Children's Books

THE BRAVEST FLUTE: A STORY OF COURAGE IN THE MAYAN TRADITION, written and illustrated by Ann Grifalconi, Little, Brown and Company, 1994. 30 pages, oversize hardcover, $15.95. ISBN 0-316-32878

In the Mexican highlands towns of Chiapas, where many Mayans live (and a peasant revolution's been going on for some years now), they do (did) have fiesta parades, town Societies of Weavers and such. This is nevertheless one of the dumbest kid stories I've ever come across. There's no cultural content in it to talk of accuracy, I downcheck it on grounds of super-outstanding dumbness. Presumably every year some kid flutist leads (used to lead) the fiesta parade and had no difficulty making the route.

It's fiesta time in Chiapas (although we're not really told where it's happning). A small boy is due to lead the parade with his flute. H's a little, weak fellow, and all throughout the parade he agonizes can he make it or not? Courageously, he finishes the parade!

All the agonizing of the "Mayan boy" who fills the role one year is incredibly dumb (as well as boring). Even if the kid is outta shape, it boggles the mind to call it courage that he manages the route (that everyone covers annually -- maybe more often, they used to have a lot of festivals). Nothing to do with courage, and it was no big deal anyway.

I dunno what's wrong with this woman, Grifalconi. I recommend she read the autobiography of Guatemalan Mayan Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu. Then maybe read Children of the Maya: A Guatemalan Indian Odessy, about the refugees from the CIA- backed terror who've settled in Florida and 150,000 others who didn't make it, who have been killed. Find out about courage. Then half an hour of aerobic exercise a day, walk maybe a couple miles, quit smoking, get herself in shape to follow a parade -- uphill, even -- without fainting or whatever the problem here was.

--Paula Giese

File: ch67

Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated: Sunday, August 18, 1996 - 7:22:15 AM