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Jemmy Button Hardcover – March 26, 2013
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This story – of necessity since it is just a young children’s picture book – leaves a lot of Orundellico’s (aka “Jemmy Button”) story out. He wasn’t just “given” to the sailors in exchange for a button, he was bought like a slave. He was taken away from the only home and way of life he ever knew and taken halfway around the world to an entirely different culture, not to mention climate. He was displayed pretty much like a circus freak. He was treated like a thing, an object to be studied, perhaps with revulsion, perhaps with wonder. But in any case, this was not a consensual arrangement (how could he possibly have consented or not, even had he been given the opportunity to do so?), but rather a vile example of our European colonial heritage.
And that’s to say nothing of what happened when he was returned to his “home” (which, of course, could never really be his home again, could it?). All the book tells us is that he again shed his clothes as soon as he realized he was “home”. But that’s only the beginning of the story. The hope was that he would “civilize” his people, but how can one man, removed from “his people” for years, do such a thing? How could he even teach them his new language (even assuming he wanted to), let alone everything else about Western “civilization”? Instead, he was an outcast and attacked by his people. Later, more missionaries came and he became their unwilling “project”.Read more ›