I'm finally getting around to reading jack d. forbes, university of california, davis, professor of native american studies. I'm starting with one of his scholarly books, "The American Discovery of Europe" and also his only novel, "Red Blood." I am really impressed by the novel. It is written in the peripatetic motif popularized in the English tradition by Smolett, but found also in that sperm-seed of western literature, Don Quixote. So, nothing much happens, there is no suspensful 'plot,' but the protagonist, Jesse, travels around and meets different people of various native american backgrounds, reflects on what he sees, and gains insight into what it means to be native american, or part-native american, at this particular juncture in time.
It seems to me he covers every possible permutation.
It's a great loss that Jack Forbes has recently died, in February 2011, because he was clearly a man of great insight with a basically gentle attitude toward differences, a lot of love, compassion and intelligence. A jewel. He was of Powhatan-Renape and Lenape background, which may mean he looked more brown or more white than the popular conception of what 'Native American' looks like. He writes a LOT about all the various shades of color and subtleties of feature found in our population. Young white readers, in particular, (from what I've seen in the comments on blogs that deal with these issues) often find this kind of writing 'racist,' but really, it's just revealing the racism that is already there in our society, but goes unacknowledged. There's been a fairly large acknowledgement of the racism heir to the plantation-slavery of Africans prior to the Civil War, but there is less awareness of the widespread slavery prior to the rise of the South's cotton industry. Slavery or indentured servitude were very common throughout the thirteen colonies and early states and involved white, black and red persons, who often united in bands of community and through marriage. Their descendents, along with the descendants of many later immigrants, form the 'unentitled' masses of America today. The lower classes and working classes.
For people who fall into that latter category, 'Red Blood' is a helpful book. For people like myself, with perhaps only a smidgen of native blood but a fairly wide streak of influence from the native forbears, it is comforting to see just where these influences come from, and that we have a sort of 'right' to our beliefs and our lifestyle. We are not simply somehow defective white people or 'anti-social' or whatever label might have been applied to us in our difference. We are not simply 'black' Americans, either, but that is someone else's story to tell, not mine.
For myself, to look at me, I understand why no one would credit that I am part-native american, or part African, even though my dna tests show that, and my family (barely) acknowledged it, regarding it as something too precious to share abroad, only eliciting criticism, ridicule or negativity. Rather, our truth was like a precious pearl kept secret in a special container deep inside our home. Anyway, I'm not going to try to convince anybody - about myself, I mean. It will be a fairly private thing for me, and an online post doesn't really change that.
I look forward to reading more Jack Forbes and I encourage you to read him too.