Daily Archives: May 10, 2007

Is it history? Or fiction? And does it matter?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Yes, it is history.

I’m one of those who read and learned a great deal from Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West. Originally published in 1970 as NON FICTION, I read it many years later when I began looking for ways to go beyond the textbook in my teaching of American history. (I eventually abandoned the textbook entirely, but that is another story — told in my book Far Away and Long Ago: Young Historians in the Classroom.) Nonfiction. I read the book trusting that what I read was true.

Yes, it is fiction.

At least so it seems is the case with HBO’s version of the book. According to the New York Times article “Classic Book About America’s Indians Gains a Few Flourishes as a Film.” a new character was added to the center of the story.

“Everyone felt very strongly that we needed a white character or a part-white, part-Indian character to carry a contemporary white audience through this project,” Daniel Giat, the writer who adapted the book for HBO Films, told a group of television writers earlier this year.

Yes, it matters.

Poor maligned history. There is such a prejudice against you. That you aren’t good enough. That you need to be touched up somehow. That you need fixing or you will be ignored.  In this case, by those who are assumed not to know or care about you.  Especially, it seems, when the history is about a minority group that the majority group is presumed to otherwise lack sufficient interest in.

The HBO film hasn’t aired yet. It will be interesting to see the response once it does.

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Filed under Historical Fiction, History, movie