J.K. Rowling’s missteps with Native Americans and my We Need Diverse Books resolution for 2016

J.K. Rowling came under fire earlier this month for her portrayal of Native people and cultures in a series of online stories related to Harry Potter.

The collection focuses on the fictional history of North American magic as part of a larger project to expand the Harry Potter universe and its back stories. But the recent installment received fast criticism from Native Americans, who said Rowling treated them as magical creatures and a monolithic group.

The backlash speaks to the much bigger conversations to be had on how much and in what ways American Indians are represented in children’s literature. I touched on this subject briefly in my conversation with Pam Margolis, but I am by no means an expert. (But you know who is? Debbie Reese. Check out her blog.)

That’s why part of my 2016 We Need Diverse Books resolution is focused on books by or about Native people.

As I thought about my resolution back in January, I didn’t think upping the raw number of diverse books I read made that much sense, because I pretty much maxed out my reading time last year. But I did think about the breakdown of what I read last year and how I could mix it up.

By far, the group most represented in my 2015 diverse reading was African-Americans. Latino/as came next, and I am pretty active in seeking books by or about LGBTQ people/kids.

But Native Americans? Nowhere to be found in last year’s list.

And people with disabilities also were not well represented.

This year, as I again pledge to read 50 diverse children’s books, I am also resolving that 12 of those will be by or about Native people and 12 will be by or about people with disabilities.

Do you have any reading resolutions this year? I’d love to hear what they are and how you’re doing so far!


3 thoughts on “J.K. Rowling’s missteps with Native Americans and my We Need Diverse Books resolution for 2016

  1. Kara, I like your resolutions. I have been thinking about the representation of Native Americans lately. Perhaps it’s the young woman, Tara Houska, working with Bernie Sanders that has highlighted the need. Perhaps I’m thinking back to when I used to write for the National Diabetes Advisory Board and toured a reservation in Arizona, where it became clear that Native Americans living on the reservation have an uphill battle to fight to gain decent food (so much butter/canned meats/peanut butter/cheese provided) because water has been diverted away from the reservation leaving those who live there with no way to grow their own gardens. So many don’t have clean drinking water or are living with health problems related to obesity due to diet and cultural changes. Lots of issues. And the many Native Americans who no longer live on reservations have “disappeared,” in a way, into the nation that resides outside of Native American land. There is always the tendency to romanticize a different culture. We must be vigilant in our own writing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s