The Thursday Book Beat: On Pottermore, and the Continued Erasure of Native Americans

It’s a bit of an odd week for book news this week, readers, as holidays and vacations start to empty out publishing offices. That said, our biggest news item is rather polarizing, and will definitely see more discussion in the following weeks.

Suki Kim, the only undercover journalist to successfully live and work in North Korea, writes about her experience trying to publish and market her book as a journalistic endeavour and not a memoir for The New Republic, highlighting the unbalanced criticism still present in media.

When the first review was published by Kirkus, I was shocked to see the words “deceive” and “deception” three times in the first paragraph. The Chicago Tribune questioned my ethics: “Her book raises difficult questions about whether this insight is worth the considerable risk to these innocents, none of whom knew her real reasons for being there.” The Los Angeles Review of Books went even further: “Her dishonesty has left her open to criticism, and rightfully so. The ethics of her choice cast doubt on her reliability (another de facto peril of memoir), and her fear of discovery appears to have colored her impressions and descriptions with paranoia and distrust.”

The essay is undeniably disheartening: Kim’s time and work are belittled by the critical outlets that praise other journalists for the same kind of reporting. Her identity as a Korean woman seems to supercede the effort she’s put into her reporting–if the book had been labeled as a memoir, we might be seeing a very different reaction now. If nothing else, reading Kim’s account has only encouraged me to pick up Without You, There Is No Us: My Time With the Sons of North Korea’s Elite, and judge it for myself.

Jumping from North Korea to the Philippines, I’m happy to share that one of my favourite Filipino novels in English will be adapted into a film! Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan was one of the first Filipino novels I ever read, and I was delighted to learn that Soho Press published a North American edition last year. Director Raya Martin will be helming the film adaptation, with Heneral Luna producer Ria Limjap taking on writing and producing roles.

Circles is a harsh, raw look at the impoverished shantytowns of Manila, and the city’s response to the murders and thefts that plague its residents. Two priests lead the cast of characters, as they begin investigating the serial killings of young children in Tondo and the corruption that has poisoned their lives. Batacan is now working on a prequel, which I’m definitely going to be picking up on publication day.

Lastly–and rather reluctantly–we come to the biggest news story of the week: J.K. Rowling has released new information on Ilvermorny, the American wizarding school, on Pottermore. Those of us who hoped that the racist tones of “History of Magic in North America” might be addressed were disappointed. Rowling seems to be doubling down on her appropriation of Native American culture, while simultaneously writing them out of American history.

Here, I defer to the voices of Native writers and kidlit scholars who continue to ask the difficult questions and who deserve an explanation for why their cultures are being warped.

Angel Cruz

Angel Cruz

Angel Cruz is a writer and boy band scholar. You can also find her at Book Riot for endless discussion and flailing over all things literature. Ice cream, Broadway musicals, and Arashi are her lifeblood.

One thought on “The Thursday Book Beat: On Pottermore, and the Continued Erasure of Native Americans

  1. JKR’s appropriation of Native creations makes me sick about the whole thing. I adore HP, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be critical. Using ideas like the Thunderbird in her story means at some point WB is going to make a crap ton of merchandise featuring Native culture, with no input or benefit to Native peoples. JKR HAS to know that every HP related thing she writes now its subject to commercialism. That’s not okay.

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