Friday, November 16, 2007

Book Trout Lives Under Rock

The Book Trout apparently lives under a rock, because it was news to me when I read in the newspaper recently that "The Education of Little Tree" by Forrest Carter is not a fictionalized memoir of a Cherokee Indian's boyhood but a tale spun out of wholecloth by a white KKK kook and George Wallace speechwriter. The book showed up on an Oprah website suggested reading list and was summarily ejected when this was pointed out publicly. To her credit, Oprah had, in 1994, talked about her ambivalence about the book after hearing about Carter's wacko past and discussed ow she removed it from her personal bookshelves, unable to reconcile its beautiful spirituality with the ugliness of its racist author.

I somehow missed this whole brouhaha when it was revealed not long after the book won the first ABBY Award, bestowed by the American Booksellers Award for literary gems most beloved by independent booksellers. Although I have not read the book myself, I had many customers who raved about what a poignant story it is and so I would pick up copies when I was out book scouting because of its popularity and its presence on many a high school reading list. There are at least two book buddies who will be crestfallen when I let them in on its Hall of Shame provenance.

A far better Native American coming of age story would seem to be Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian", which yesterday won a National Book Award. It is a semi-autobiographical young adult novel, following the path of a young Native American hydrocephalic teen, who decides to leave his family and Reservation to seek education and challenges in the white world. The Seattle Times has a great article here about Alexie's book.

Alexie, incidentally, was quoted by the Associated Press after the Oprah website incident as saying
"'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,"

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