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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Reader's Diary #1740- Matt Dembicki (editor): Trickster

If I could give any advice to potential readers of Trickster: Native American Tales A Graphic Collection, it would be to first skip to the message from the editor and author/illustrator bios all found at the back of the book. I have a few reasons why I'd suggest this approach. First off, in the editor's note Matt Dembicki talks about the process involved in the compilation. Of particular note, he talks about meeting and gaining trust from various indigenous communities. This is important as not all cultures have the same relationship to stories and it's too often been the case that settlers appropriate and exploit stories, stories that sometimes were not meant to be shared outside, taken out of context, and so on. He also refers to giving the storytellers final approval of storyboards, including any editing changes.

Second, the bios of the contributors eased my mind that the tellers actually had right to tell the stories, belonged to the tribes that the stories originated from. Of course, as Joseph Boyden and some others have shown us, this is unfortunately a real concern.

Finally, I felt it was important to keep the various cultures separate in a collection of tales that seeks to find a common element (i.e., a trickster character) and refers to a blanket "Native American" group. One big take away for me from the Indigenous Matters MOOC from the University of Alberta was to be specific whenever possible, recognize that sometimes it is more important to refer to say Dene or Inuit rather than lump them all together as indigenous (or aboriginal), acknowledging that they have different cultures and values, even if there may also be similarities.

With all that in mind, I felt more ready to read the stories and wound up enjoying them more as a result, learning lots in the process. Many seem to be morality tales, others seem to be origin stories, and all were entertaining (for some, perhaps, that was the only intent-- which would also be fine, of course). With any collection with various contributors, some of course seem better than others. Some, for instance, seemed to better match the tone of the art to the story, some had a more creative, unique style, and so on. A favourite of mine was Roy Boney Jr's computer aided artwork in "Horned Toad Lady and Coyote" by Eldrena Douma. It just stood apart as nothing else in the book and than I've seen before.

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