|What does this cover say, in a Thanksgiving display?|
Many Thanksgiving books on the market now attempt to be factually correct, yet still walk a strange line...following the traditional "First Thanksgiving" narrative thread from the White colonists' perspective, and just shifting the language so as not to be caught in an all-out lie. Robert Merrill Bartlett's The Story of Thanksgiving was revised in 2001, the same year 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving came out, yet still traces and holds up the myth of the first Thanksgiving: "..two men name Squanto and Samoset appeared and made friends..." "the Pilgrims wanted to celebrate their harvest...they held their first thanksgiving. They invited the Wampanoags to join them" ... "Today Thanksgiving is a happy time." (This book appears to be now, thankfully, out of print.)
Other books don't even try, and people still ask for books like Arthur's Thanksgiving, where kids dress up as Pilgrims and Indians and put on a play...because that's what some of us remember doing at Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving is about "tradition." I'm doubtful though, that children appreciate being sold a lie. As 5th grader Taylor M. wrote to Debbie Reese, after reading the Suppressed speech of Wamsutta (Frank B.) James:
I thought about all the way back to Kindergarten, right before Thanksgiving break we would always get these coloring worksheets of the happy little Pilgrims and Indians giving each other things. Up until now, I didn’t really realize that that’s not how it happened. Showing the happy little cartoon Indian was a lie. I think Kindergarteners and young children should know what actually happened, not with gruesome details, but they should know more of the truth.
How much truth does your Thanksgiving collection tell? When is the last time you evaluated each book for accuracy? Sadly, I have found I can't reliably trust professional reviews to evaluate Thanksgiving books, or most children's books with First Nations/Native content; I depend on the resources from Oyate and Debbie Reese's blog to help me parse the presentation, and ask questions when I can't tell for sure myself. I wish more reviewers would do this, and I challenge you to try it, this month. I can pretty much promise you librarians there is something in your Thanksgiving collection that is worth weeding, so this is good and easy practice.
It is possible to have broader collections that allow for the many ways in which people approach this holiday, and tomorrow you will hear from Angie about how to develop your Thanksgiving display after your weeding. To get you started:
You can buy Oyate's full resource "Thanksgiving: A Native Perspective" as a stand alone, or within their book "A Broken Flute," which includes many helpful articles and reviews of books you probably have in your library, but may never have really looked at through a First Nations/Native perspective. If this is the first time you are checking out Oyate, make sure to explore everything in their "Resources" section.
At American Indians in Children's Literature, Debbie Reese gathers links to her "Posts About Thanksgiving" on the left sidebar, just scroll down.
And while we're on the topic of marketing holidays, check out Aya De Leon's blog post "Queridos Gringos" and take a look at your Day of the Dead materials before they go back into storage.