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Floating Baby Heads!

Baby Knits coverBaby Hand Knits
Rembrandt Yarns

Submitter: This publication from 1946 by the Wool Novelty Co., Inc. of New York, NY, came in with a very large donation of women’s handicraft magazines. Maybe because it’s Friday, I found the floating baby heads on the cover particularly entertaining….

Holly: Collectors would love this! In all seriousness, there are libraries that can preserve this kind of thing and have a beautiful archive of old-timey craft publications. Your average public library is not that place, but patrons making donations don’t know that. They feel all warm and fuzzy for donating to the library rather than throwing out their stuff, and are completely baffled to find that these old magazines can’t be added to the circulating collection. I agree that the cover image is odd for a baby knitting magazine. How about some nice knitted hats on those floating heads? Also, my mom was born in 1946. Those babies are in their 70s now.



Home Repair for the Ladies

Home Repairs Any Woman Can Do coverHome Repairs Any Woman Can Do

Submitter: [This] book so obviously dismisses females as able to perform home maintenance. Besides that, the book seems to contain useful information for any homeowner not exactly knowledgeable about construction, plumbing, electrical wiring, and such, regardless of gender. I would not say your “average” male is completely up to code on his TV repair skills either, even accounting for the time period!

Holly: This was a great choice for a public library in 1973 (although I’m not sure the community college in which it was found was ever the ideal place for it). It could have been weeded by the early 1980s at the latest. What was probably empowering in the 70s is demeaning and insulting today.

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Totem, Tipi, and Tumpline

Totem Tipi and Tumpline coverTotem, Tipi and Tumpline: Stories of Canadian Indians
Fisher and Tyner
1955, paperback edition 1975

Submitter: I am a teacher in Ontario, Canada and came across this book in the teacher resource library at our school. There is currently a national discussion in Canada about reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, including health care, access to services and clean water, and reparations for the Indian Residential School system (widely recognized as cultural genocide). Thus, education about Indigenous cultures and communities is an important issue in Canadian schools.

When selecting resources, best practices shared in our teacher professional development circles recommend choosing books that are written by Indigenous authors, that include permission for cultural knowledge and stories to be shared by the individuals/elders/groups/tribes from whom they were collected, and that portray not just historical cultural practices, but also show a contemporary view of Indigenous peoples and their lifestyles.

This book does none of those things.  Low-lights include:
– while this edition (1975) does feature a cover illustration from an Indigenous artist, the rest of the text is unchanged from the first 1955 printing.  All other illustrations are by a non-Indigenous artist
– the authors’ voice is that “Indian” culture existed only in the past. They only credit previous copyrighted work and museums for the stories (no mention of the original knowledge keepers)
– describing “Indians” as one homogeneous group (there are over 630 different First Nations in Canada, as well as Métis and Inuit, speaking more than 50 diverse languages)
– giving an in-depth description of the Sun Dance, which is an extremely sacred  ceremony that many First Nations prefer not to be filmed or portrayed (interesting to find it described here as the Sun Dance was suppressed and illegal under Canadian Law from 1885-1951)
– teaching a song from the Sun Dance (it is unclear where this song is from, whether the lyrics are authentic, and if anyone would have permission to use this song outside of the Sun Dance)

– a play for children to perform featuring regalia and face paint as part of the costumes (this is pure cultural appropriation – a preschool in Quebec recently made national front page news when teachers wore imitation headdresses at an event)

WorldCat only shows this book in university/archival library holdings (where it belongs!), but I wonder how many copies are still around on school bookshelves? While the book does include some cultural information that is valid, the way it was collected and is presented is from a colonial (racist) view.  We can do better!

Holly: I am glad to hear that there are archival holdings, and I’d be interested to know if it is also in tribal libraries, where the context can be best understood as historical. School libraries in Canada can do better for their students. Thank you, Submitter!

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