“White Writer Writes Book on Love”
How do you represent yourself? As a writer, or as a Native American writer?
That’s the question American Indian writers face when sharing their stories with heterogeneous crowds, like the ones that gathered this past weekend in Portland to celebrate writing.
One of the authors noted that the labels aren’t binary.
In fact, the label isn’t necessary.
Layli Long Soldier (Oglala Lakota) addressed the question at a session where she read passages from her poem, “38.”
Long Solider dares you to take a look at news headlines.
A headline will declare: “Native American writer publishes book.”
When was the last time, Long Soldier asks, you saw a headline that reads:
“White Writer Writes Book on Love”?
The Portland crowd chuckled.
Long Soldier’s point is that Indian writers are anonymous, while White writers have names.
I found confirming evidence the next morning while reading a hard-copy of the New York Times.
When I opened a spread featuring New York city-life on pages 34 and 35, I found three headlines for three stories that filled the spread (11 November 2018):
- The Music Legend Hiding in Plain Sight
- Delivering Mass, and Immigrants: A Priest’s Busy Life
- Max Rose’s Model for Defeating Republicans
Turns out Long Soldier predicted the future.
The first story, (The Music Legend Hiding in Plain Sight) focusses on Salvador Da Silva.
Da Silva is a jazz pianist living in New York, who is credited with inventing Samba Funk, according to the Times.
The Times reports that Da Silva, an African-Brazilian, is a pioneer of a “new understanding of blackness in Brazil.”
But his name escapes the headline.
The second story (Delivering Mass, and Immigrants: A Priest’s Busy Life) introduces readers to Father Ruskin Piedra, a priest in Brooklyn.
Piedra, who is Cuban-American, founded and directs a non-profit organization that helps people who are facing deportation.
But his name is missing in the headline.
The third story features a newly elected Congressional representative from two areas of the city: Staten Island “and a sliver of southern Brooklyn.”
Writer Ginia Bellafante calls him “a bald white man.”
Unlike the other two stories on the spread, the protagonist’s name deserves ink: Max Rose’s Model for Defeating Republicans.
The newspaper reinforces the Little Theories we harbor about mass media.
This theory has support.
And sometimes people of color are nameless, unless their color is “white.”
Today’s blog is for my colleague Maria DePriest, who champions American Indian writers and women writers
The top image represents 38 Native Americans killed in Mankato, Minnesota, on December, 26, 1862, and is credited to The Milwaukee Litho & Engr. Co., 1883
Photo of Layli Long Soldier from the website Poets; the photographer is uncredited
Day 14: Native American Heritage Month
14 November 2018