Enthusiastic and charmingly frank, Fedullo details his memorable experiences in a decade of teaching creative writing to Native American schoolchildren on reservations throughout the West. Starting in 1979 with a five-year stint in the Arizona desert, as a writer-in-residence among the Pima on the Gila River Reservation, Fedullo quickly realized that he had as much to learn as to teach. Gaining the trust and acceptance of his students in class proved easier than being welcome in their homes, but his eagerness to help them bridge the gap between their culture and white society, so that they could function well away from home without having to sacrifice their sense of identity, proved to be the key that opened doors time and time again. Aware that his method of encouraging students to read their poetry to audiences off the reservation, and of equipping them with ``survival skills''—including tips on projecting one's voice as well as on riding an escalator—could be widely applicable, Fedullo became an educational consultant, traveling on an ever-expanding circuit to schools on various reservations. Contact with Hualapai, Crow, Cree, Apache, Navajo, and other tribal groups found many children responsive to his message and his infectious spirit, but it also brought a sharing in the lives of families in each community, whether through taking part in feasts and dances or through joining in a ritual sweat bath in a traditional lodge. In contrast to teachers in Indian boarding schools who still practice the assimilationist creed that native customs must be eradicated, Fedullo offers the testimonial of a caring educator who found a means of enhancing cross-cultural communication without denying tradition. An insightful, colorful account of real achievement in Indian education today—and solid evidence of the benefits of multiculturalism at its best.
Read full book review >