I just read an interesting interview on the website of the magazine Cowboys & Indians, with the author of a new book coming out about George Armstrong Custer. Anyone who has ever read my Red Plains work probably has a good hunch about how I feel about the man, but that’s not really what I’m here to talk about. I am here to discuss point of view.
How many books, movies, and articles have been published about Custer and from Custer’s perspective? How many more do we need? It’s so refreshing when we do get an account from the Native American/Latino/black/Asian point of view. Why don’t we see that more often?
It’s not that I’m against learning more about someone and their time, regardless of their race, of course. But I am against having such a well-trod subject continue to be in the limelight. The American West was/is a very diverse place, and all the groups of people listed above played a great role in its story. But if the mainstream public is only hearing one side of things, that’s a problem. When the only representations of Native Americans in mainstream media is yet another story about white settlers destroying their way of life, when women are consistently portrayed as weak/saloon girls/prostitutes, when the only Latinos portrayed are bandits, that’s a problem. And then we wonder why so many folks feel under-represented and not heard, and why so many people think westerns are “not for them.”
Even in recent western films, as great as it is to have new, original westerns released in the mainstream, it’s typically told from the white man’s perspective. I really enjoyed The Revenant, particularly because it’s based on a brutal true story (and as I’ve said regarding my Red Plains research, the truth is often much stranger and more entertaining than anything made up!). But wouldn’t it be great to have a major (and well made) film released that is told from a different POV? A woman’s, or an ethnic group other than white?
I continue working on the first Red Plains novel, and there are loads of stories to be told in this world. And you can trust that those stories will continue to be told from all the characters’ perspectives, regardless of sex or race.