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Friday, April 28, 2006

Reader's Diary #79- Jean M. Auel: The Plains Of Passage (ch. 20, up to p. 340)


I'm trying my best to salvage something from this book and I think I may have managed. I've been at a couple of reading workshops lately and it was stressed MANY times about how important it is to make reading meaningful to children, make it connect to them some how. That makes a lot of sense because as adult readers we take it for granted how many such connections we make during a read through of just about anything.

What I'm salvaging from this book, what I'm appreciating, is the connections it's making me think about. First, comfort and aboriginal peoples. As anyone who's followed this site, or who is acquainted with me knows, I lived in Nunavut for four years. I learned more about the Inuit in that amount of time than I had ever known before, and this book makes me think again about some of their history. When you consider that I met people(granted they were the older people) that were actually born in igloos, it's not all that long ago. Then consider that the characters in Plains of Passage were based on people that lived about 35 000 years ago. It's amazing how the Inuit shared a lot of characteristics with their lifestyle (i.e., relying on hunting, living in tents, living nomadically, using thrown weapons, etc) until so recently (relatively speaking). It also made me think once again about my contemporary and I guess, eurocentric view of comfort. I remember being blown away watching the Tuktu videos that people lived liked that at one time. Not only that, but people were happy doing so! I'm not much of a camper, let alone spending my entire life living in the cold, hunting for myself, preparing my own clothing, and so on. I'd deteriorate into a puddle of frozen sobs if I had to fend for myself that way and be so uncomfortable for the rest of my life. But that's where the Tuktu videos and Plains of Passage get interesting- comfort never seems to be an issue. I guess, if you've never had a Serta, how would you know? (Not an endorsement for Serta).

The way the Cro-magnons view the Neanderthals in The Plains of Passage made me think of the way white people used to view Beothuks. Just like the Cro-magnons refer to the Neanderthals as flatheads and consider them animals, white people considered the Beothuks savages, heathens and so on. Interesting in The Plains of Passage, the Neanderthals aren't shown to put the Cro-magnons below them. Instead of considering them animals as well, they refer to them simply as "the Others" and avoid them out of fear. I've often heard stories (for what they're worth) of natives throughout history fearing white people and considering them evil, even magical, but like in Auel's book, I haven't heard accounts of them calling white people "savage" or referring to them in any way animalistic. With the horrific things they've had done to them, maybe they valued animals too much to insult them with such a comparison.

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