Reasons to Give Thanks

Canadian Thanksgiving is long over–it falls, coincidentally, on Columbus Day. It has its own history, quite separate from that of the American holiday, although also loaded with its share of dastardly deeds from colonial times. As this MacLean’s Magazine article puts it:

This may be starting to sound like an argument for the abolition of Thanksgiving, given that it is textbook cultural appropriation, one that’s been repeatedly used as a tool to promote political ideals, often tied to ideas of racial and cultural superiority. The flip side of Thanksgiving’s shaky foundation, though, is that, in its modern form, it’s an invented tradition—like all holidays, really—that’s been tied to all manner of mythical stories to promote whatever vision of national or cultural identity needed at the time. That means it can be re-invented again to mean what we need it to mean now.

A repurposing of a holiday to redress historical wrongs? There’s a thought.

For a recent Native American perspective, this American Thanksgiving, consider this YA nonfiction book:

Adapted from Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s text for adults by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese.

And here’s a great selection of titles from the 2020 list of books honored in the American Indian Library Association Awards, representing the richness of today’s Native American and First Nations voices. Includes Birdsong by Julie Flett, We Are Grateful/Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, Apple in the Middle by Dawn Quigley, and many others.

And finally, join me in giving thanks for the generous heart and transformative work of Cynthia Leitich Smith, author-curator of the HarperCollins Heartdrum imprint and 2021 winner of the NSK Neustadt Prize.

On Celebrities Writing Books for Children

Oh, we have seen them all already, seen them all.

Madonna. Fergie.

Most recently, Keith Richards.

Because really, anyone can write a children’s book, right? And if you managed to get famous doing something else–music, the movies, going to jail–why not muscle your way into this appealing little market as well? Never mind those of us who have slogged in the trenches for years at the art we have chosen for the work of our lives, writing books for young readers. We get that it’s about sales, not craft. But the latest celebrity offering in our little industry ought to give us all pause, and not just because of the politics of the writers. That new celeb on the block is Rush Limbaugh! Yes, that’s right.

In an interesting twist of plot, by the odd parameters that define such things, Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims has managed to become a bestseller. The CBC–yes, that CBC, the people with the diversity initiative–had to put the author on their Author of the Year list. They explained it this way.

Could I have brought myself to read Rush’s little tome? Probably not–sorry, not enough hours in my day!–so I’m grateful to Debbie Reese who has read and reviewed the book.