WOW Currents

Code Talker Stories

By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache

Code Talker stories are important because of the significant impact Code Talkers had on World War II. Additionally, the portrayals of the Code Talkers in story empower the reality of our Navajo Heroes. This section, I would like to honor them. During the course of World War II, Diné (Navajo) code talkers were a crucial part of the U.S. strength in the South Pacific, sending and receiving messages in an unbreakable code based on the Diné language. As Marines, they took part in every assault, from Guadalcanal in 1942 to Okinawa in 1945, experiencing some of the bloodiest fighting in the war. For the Diné code talkers, the military experience of serving in World War II–mythologized as “the good fight”–was a chance for the young men to demonstrate their courage in the most exciting adventure of their lives. Descriptions of the following books are copied from the publishers’ websites unless otherwise noted.

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Stories of the American Indian Experience

By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache

The stories of Indigenous people reflect both the material and deeper aspects of our culture. These deeper aspects include traditions such as oral storytelling, considered a spiritual practice. Oral tradition is used to tell certain stories the way they should be told, with an impassioned audience and storyteller. These stories are defined as a body of literary works with standard procedures that have been preserved for many generations through performance. This structure helps listeners create awareness of their own cultural perspective. It’s important to understand the place of oral literature in Indigenous culture and to translate those stories into print so they can be shared. The weaving together of oral literacy with writing reveals unique features and values within many different cultures. This significance of the vocal and textual language is shown in several of this week’s suggested books that have been adapted from oral to print. Other books selected demonstrate culture, tradition, genocide, abuse and heroism, and help to honor the American Indian Experience.

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Peace Defined by Child Characters and the United Nations

Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

I have just been listening (again) to Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor, the piece that cellist Vedran Smailovic played in Sarajevo to protest the deaths of 22 innocent civilians. As I listen to the exquisite melodies, I think about peace and what that means to so many people around the world who are in areas of political strife. I also think about peace in the homes of the people I interact with, whose lives have been fractured by bullying behavior, divorce, abuse, other forms of violence, death and extreme poverty. We need peace in all areas of our lives.

Peace Defined by Child Characters and the United Nations: UN Resolution Rights of the Child

Click to go to Unicef’s full-size poster.

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Characters Whose Choices Threaten or Support Peace

Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

Ready for the next description of peace based on the book Peace Begins with You by Katherine Scholes and Robert Ingpen? The fourth way they describe peace involves the choices that we all make that either threaten or support peace. Scholes and Ingpen go on to say, “working for peace may be harder than using force. You may have to be braver and stronger. You may have to learn new skills, new ways of thinking and planning.” The focus this week is on characters whose choices threaten or support peace. For many of the characters, that involves a shift in perspective.

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Challenging Status Quo to Create Peace in Children’s Literature

Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

One of my challenges is to fit inside the boxes that different groups in society create for me to live in. For example, I am a professor, so I live with the box of student expectation and preference for numerical grades instead of narrative feedback (my preference). Another box I live with relates to the frequent moves I have made between countries, states or provinces. Each place has their own way of operating, so I spend the first few months in a new environment learning the rules of that community. There are many rules that are fine and help me get along with the neighbors (e.g., “Mow your lawn once a week”). Others puzzle and constrain (e.g.,”Normal families eat dinner at 6 p.m.”) and end up making me feel odd, unwelcome and definitely not at peace.

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The Difference Between Wants and Needs

Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

A big challenge I faced as a parent of four boys was helping them understand the difference between things that are a big want and things that are a small want. My husband and I had no extra money, so it was important that they grasp the difference so they did not feel deprived! It took multiple discussions for them to develop a nuanced understanding of what was a need and what would be cool to have. The great challenge for me as a parent was providing them with what they didn’t consider to be a want, but that, unbeknownst to them, they needed in order to have a sense of peace, of well-being. Those “hidden” big wants or needs are the focus of this post.

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Seeking Peace in Children’s Literature

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

As I began to write this post, President Trump returned from the Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The goal: a fragile peace. While I don’t work towards peace at that diplomatic level, my desire to foster world peace motivates what I do on a daily basis. My hope as an educator is to shape my students to be peace-seeking individuals. But fostering peace in the classroom or at home isn’t always easy because peace is abstract and difficult to describe; it’s hard to figure out how peace “happens.” It’s not passivity, ignoring conflict in the hopes that it will go away. And it’s not the opposite, digging in heels at all costs because we feel we’re right.

So what is peace? I went to an older book written and illustrated by Katherine Scholes and Robert Ingpen–Peace Begins With You. I used their description of peace as the organizing tool for this month’s posts. The questions I have explored are: What is peace? What does it feel like? What does it look like? How can I describe it through stories? I’ve explored one descriptor each week by looking at books that give a picture of what peace means for a young person.

The first descriptor of peace is having the things you need: water, food, shelter and safety. The United Nations considers these as rights for children. The following books explore the implications when those necessities are missing.
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Uplifting Indigenous Literature

By Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

Daniel Heath Justice’s new book Why Indigenous Literatures Matter is a marvelous look at the the critical issues within and surrounding Indigenous Literature in Canada and the United States. Justice, Colorado born Cherokee citizen, now also a Canadian citizen, holds the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Literature and Expressive Culture at the University of British Columbia. The work is academic, but personal and poetic. It highlights contemporary Indigenous authors writing for adults and children and touches on fiction, poetry, personal essay, and memoir.

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Indigenous Comics and Graphic Narratives

By Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

Last week at AILDI, the American Indian Languages Development Institute at the University of Arizona, Jon Proudstar gave a talk about infusing Indigenous language and culture into his comic books. Although I was unable to attend, I am happy to see Indigenous comics and graphic narratives being a part of the conversation at AILDI.

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Indigenous Own Voices after Sherman Alexie

By Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

I grew up on a steady diet of Island of the Blue Dolphins, Little House on the Prairie, Walk Two Moons, Julie of the Wolves, et cetera, stories with native content written by non-native authors. Before The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, I hadn’t read Cynthia Leitich Smith’s or Joseph Bruchac’s novels. But I had read Michael Dorris’ and Lousie Erdrich’s work for children, thanks to my love affair with Erdrich’s novels for adults. I hadn’t read any Indigenous Canadian authors writing for youth. Before The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, I offered my students and my children solely historical fiction about Indigenous identities and stories. Nothing contemporary, and so very little, sadly, Indigenous Own Voices.

Indigenous Own Voices Sherman Alexie Continue reading