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Honoring Alaska's Indigenous Literature

Criteria for analyzing Alaska Native Children's Literature
By J
ennie McLean

Is this book truthful and respectful? Would anything in this book embarrass or hurt a Native child? Is anything in this book stereotypic thinking in a non-Native child?

NAME OF BOOK and published:
TWO OLD WOMEN, An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival.1993

ISBN NUMBER: ISBN 0 - 945397 - 18 - 6
GRADE LEVEL & GENRE: 6th Grade, Alaska LegendsBRIEF OVERVIEW OF WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT AND WHERE IT COMES FROM?

From the book:
" Based on an Athabaskan Indian legend passed along from mothers to daughters for many generations on the upper Yukon River in Alaska, this is the tragic and shocking story - with a surprise ending - of two elderly women abandoned by a migrating trib that faces starvation brought on by unusually harsh Arctic weather and a shortage of fish and game. The story of survival is told with suspense and wisdom by Velma Wallis, a promising new Native American writer. Her style is a refreshing blend of contemporary and traditional, and her choice of subject matter challenges the taboos of her past. Yet her themes are modern - empowerment of women, the graying of America, a growing interest in Native American values."

WHAT REGION OR TRIBAL GROUP IS THIS BOOK PORTRAYING?
Doyon Region, Fort Yukon Area (right below the Arctic Circle)

FRONT COVER OF BOOK AND ILLUSTRATOR:
Book design: Leslie Newman Design/ Illustration
Cover: Leslie Newman
Found a Website on Leslie Newman

Leslie Newman
Leslie has developed a unique, yet, broad range of illustration styles that have a fresh, friendly appeal. When not designing or illustrating, she is occupied with lots of stuff like gardening, reading and serving her Abysinnian cat, Jetson.

INFORMATION FROM BOOK SELLERS SUCH AS AMAZON OR OTHERS ON WHAT THE BOOK IS PORTRAYING:

five starsLucky36@earthlink.net Positive,&inspirational for anyone, December 14, 1999

 

Reviewer: lucky36 (see more about me) from rohnert park, ca USA

I read this story about 2 years ago and recommended for it Ophra's bookclub review. It is so uplifting and shows that someone of age can still be worthwhile and make something of their life, regardless of the situation they might be in. An older person has a lot of worth left to give to themself and others. Reading the story of how these two old women survived against the odds and how they helped themselves and each other to cope was inspiring. How they were left by family and friends and still moved on to survive, it something that happens to some of the aging people today. I reread this book every now and thenwhenever I feel down. The book helps us to remember that we can do anything we want to do, if we want it bad enough. It also helps us to remember that we are never too old to be helpful. An aging person has a lot of widsom to share if they can't share anything else. Talk to an aging person about their life and learn something new and maybe interesting to you.

AWARDS GIVEN FOR BOOK: Two Old Women received a Western States Book Award for Creative nonfiction in 1993. The Western States Book Awards are a project of the Western States Arts Federation.

AUTHOR: Velma Wallis, Fort Yukon, Fairbanks.

Good points: It gave really good reviews on Velma in this book. I was very pleased that the Author bio is on the back flap and also the last page with a picture of Velma and her mom. It really makes the book more historically correct when you read about the author and there own life comes from the story.

Bad points: NONE

ILLUSTRATIONS: James Grant Sr. was born in the Athabaskan village of Tanana, Alaska, in l946, and raised in California. He attended Chaffey Junior College in Alta Loma, California, and the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, where he now lives. While stationed in Europe with the U.S. Army, Grant had an opportunity to travel and to study the masters. His art also includes mask making, wood and ivory carving, bronze casting, oil painting, and pen and ink.

Good points: What I have written above is what was written in the book. I am glad that Jim was chosen for the pen and ink drawings in this book. Without the accurate look of the Indians and country where they live you cannot really get a feel for where this story is taken place. I think the illustrations are just as important as the words. I love that both the author and the illustrator are Alaska Natives. It makes this book all the more special.

Bad points: NONE

Information about Illustrator: Provided above

INFORMATION FROM AN ELDER FAMILIAR WITH THIS TIME AND PLACE?

I did not ask an elder from my community about this book. I did ask a few of the Alaska Native teachers here in Nulato and they enjoyed the book and thought it was well written and documented accurately.

PRONUNCIATION OF NATIVE WORDS IN BOOK: could they sound out the words by showing it in parentheses ( ).

Like I have written in my other book reviews I sure wish that the author would use parentheses so the reader can pronounce the words correctly that are in their language. For example the two old women's names are Sa' and Ch'idzigyaak. But I am not sure if they sound just how they are spelled I am sure not.

LOOK AT PICTURES:

Properly illustrating what the book is about and the people that it is portraying. Properly illustrated from my point of view.

LOOK FOR STEREOTYPES:

Look at both the writings and pictures to see if they are stereotyping the culture which the book is about.

I did not see where the writings and the pictures were stereotyped. I know that long ago both the Eskimo and Indian people use to tell me that they use to fight or not get along. In Bird Girl it was explained about the territory that both peoples used to subsistent hunt.

LOOK FOR LOADED WORDS:

Are racist adjectives used to refer to Native peoples? Is language used as to insult Native peoples? Is the language respectful? The language was not insulting.

LOOK FOR TOKENISM

Are Native people depicted as stereotypically alike, or do they just look just like whites with brown faces? Are they depicted as genuine individuals?

James Grant does an excellent job of drawing the people in the clothing that they wore in this time of the story. They are genuine individuals.

LOOK FOR DISTORTION OF HISTORY

Is the time and place of the history in the story correct? Does it depict the right clothing, language, and way of life for that time and place in history? Is the U.S. government only "trying to help"?

Are there Native heroes who are admired because of what they have done for their own people? Are they elders shown as people that were greatly respected by the community?

LOOK AT THE LIFESTYLES

Are Native cultures presented in a condescending manner? Are there paternalistic distinctions between "them" and "us"?

Are the Natives in the book respected and does it show respect for the complexity of their societies, values, religions, morals and connection to past and present?

LOOK FOR STANDARDS OF SUCCESS

Are the Natives portrayed as a helpless and less of a person compared to a priest, teacher, or other non Native person that seems to know what is "good for them" (the Natives).

LOOK AT THE ROLE OF WOMEN, MEN AND ELDERS

Do the women do all the work? Are the men lazy? Are the elders treated with respect or are they looked upon as a burden to the people? Are the customs of the elders valued?

LOOK AT THE EFFECTS ON A CHILD'S SELF-IMAGE

Is there anything in the story that would hurt or embarrass a Native child? Are there one or more role models with whom a Native child can identify? Are the children encouraged to succeed by their elders and parents?

OVERALL VIEW OF THE BOOK AND RATED BETWEEN 1 - 10

 

 

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Last modified August 21, 2006