Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Books and the question of voice (again)

We read two books this week, that again left me thinking about the issue of voice.  The first is called "How Chipmunk Got Tiny Feet" which was "collected and retold" by Gerald Hausman.  That last set of brackets says it all.  While the people who told him the stories are, in some cases, noted by name, it is only at the end of the story and some stories are only identified as "traditional".  The biography at the back of the book points out that Hausman has, "spent thirty years studying the culture of our country's original civilization." While the story we read was good and the artwork is fine, I felt like I was ripping of some indigenous relative who had their stories taken so that some other guy could get the credit.  This feels like ongoing colonization, where the thing that is good about indigenous cultures gets appropriated and the rest ignored.

The second book is "Mwàkea Talks to the Loon" by Dale Auger.  Mr Auger is a Cree and the story has a nice use of Cree vocabulary within the text of the story.  I really like this style as it makes a book that is interesting for everyone to read, but also gives us opportunities to learn new vocabulary.  The story was good, the writing was good and at the end I felt like I was supporting an artist/writer that was worth supporting. This felt like good story medicine.

What do you think?  Does voice matter? Or is a good story, a good story even where it is delinked from it's historical context?  The Hausman book is from 1995, is there a "didn't know better" line?

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