when danger is near. This book helps you dive into the amazing processes of nature, how much we know, and how much we can’t possibly understand. While this life of trees seems like a different world, Wohlleben explains the importance of sharing this world and how we can learn from their processes of life, death, and regeneration.
4. ‘The Peace of Wild Things’ by Wendell Berry
image via amazon
The Peace of Wild Things is a collection of poems written by Wendell Berry. These poems will instantly transport you into a mindset of gratitude towards the interworking of nature. Using simple yet powerful language, Berry notes his love for nature while also commenting on his inner peace, relationships, and life philosophy. Want a taste? Here is an excerpt from one of Berry’s poems, ‘The Peace of Wild Things’
“When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
5. ‘The Overstory’ by Richard Powers
image via amazon
This novel by Richard Powers won the Pulitzer Prize and there are quite a few good reasons why. One reason is its beautiful prose, and another is the connection of our lives to the natural world. This story intertwines eight lives from antebellum New York, to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest, and even beyond. Throughout the novel, Powers weaves together these lives to trees. This connection drives us to see the world in a whole new lens that makes us look to nature with admiring eyes.
6. ‘The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating’ by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
image via amazon
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a memoir of Bailey’s observation of nature while dealing with a life-threatening illness. One of the species she studies is the Neohelix albolabris -a common woodland snail. Bedridden from her illness, Bailey discovers comfort and admiration from a creature whose new home is on her bed stand, from both being confined to a small place in the world. This memoir holds many lessons and observations that inspire us to appreciate being fully alive.
7. ‘The Shell Collector’ by Anthony Doerr
image via amazon
This collection of short stories was one of my favorite books I read last year. it is filled with magical realism and themes of how we interact with nature. These stories are imaginative with a wide range of characters and settings. From the African coast, to the pine forest of Montana, Doerr explores how nature reflects the delicacy, beauty, and crushing realities of both humanity and nature.
I hope these nature centered books inspire you to celebrate the complex and beautiful inter-workings of our planet!
featured image via Smithsonianmag.com
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I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day doesn’t come out until October 1st, but it’s already making waves. Day’s debut is inspired by her own family’s history and follows a girl named Edie Green who uncovers her family’s secrets, and discovers her true identity as Native American.
Tackling themes of identity, coming-of-age and First Nations family separations, Christine Day, who is Upper Skagit, has written a beautiful, sensitive and hopeful debut, and in doing so has added some much needed First Nations representation to the middle-grade reading pool.
All her life, Edie has known that her mom was adopted by a white couple. So, no matter how curious she might be about her Native American heritage, Edie is sure her family doesn’t have any answers.
Until the day when she and her friends discover a box hidden in the attic—a box full of letters signed “Love, Edith,” and photos of a woman who looks just like her.
Suddenly, Edie has a flurry of new questions about this woman who shares her name. Could she belong to the Native family that Edie never knew about? But if her mom and dad have kept this secret from her all her life, how can she trust them to tell her the truth now?
While the story is inspired by Day’s own family history, the book is not autobiographical. In an interview with The Horn Book Inc., Day stated:
In earlier drafts of this book, the family’s story was almost identical to mine. When I finally departed from the full, absolute truth of my personal history, I fell in love with the revision process. It was so liberating and inspiring to blur the lines between fact and fiction. Everything in this book still feels like it could be true to me. But it no longer feels like I’ve said too much.
I Can Make This Promise has received starred reviews from both Kirkus Reviews, who calls it, “enlightening and a must-read for anyone interested in issues surrounding identity and adoption”, and Publishers Weekly who have dubbed it “an affecting novel [that] also considers historical truths about how Native Americans have been treated throughout U.S. history, particularly underlining family separations.” Cherokee Nation’s Traci Sorell, award-winning author of We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, says “Day’s novel brings an accessible, much-needed perspective about the very real consequences of Indigenous children being taken from their families and Native Nations. The absence of one’s tribal community, loss of culture and lack of connection to relatives have ripple effects for generations.”
Described by Hayley Chewins, author of The Turnaway Girls, as a book that “manages to be both deeply sad and brightly hopeful”, I Can Make This Promise approaches difficult subject matter with the sensitivity and skill required by any great children’s author, which is what Day undoubtedly is.
Day holds a master’s degree from the University of Washington, where she wrote her thesis on Coast Salish weaving traditions. A huge ice cream fan, (her favorite flavors are Rainbow Sherbet by Baskin-Robbins and Half Baked by Ben & Jerry’s, for those wondering), Day is also super into Harry Potter (rating Prisoner of Azkaban as her number one!) and the Marvel Comics Universe. You can find her online at bychristineday.com, where she has writing tips, a discussion guide for educators, a blog, fun facts and more! You can also follow her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with her news, as there is sure to be lots to come!