>Debbie Reese revisits one of the more interesting events of my years here. In another recent entry she talks about author John Smelcer’s aspirations to Indian-ness. Our review of The Trap didn’t mention it, but the jacket flap does claim that the author is “of Ahtna Athabaskan descent,” which apparently he isn’t, although his adoptive parents are Indian.
Debbie asks if publishers or reviewers might vet an author’s claims to Indian-ness. If I were a publisher, I would want to, but I would also want to trust the writers I published. As a reviewer, I don’t think I’d know how to go about it. As Debbie acknowledges, it would be ethically dubious to do this for Indian claims but not for others, but forget the workload issue, who would you ask? What would constitute an acceptable answer? And as with all questions involving “authentic representation,” who gets to decide?
I’m pondering the parallels and differences between Smelcer’s claims (and he’s certainly not the first white guy to “play Indian”) and those of people who passed themselves off as white and/or male to get what they wanted, be it publication or remuneration or freedom. Your thoughts?