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3.31.2014

Saltypie: A Chocktaw Journey from Darkness into Light (2010)

Written by Tim Tingle

Illustrated by Karen Clarkson

Cinco Puntos Press

When Indian storytellers and writers get together, we often ask, "How much can we tell them?"

I'd love to be a fly on the wall at one of those get-togethers. It turns out, Tim Tingle has quite a bit to say in this book, put out by good ol' Cinco Puntos. The story goes to a lot of places. Beginning with a rousing bee sting on the bottom, feeding chickens and doing chores, to a stone thrown in anger and fear, a cut across the face, and a really beautiful image of Tim's grandmother as a young woman, holding her hands to her face with blood seeping between her fingers, her son's tiny hands reaching up with curiosity. It reminded him of sweet cherry pie filling, bubbling up from the criss-cross crust of Mawmaw's pies.

This is 'saltypie,' the taste of the blood, the sting of the bee. "It's a way of dealing with trouble, son. Sometimes you don't know where the trouble comes from. You just kinda shrug it off, say saltypie. It helps you carry on."

All of these stories come from Tim Tingle's familial recollections. He's working through these feelings of anger, hostility, which he had as a child, trying to understand why the universe wasn't fair.

The identity of the stone-thrower was never discovered, and it's interesting how it's not a central part of this story. It's just something that happened, and soon makes way for the story of Tim's grandmother recovering her sight decades later. "Maybe it was a stone of misunderstanding, thrown by a boy who simply didn't know," writes Tim. "...let us forgive him. Let us teach his grandchildren, so they will pocket their stones and extend a hand in friendship."

There's quite a bit going on in the afterward to the book, I found it to be as interesting, if not more interesting, than the story itself. In response to the question, "How much can we tell them?" he writes:

Can we tell them that the vast majority of children's books written about Indians in America were not written by Indians? Can we somehow convince them that this matters?



2 comments:

  1. Thank you for a beautiful and insightful review. I am in a coffee shop, trying to finish a speech I will deliver in an hour, and I saw your post on Facebook. Many reviewers of Saltypie never mention the afterword. I feel, as do you, that the ideas following the storybook are as important, if not more so, than the narrative. Long before I began to write, I knew there were two family stories that must be told––outside of our family. One was the survival of my kinfolks on the Trail of Tears, and the other was the tale of my grandmother's blindness. In researching and studying the best way to present these stories, I stumbled into a lifetime of writing and storytelling. What an "accidental" blessing!

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  2. Thanks, it's a great honor to have a comment from you on the blog! This is third of your books that I've discussed on the blog, so I hope you can find them as well. "Cross Bok Chitto," in particular, is one of my absolute favorite picture books that I've ever seen. Thanks for the stories!

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