ETERNiDAY is the last bang for the current poet laureate, who ends his tenure after the event.
thejbirdsnest asked: Mr. Pak, I wanted to ask you about the new Turok series you're writing. I am really concerned about possible Native stereotypes that might be presented. I'm not Native myself, but I have many Native friends (one of which runs the website Native Appropriations)and a big concern in the Native community is the fact that all tribes are very different, but they are generally presented as all the same. I was curious as to how you present Turok's tribe or if it is based on a real tribe.
Thanks for the note! I love the work Native Appropriations does and I’ve been following @nativeapprops on Twitter — please pass on my best!
Great question about the diversity of tribes. Without getting too deep into spoiler territory, the story begins in an area that would later be populated by the Lenape. So I’ve been reading about the history, folktales, and religion of the Lenape for inspiration. But the time period of our story predates most of the early records we have of the Lenape by hundreds of years. So I’m not trying to create a precise match with the actual customs of the Lenape of later years. For example, I haven’t asked our brilliant artist Mirko Colak to exactly match the dress we see of the Lenape in the various drawings and paintings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, because it seems likely that hundreds of years earlier, the precise styles would have been different.
I am thinking of a world of great diversity with many different tribes and people, and as the story progresses, we’ll see evidence of that, in both small and huge ways. Just one pretty subtle example, which I hope isn’t too much of a spoiler — the village Turok lives near as a young man is made up of wigwams and longhouses, similar to what the Lenape built. But when we first see Turok as a baby, there are teepees in the background. His parents come from somewhere else.
Regarding your bigger question, I’m trying to be very aware of the various stereotypes often seen in stories with Native American characters. As an Asian American, I’ve ranted many times about the one-dimensional ways Asians are often depicted in American media. So I’m doing my best with TUROK — as I do with every book I write — to write each character as a unique person who’s reacting to the events at hand in his her own believable, human, quirkily individual ways that transcend the typical tropes. How well I’m succeeding each month will be up to readers to decide. I may be helped a bit by the fact that the book will have a lot of different Native American characters, each of whom will have his or her own, different perspective. And of course, Turok is the hero of the book, not the sidekick or supporting character, which will give us more space and time over the coming months to explore who he is and where he’s going as deeply as we can.
A big reason I took on the project was because it was a chance to write a Native American hero as the main character of the story. I honestly wouldn’t be writing the book if it was about a white hero and his Native American sidekick. I’m sure that could be a fine story, too, but we’ve seen that plenty of times and it wouldn’t have been the hook to get me to invest many months (and hopefully years) into writing a comic book series. Diversifying supporting casts is fantastic. But to get a chance to write a legacy book with a Native American hero is pretty much one in a million. I’m working hard to tell the best story I can so the book will have legs and we’ll be able to continue telling a wide range of different stories with this fantastic character and his diverse world for a long time to come.
Thanks for the question, and I hope you enjoy the book!