Sunday, March 09, 2008

Can't beat the pay, either

After the revelation last week that Love and Consequences, a glowingly reviewed memoir of a half-black, half-Indian girl growing up in South Central LA, was a complete fabrication written by a white woman, Ojibwe David Treuer asks, "Why do writers pretend to be Indians?":

It's easy to get away with it, is one reason. Indians can, and do, look like anyone. And anyone can look like an Indian. After 500 years of intermarriage, Native American racial identities (as opposed to cultural identities) comprise a wide range. Among my three siblings, one of us looks like Opie Taylor, one like Tonto, and one is a dead ringer for the Karate Kid. (I'm Opie. Opie is my spirit guide.). . . .

Another reason:

Tragedy is a shortcut that sells, and the particular tragedy of being an Indian has an amazing ability to make readers lose their capacities to discern good writing from bad, interesting ideas from vapid ones.

And, in Ward Churchill's case (though he isn't mentioned), historical truth from polemical fiction. Whole thing good.

Update: Opie and Ward Churchill: separated at birth?

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