Ink Paper Words' Profile

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Pacific Northwest, United States
In elementary school, I desperately wanted my mother to order books for me from those flyers Scholastic hands out to kids. She refused, citing the "perfectly good library down the street." I exacted revenge by becoming a card-carrying ALA accredited reference librarian. Ha! Take that!

Monday, March 29, 2010

What Are Libraries For?

I ran across this thought-provoking article on Open Salon.

Personally, as long as people need information, I see a need for librarians to connect the two. Just because an infoseeker has heard of Google, that does not mean that they also have any sense of how to evaluate content or formulate an effective search strategy.

And one thing I learned from the tech support trenches at AOL is that no matter how simple you make something, there will be lots of people too dense to figure it out.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Identity, Ethnicity and DNA

Is it true that "biology is destiny?"

I recently started working in medical records at a facility that specializes in children's mental health. I can't help but notice certain things as I am inputting data and filing paperwork. One of the things I've noticed is that when kids come in who are not “white,” a consultation with an ethnic specialist is required.

The advice I've so far seen given by these specialists usually seems to be the same: this ethnic child should have as much contact as possible with non-white relations, primarily white family needs to be educated in the other ethnicity, positive role models should be pointed out in the community and media.

My question is: Does good mental health require a sense of self that equates to one's DNA?

Consider the case of my friend Margaret. She is Norwegian and Gros Vent, adopted by a white family when she was 5 days old. To the best of my knowledge, neither Margaret nor her other Native America adoptee siblings were treated any differently than their parents' biological children. They had exactly the same social and educational opportunities, yet how did they fare in relation to one another?

Bio son: spent 10 years attending college before he eventually got a degree, married his longtime girlfriend and settled down as a manager in a large company.

Bio daughter: married soon after school and as a SAHM raised 2 children. When her kids were still rather young, she had a mid-life crisis of sorts. She left her husband, had affairs and became wildly depressed. She died when a car traveling down the freeway landed on top of hers.

Adopted son: turned out to be flamboyantly gay and appeared in drag shows. Died of AIDS in the early 80's.

Older adopted daughter: 3 unsuccessful marriages, excessive drug use, raging alcohol problem that led to losing custody of her son. She never overcame her addiction and preferred homelessness to living with her adoptive mother. She died of cirrhosis after a lengthy hospital stay.

My friend: Academically successful, earned several advanced degrees and forged a respected career. This year will mark her 24th anniversary to a social worker. I think she was both intrigued and horrified when she met her bio mother after she turned 21. Her bio mother was a raging alcoholic who believed in voodoo. Her bio brother, OTOH, did not drink, was happily married and a decorated veteran of the highway patrol.

What determines who, and what, we are? My friend always had a certain degree of contempt for her adoptive sister's drinking and drugging friends, who seemed to want her to embrace what my friend considered to be a cartoonish hippie idea of what it meant to be Native American. She began calling herself “Feather,” which always struck my friend as patently absurd. She did not have adopt anyone's idea of being native because she already was.

As for myself, I guess I've always felt a certain degree of , well, not confusion exactly, but of a casting about and wanting more involvement with my Cherokee heritage. Yeah, I know, everybody and his brother's dog is part Cherokee. However in my case it's true as my father was from Oklahoma and his mother's name is on the Dawes Roll. It is clear to me that certain aspects of my personality came from there and physically I resemble my father's mother more than mine. But at the same time, I've never felt completely accepted either by white culture, or by native cultures either.

I posted once on a UK-oriented message board that I was of English, Belgian and Cherokee extraction and that I felt a degree of kinship with my Anglo brethren ( despite resembling my Cherokee grandmother, I have one of the most Anglo-sounding names possible). Someone replied that he could not understand someone who was part NA wanting to identify with a culture that had oppressed others. This made no sense whatsoever to me. You are what you are. How can half of yourself look at the other half and think it has no right to exist?

The more I consider the issue, the more complicated it seems to become.