“This book I’m reading…”: Understanding the Purpose of the Books you Read

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Photo of the cover of, “Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir” By Deborah A. Miranda. Photo Credit: Marina Ballesteros.

I am reading Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir because it was a book suggested by my teacher, Catherine Keefe for a project in my Writing Diverse Cultures course at Chapman University. The goal is to read a book outside of the Western Literature to later write a book review. I scrolled through the list of recommended texts and I looked for one that caught my attention. When I saw, Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir and read the Kirkus review, I was immediately engaged,

Miranda (English/Washington and Lee Univ.; The Zen of La Llorona, 2005, etc.) blends narrative, poetry, photos, anthropological recordings and more into a mosaic of memory of her own life and that of her people, the California Indians.

Not only would this book be a change of pace with a variety of mediums within the book, but it was also on a subject that interests me. I grew up living walking distance from the San Gabriel Mission. I took field trips here with my elementary school and learned about the missionaries and Native Americans that lived and walked on the same streets I took to school. Because of my upbringing around this environment, I have always had an interest in Native American history. Seeing this book brought sparked that interest I have always held deep inside about Native Americans and their history.

I am reading Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir by Deborah A. Miranda because my Grandmother and Grandfather just got their DNA tested through Ancestry.com. While learning that I have ancestors from Ireland, Great Britain, Spain, and Mexico was not a surprise, I found myself to be shocked my paternal Grandfather’s DNA is 43% Native American. Why was this so surprising to me? I knew he has Mexican and Spanish roots. Why has society influenced me to not see the connection between Mexicans, Spaniards, and Native Americans? I read this book because the stories it tells could be very easily be true of the stories of my ancestors.

I am reading Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir because of the Dakota Access Pipeline making news today. Native Americans have historically been forced out of their lands and have continued to face marginalization. I am reading this because I want to learn more about the colonizer and indigenous relationship that has taken place in California. I want to better understand the past to understand the present issues prevalent in society.

I am reading Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir because I am going to be an educator in the state of California. Within the next few months, I am going to have to take the California Subject Examination for Teachers for a Multiple Subject teaching credential. My goal is to become an elementary school teacher. One of the things every student in California remembers learning about is California history in 4th grade. Not only will I have to teach about the history of historical events, but the history of the people living in California. While I can and will study for my CSET test from a study guide, I am reading this story because it is important for me to read authentic primary sources. I want to gain true accounts of history so I can pass that knowledge to my students. Like the Ethnic Studies movement in education that is fighting for multicultural education that is inclusive of all voices that are part of history. Like one of the first authors I read in my “Writing Diverse Cultures” class stated, there is a danger in speaking for others. Therefore, I am reading this memoir because I hope that it will be a way for this particular voice to be heard and to be a way for me to be a listener of their story.

 

Understanding why you are reading certain books are important so you can teach this importance to your students. When you assign your students the task of picking and reading a text of their choice, help them understand their choice. Make them critically reflect on their choice. Knowing they will have to explain why they chose a text will help students read things that are meaningful to them.

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