The Matriarch, Harry Potter, and Native Appropriations

There’s been a bit of flack surrounding the previews on JK Rowling’s Pottermore website regarding “magical” North American history, specifically in the way it includes Native American culture. If you weren’t aware, this is all advertisement for the new Harry Potter film entitled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them arriving in theaters November 2016; the Pottermore website has published four installments of the abbreviated “History of Magic in North America.” While there are many issues pointed out by various news outlets, this is the one that hurts the most and that I’m most familiar with.

The Problem With Magic Folk

“So what?” people post online. “It’s fiction. She can make up whatever she wants.” None of this is real, so who does it hurt? The actual people, for one thing. Native Americans are real people with a real culture; they haven’t died out or ceased to exist. It’s not just one culture, either; there are currently 562 federally recognized Indian Nations (source: ncai.org), and their uniqueness is hanging on in spite of centuries spent actively destroying it. No, not just the English colonists; the French and Spanish both had equal hands in it.

LoneRangerJohnnyeppTontoIn Hollywood, there has long existed a trope of “the helpful Indian who appears from nowhere,” so clearly they must be magical. Think Peter Pan and The Lone Ranger; help is needed, the indigenous mystics appear, do their thing, then conveniently disappear. It’s a plot device: deus ex shamana. Like faeries, trolls, and goblins, the truth can be lost to legend. Using Britain’s own fables as an example, there were reportedly a dozen Robin Hoods who all became one man, and King Arthur’s stories can be traced to several individuals who were embellishment through oral tradition.

Native Americans do exist and want to keep their cultures and traditions alive. Learn about it all you like and tell others, but embellishing the facts — changing them — and attributing details to all tribes as a whole dilutes its uniqueness. Like a game of telephone, the truth is being lost because the details are wrong.

Continue reading “The Matriarch, Harry Potter, and Native Appropriations”

YA Horror: Not the Type of Books That You Would Read?

“Young Adult Horror” is the topic of discussion I would like to raise today. For example:

“After an orphan child endures his formative years being neglected by his foster parents and made to feel powerless, a mysterious stranger arrives with a revelation: the child was born with the blood of sorcerers in his veins.

“Taken to a hidden fortress under the cover of darkness, the child encounters disembodied spirits, nightmarish creatures, and enemies at every turn. Yet it is only when he discovers that his birth parents were murdered by the dark arts that his true path becomes clear.”

I wrote that three-sentence description for the express purpose of illustrating a point about YA Horror, but how many of readers would correctly identify this as the synopsis for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone?

In offering to allow reviewers the chance to sample my book series, The Spooky Chronicles, I have repeatedly seen replies such as “(these) aren’t the type of books that I would read” or “(YA horror is) not my thing.” My question, of course, is “Why didn’t you give the Harry Potter books a chance?” To be perfectly honest, I submit that the entire series run of all seven JK Rowling books in the Potter series are not only YA horror but become more horrific with each installment (and, frankly, I loved every bit of it).

My point is this: I’m attempting to be fair in the description of what my books are about. Horror is not the only thing that happens in these stories; there is a fair amount of fantasy as well as drama, humor, adventure, and more, but the main character IS a zombie kid. What is creating this reaction to YA horror? Look at children’s nursery rhymes and Grimm fairy tales; the very essence of these stories is unmistakably horror. Hansel and Gretel (and the witch)? Ring Around the Rosie? My guess is that someone at some time has written a truly horrible book where something unspeakable must happen to all the young adult characters; if you happen to know what that book is, please send me the title because I’d like to give it a shot.

In the meantime, what do YOU think? Is a wizard who learns the value of destroying your enemies with sorcery more palpable than a zombie boy who is genuinely fearful he might accidentally start the Apocalypse?