From The Guardian:
PEN Center USA has dropped John Smelcer’s novel Stealing Indians from the shortlist for its young adult award, after Smelcer’s integrity was publicly questioned by several writers, including Man Booker prize winner Marlon James.
Smelcer’s Stealing Indians was one of four titles in the running for the award. Telling the story of four Indian teenagers taken from their homes and sent to boarding schools in the 1950s, it was first published in 2016, but featured a quote on the cover from Chinua Achebe. (“A poignant story of colonisation and assimilation, something I know a little bit about. A masterpiece.”) Achebe died in 2013.
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Smelcer, who describes himself as being of the Native American Ahtna tribe, was awarded the James Jones first novel fellowship in 2004, but it was rescinded in 2015 after a unanimous vote when Kaylie Jones, author and daughter of the eponymous novelist, accused Smelcer of faking a blurb from Norman Mailer on his own website shortly after the author died. Jones said she had been terribly upset by the quote, “which Mailer’s biographer and I knew for a fact was not written by Norman Mailer”. When she researched Smelcer further, she found that “a number of Native American writers and scholars had been decrying his claim to a Native American heritage and his blatant exploitation of his dubious position in the Ahtna tribe”. Jones called “this entire fiasco … a terrible stain on the reputation and integrity” of the prize.
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The announcement follows detailed investigations by the Stranger and the LA Times into Smelcer’s past and his claims to Native American heritage, and how he has used this disputed heritage to his professional advantage. “John Smelcer has been held in great suspicion and contempt in the Native world for 25 years,” the award-winning Native American writer Sherman Alexie told the Stranger, whose investigation also found that Smelcer’s agent, Johnny Savage, was actually Smelcer himself. The author told the website: “I invented the agent because of Debbie Reese and her rabid followers who for years (20) send me anonymous hate emails and death threats.”
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“By all applicable laws of the United States (tribal, state, federal), most importantly by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANSCA; 1971, 1987 Amendments), the largest indigenous legislation in American history, I am Alaska Native/Native American,” writes Smelcer, criticising the “wilful ignorance” of the “bullies” who “attack him”.
Link to the rest at The Guardian