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Canada and The Year of the Flood

The more distance I get from reading this book, the more real it seems. That’s frightening, guys.

From the US’s friendly neighbor up north, Canada and The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood!

Set in the not-so-seemingly-distant future, this novel is set around a religious group known as God’s Gardeners. God’s Gardeners are like vegetarian hippies who don’t believe in mind-altering drugs, but they do believe in an unknown catastrophic event they call the Flood that will wipe out everyone on Earth – except for them, the believers, of course.

Which is a little weird, but they end up being kinda right.

The Flood arrives, and wipes out *almost* all life on Earth. A few people are accidentally left alive. The novel centers around two of these survivors: a woman named Ren, a one-time God’s Gardener now trapped in a sealed room in the sex club Scales and Tails; and Toby, a more hardcore¬†God’s Gardener now trapped in a fancy schmancy day spa.

Will they reunite?!

This book is kind of like YA dystopia on drugs. And it’s awesome. But don’t call it scifi, because the author does NOT like that. Please read this book, and the rest in the series MaddAddam, and share them with your friends and bloggers!

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What have you read from Canada? Or, alternatively, have you read any awesome dystopias (not necessarily scifi!) that you can’t wait to share?

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Mexico and One Out of Two

Over the first part of my Christmas break this year, I read Daniel Sada‘s One out of two:

This is the story of two identical twin sisters who decide to share a boyfriend – who, by the way, has no idea that there are two of them. The sisters look so much alike that no one can tell the difference between them. But what happens when the poor guy finally falls in love and proposes?

sharing

What have you read from Mexico?

Laguna Pueblo and Pocahontas: Medicine Woman, Spy, Entrepreneur, Diplomat

OK, so I REALIZE that Pocahontas was not a Laguna Pueblo Indian. She was, in fact, a member of the Powhatan Nation. However, the author of this book, Dr. Paula Gunn Allen, was indeed of Laguna Pueblo descent. Thus, Laguna Pueblo and Pocahontas.

Moving on.

Pocahontas! Everyone knows her! She saved John Smith from her dad and talked to raccoons and trees and hummingbirds and was really nice to the new white people, even though they weren’t always nice! Right!?

Um, no.

Dr. Gunn Allen’s book Pocahontas: Medicine Woman, Spy, Entrepreneur, Diplomat, not only serves as a biography to the legendary figure of Pocahontas, but also helps to separate the romantic, mythical story from the facts of Pocahontas’ life and times.

So, most people’s vision of Pocahontas is from the Disney movie, right? OK. I’m going to have to ask you to forget everything from that movie. I know, I know, that’s a lot to ask, but trust me – it’s worth it.

For starters, the part in the Disney movie where Pocahontas saves John Smith is totally relying on John Smith’s account of what happened. Now. John Smith wasn’t lying, per se, but he was…enhancing his experiences bit. You know, for the ladies. Or the money. Or both. Whatever. Anyway, his account can’t ignore the fact that he didn’t understand a word of what the people around him were saying, or that he had never ever been to a religious ceremony held by the Powhatan people, and thus had absolutely no clue what was going on. In Dr. Gunn Allen’s book, she suggests that a more likely scenario was that getting ready to “kill” John Smith may have been entirely symbolic – and completely planned out from the beginning. It may have been a symbolic way to give Smith “rebirth” into their nation, offering him their protection – and in return, he was supposed to offer them his protection.

We see how that played out. But anyway.

If you’re interested in Native American history at all, this is the book for you. It was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize when it was first published, and it’s very thorough. A word to the wise, though: read this one slowly. When I first read it, I really didn’t like it. I think, though, it’s just because I was on information overload. Dr. Gunn Allen adds a LOT of information about Powhatan religious beliefs and ceremonies, which is AWESOME but is also very different than most religious ceremonies I’ve read about. It just takes a little bit of time to wrap your brain around some of the ideas she suggests, but it’s totally worth it ūüôā

Spokane and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Since I mentioned this book in my last post, and I just finished reading it so it’s fresh in my mind, I thought I’d talk next about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

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What a great book! There were so many times where I just couldn’t stop laughing. Take this passage, for example: “Yep, that’s right. I admit that I masturbate. I’m proud of it. I’m good at it. I’m ambidextrous.” I think my husband thought I was going insane because I wouldn’t stop laughing when I read this.

Based on this same passage, of course, you can easily see why it was banned or challenged in schools across the country. Check out the American Library Association’s Top Ten Challenged Books list to see how often Part-Time Indian has been listed!

Now, I’m a librarian, and I think banning books is wrong and often pointless. I can clearly recall my parents telling me I couldn’t read certain titles – so I did it anyway, behind their backs. BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY IT’S A GOOD BOOK IF THEY DON’T WANT ME TO READ IT! Right?!

This kind of hearkens back to how I view books and reading anyway. To me, reading is a way to learn about new people/places/situations/cultures/etc. that I’d otherwise never get the chance to discover. When I was a kid, it often felt like most of the books that adults gave me were basically the same – white kids somewhere in America doing white kid things, often in rural settings. (Case in point, I was forced to read the atrocious novel Bert Breen’s Barn in middle school. If you have no idea what this book is, count yourself blessed. SO BORING). ¬†And while there’s nothing WRONG with any of these books (besides the fact the Bert Breen’s Barn almost did permanent brain damage through boredom), after a while, they all started sounding the same. And my curious little brain wanted MORE. And often, those books that offer “more” aren’t available because A) they haven’t been written yet or B) adult don’t want kids to read them.

Also, you’re totally kidding yourself if you think your teen son is not masturbating. Come on. Be real. It’s not like he’s really going into detail here.

If you follow me on Snapchat (and you should be, it’s pretty awesome – username erin.lenae), you’ll know that I snapped a LOT of passages from this book.¬†¬†And some of them weren’t always funny. Some of them were actually really, really sad – especially when he describes reservation life. There’s a lot of that juxtaposition in the book that really is at the core of the book’s brilliance. For example,¬†the main character’s father is an alcoholic, but he’s still a very loving, committed family man. At one point, the father is driving his son to school (hungover), and he looks awful and probably feels awful, but he tells his son that he is a “warrior” for wanting to go to a school off of the reservation. And to the main character, that simple statement meant the world. It was actually a really touching moment between father and son.

I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend this book. I can’t believe it took me so long to read it myself. Everyone should read it – and then go read more of Sherman Alexie’s writing. I know I will be!

Muscogee/Creek and How we Became Human

Did you know there are “562 federally recognized Indian tribes, bands, nations, pueblos, rancherias, communities and Native villages in the United States”? I didn’t. I had no idea there were so many. I also had no idea they had their own flags – but they sure do! So, basically, that’s 562 individual nations.

And I thought my North American reading was just going to be the US, Canada, and Mexico 0.o

So, I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again in case you’re new here: I’m basing this entire project off of Ann Morgan, a fellow blogger who came up with the idea to read a book from every country in the world, in order to make herself better read. I thought this was a REALLY COOL idea, and wanted to follow suit with my own list. And here I am!

But, I noticed something about Ann’s list. As cool (and important) as this idea is, she didn’t have a single Native nation on her reading list. I mean, they’re countries too, right? They have their own land, laws, and sovereignty. So don’t they deserve to be on a world reading list? It’s like…OK, this is going to sound a bit dramatic, BUT – it’s like their absence from a world reading list meant their total absence from the world. In a very real way, actually. Like they weren’t a part of the world anymore. Like they didn’t exist.

And that made me sad, because Native people DO still exist! It’s not like they disappeared with the wagon trains and dysentery and saloons and randomly roaming buffalo.

And I get that her list was chosen from the 196 independent, UN-recognized countries in the world. I suppose that’s way to help narrow it down so this reading project doesn’t take you the rest of your life.

BUT.

It just didn’t sit right with me. It feels…I don’t know, it often feels like American society today acts like there are not more Native people left. Like they did disappear with the wagon trains and dysentery and saloons and randomly roaming buffalo. Maybe I’m saying that because I live in a state where there are no reservations or Native populations to speak of. But…if you look at some of our literature today – what’s currently being published, what’s available at our libraries and bookstores, etc. – there’s…not a lot from Native people. And I know everyone reading this is thinking “But what about Sherman Alexie! I read his book! Part-time Indian or something!” AND YES! That is a FANTASTIC book that I just finished reading and will be talking about in a separate post! Buuuuuuuuut I bet that’s the only piece of Native literature that you can name. Unless you’re a Native person. Then you can probably name more.

So that’s why I wanted to add at least SOME of the 562 nations to my reading list. The titles¬†I’ve chosen¬†can be on my North America Reading List. If you have any suggestions, PLEASE LET ME KNOW! I’m relying solely on heavy Googling right now!

And so, in my longest blog post ever, I would like to talk about How we Became Human, a collection of poems by Joy Harjo.

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I read this during April, which is National Poetry Month, completely by (happy) accident, and it turned out to be awesome. There were so many poems that I had to stop and re-read, and re-read, and re-read. One of them really stuck with me. It is called For a Hopi Silversmith:

he has gathered the windstrength
from third mesa
into his hands
and cast it into silver

i have wanted to see
the motion of wind
for a long time

thank you
for showing me

So elegant and simple all at once. No capitalization needed. When I close my eyes after reading this, I see wind being magically swept up and captured in silver. Beautiful. And powerful.

Some of Harjo’s¬†other poems are more energized, such as the poem She Had Some Horses – possibly her most well-known poem. She also writes music and has a couple prose out, too, the most recent being her memoir, Crazy Brave.

Joy Harjo is from the Muscogee, or Creek, Nation.

***Update: Sorry guys – when I posted this yesterday, I forgot to add the book cover and map! My bad! The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is located in Oklahoma, near Tulsa.

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