Monday, November 21, 2011


I’m not big on holidays. When I was growing up my family didn’t make a big deal out of celebrating, an attitude which I’ve continued as an adult. I certainly don’t humbug anyone else’s celebrations, but for myself, holidays are mostly days where I don’t have to be at work and can gleefully spend binge reading novels or watching a marathon of favorite television shows.

Holidays are also a time when I indulge my favorite pastime, Thinking Too Much About Things. Right now I’m sure every library has a display of Thanksgiving books out, and I can’t help but cringe when I think about how many of those books--especially ones for children--are full of blatant misrepresentations of the “first” Thanksgiving and Native American peoples.

The Oyate website, which I learned about in library school as a multicultural resource, lists recommended books on the topic of Thanksgiving. This list, unless I am missing something, lists six books. Six.

How many Thanksgiving books do you currently have on display? Sixty? One hundred and sixty? Are any of them the books recommended by Oyate as being the “...most culturally appropriate and historically accurate books” available? (The blog American Indians in Children’s Literature is also an excellent resource on this topic). And how many of the books in your collection are on Oyate’s list of books to avoid?

It’s our job as librarians to provide the best information for our users, using a variety of tools and skills to make these judgments. There’s no one out there, I think, willing to cull their collection so drastically to leave only six books on such a popular topic...but maybe we should be. Maybe we should just buy multiple copies of books that we know to be accurate and appropriate. Perhaps then more books that adhere to those standards would be published.

This might be why I don’t get too deeply involved in holidays. Eventually I end up in a morass of conflicting thoughts and feelings, wondering what the right way to celebrate is, what the right thing to do is. The curse of Thinking Too Much About Things.

Here’s the full list of books recommended by Oyate. You’ll notice that many of them have publication dates from the mid nineties, with the most current one being 2001.

Recommended Books about Thanksgiving
Bruchac, Margaret M. (Abenaki), and Catherine Grace O'Neill, 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2001, grades 4-up
Hunter, Sally M. (Ojibwe), Four Seasons of Corn: A Winnebago Tradition. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1997, grades 4-6.
Peters, Russell M. (Wampanoag), Clambake: A Wampanoag Tradition. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1992, grades 4-6.
Regguinti, Gordon (Ojibwe), The Sacred Harvest: Ojibway Wild Rice Gathering. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1992, grades 4-6.
Seale, Doris (Santee/Cree), Beverly Slapin, and Carolyn Silverman (Cherokee), eds., Thanksgiving: A Native Perspective. Berkeley: Oyate, 1998, teacher resource.
Swamp, Jake (Mohawk), Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message. New York: Lee & Low, 1995, all grades.
Wittstock, Laura Waterman (Seneca), Ininatig's Gift of Sugar: Traditional Native Sugarmaking. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1993, grades 4-6

On a cheerier note, I did ask my twitter librarian friends what they were thankful for this year. A lot of them were thankful for their jobs...period; others were thankful that their jobs are so challenging in many ways; others were thankful for great coworkers and wonderful patrons.

This year I’m thankful for all of those things. I’m thankful I’ve found different, enriching ways to develop as an information professional (including writing for this blog), and I’m thankful that I have a job that I enjoy and am good at, and I am thankful that librarians everywhere continue to fight the good fight for what they believe in.

What are you thankful for?