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WHEN NICKELS WERE INDIANS (Smithsonian Series of Studies in Native American Literatures) Hardcover – November 17, 1995
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From Publishers Weekly
Part white, part Nez Perce Indian, Hilden writes of her experiences living in two cultures, the one spiritual and communal, the other material and individualistic. Though blue-eyed and pale-skinned, she most strongly identified with her Indian heritage but felt accepted neither by whites nor by full-blooded Indians. The contrasting milieus of her formative years-a Los Angeles multiracial neighborhood, upper-class white Palo Alto and UC Berkeley in the radical '60s-added to her identity problems. But this is less a memoir than an angry polemic against the enduring hypocrisy and cruelty of whites toward Indians. In anguish and outrage, she points to both old and current injustices. A particular target is the James Agee-Edward Steichen icon, The Family of Man, which she holds culpable for promulgating false notions of the commonality of all peoples. But her litany of culprits includes white Indian wanna-bes, consciousness-raising liberals, '60s Berkeley radicals, the media, anthropologists, museum curators, British intellectuals and "Euro-centered" whites in general. Hilden, who has studied at Oxford and Cambridge, is a visiting associate professor in the ethnic studies department at Berkeley. Illustrations.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
Born a white-looking, urban, mixed-blood Indian, with Anglo-Quaker, Osage, Nez Perce and maybe Mexican roots, the author spent her youth in California passing as white, but secretly (or internally) feeling a strong Indian identity. A person in this position would be torn; a sensitive person all the more so. When Hilden writes of her personal experiences-all the influences, the traumas, and batterings of outrageous fortune that a mixed-blood Indian might face in postwar America---I find her writing clever and interesting, certainly passionate. How else would I know about such a person if not by reading her book ? I've never met any Indians and (pace Ms. Hilden) I have never wanted to be one, though when I used to go to Western movies, I always rooted for the Indians, having knowledge of my own holocaust. If Amazon browsers are interested in such an autobiography, I could strongly recommend this book. However.....
The first 90 pages of WHEN NICKELS WERE INDIANS is pretty much of angry blast at whites, at the perpetrators of the genocide, at the continuous theft of Indian land, at the misappropriation of Indian culture, at the collectors of Indian bones and Indian folklore, at anthropologists, at the misrepresentation of everything Indian. Well, it's true. Events in (to choose from such a wide field) Armenia, Jewish history, Bosnia, Rwanda, Cambodia, and Tasmania show that it was hardly unique. However, do you need to read yet another blast at perfidious, lying, stupid ________s (fill in the blank)? A question. Do you want to read a book that sometimes has as many as 18 usages of ironic quotation marks on a single page ? They signal her anger, her sarcastic turning on everyone and nearly everything. I wondered, as I read, who was good in this world, who did the right thing, how should Indians actually represent themselves then, which authors wrote anything worthwhile, what is the right role for Indians, for minorities in general? I did not learn the answer. I did learn that the author was angry about a lot of things, including past mistreatments, misunderstandings, male sexism, and overly made-up women. She had a right to be, but is that enough ? Should I start my own autobiography with a 90 page blast against Germans, Russians, Poles, and all the anti-Semites of this world ? (now you can buy "cute" little Jewish "puppets" in "free" Prague. Where the "Jews" have gone is another "question".) Anger gets me nowhere, I come back to my life unchanged. Is hers a message I wanted to spend a number of hours reading carefully ? In the end I felt that it was not. I read it carefully anyway. She's got talent, but anger management might have been wise.