CHILDREN OF CRISIS, VOL. IV Eskimos, Chicanos and Indians By Robert Coles Atlantic-Little, Brown, 1978. $15.00 By Jose Angel Gutierrez Crystal City The timing of the release of this book will detract greatly from the contribution that could be made by its publication, what with Nixon’s memoirs, Haldeman’s tale, and still more Watergate accounts competing for the attention of the reading public this spring. But it isn’t only the Nixonian gossip-mongers who’ve been cluttering bookstore shelves of late, Supposedly higher-minded writers, riding this or that tide of sociological fashion, have been doing much the same thing. I write of the likes of Stan Steiner, for example, who has made a lucrative career from a string of instant books on Indians, chicanos, blacks and other ethnic or racial groups that may be in style. I speak of Carlos Castaiieda, who has sapped us of interest with every conceivable twist on the story of Don Juan, el brujo from Sonora, and who now serves up a bruja in Rings of Power. And then there is Robert Coles. With 5 the work under review here, the noted child psychiatrist brings to 20 the 63 number of books he has written for .E -3 these deal with poor blacks, poor whites, poor chicanos, poor Eskimos, or problems related to poverty. My quarrel is not so much with what Dr. Coles writes as it is with how he presents his material. For example, in Uprooted Children s within a hundred pages or so, Dr. Coles tells us basically the very same thing about chicanos found in this latest volume. In the former book, he considers the lives of migrant children and their families; he lets the children talk through him, and includes color plates of drawings made by some of his young subjects. In this new book on Indians, Eskimos, and chicanos, he makes the same observations; we hear the same talk of futility, hate, and often joy; and we are shown, basically, the same drawings. I find it odd, too, that in this book as in Uprooted Children and Migrants, Sharecroppers, Mountaineers \(volume II are never given ‘,urnames. Perhaps I am overreacting to what may only be a matter of style, but coming from the chicano generation that was force-fed Arthur Rubel, Celia Heller and Lillian Madsen in sociology classes, I’m left popsicle cold. In their books on chicanos, these writers bestowed surnames on the Books upper-class characters only. The poor went without. Frankly, I was shocked to find that in his acknowledgement of sources, the Robert Coles from Harvard University cites Madsen, Rubel and Oscar Lewis as excellent and informed forebears. Since the late ’60s, chicano scholars have dismissed these academicians as writers of social science fiction. Dr. Coles atones somewhat for his endorsement of these mainstream sociologists and anthropologists by making mention of excellent books on the chicano and Indian experience. I speak specifically of the works of Ernesto of South Texas dates to 1970. Dr. Coles tells us, moreover, that he visited Crystal City in 1970-1971 and that he served on the board of directors of a migrant clinic here. The Zavala County Health Association did happen to list him as a board member in 1973, but Dr. Coles attended none of its meetings. To the best of my knowledge, he never visited Crystal City. No one in Crystal City who was in a position to have met him in 1970-71 recollects such a person in their midst. But to return to the book proper: Dr. Coles’ observations on chicanos border rience on stereotypes. For example, he states categorically that “there is no provision in most chicano homes for a father’s day-to-day participation in the rearing of the children. . . . The father often asks the mother when the child will be able to look directly into another person’s eyes: then it will be time for the father to become more interestedonly gradually though.” This is utter nonsense, the stuff of social science fiction. And on the next page: “Chicano children are weaned rather slowly, toilet trained casually….” Dr. Coles goes on to note that “when six or seven, chicano children begin to develop a sense of loyalty to their people, to their fate . . . they become less and less, rather than more and more, individualistic.” These are groundless, pointless pronouncements. A final, similar example is in order. In discussing bilingual education, Dr. Coles says chicanos are suspicious and fearful of this development; that we wonder what “the anglo devil is up to now?”; that we feel the anglo teacher who encourages the use of Spanish is “out to do no good”; that the chicano teacher of English is regarded by our community “as a traitor or a collaborationist.” All of this is quite at variance with the truth. Galarza, Carey McWilliams, Cecil Robinson and Rodolfo Anaya in the case of chicanos and Dee Brown, Vine Deloria and Allan Josephy in the case of Indians. I must confess ignorance of the Eskimo experience. Dr. Coles’ chicano bibliography has some gaping holes in it. For example, Rodolfo Acufia’s Occupied America is not listed. And writers such as Douglas Foley, Armando Gutierrez, Herb Hirsch, Tomas Rivera, Richard Santillon, Juan Gomez-Quinones, Tomas Arciniega, Ralph Guzman, Carlos Mutioz, Fernando Petialosa, Americo Paredes and countless others are conspicuously absent. Chicano Revolt in a Texas Town by John Shockley is characterized as an “analysis of the recent political changes taking place in the Valley. . . . The town is Crystal City.” I suppose that to an Easterner anything south of Austin is the Valley. Crystal City, in Southwest Texas, is some 300 miles from Edinburg, the center of the Rio Grande Valley. Again, I may be nitpicking, but Dr. Coles takes pains to point out that in the course of research, he actually goes to live in the locale of the people he is writing about. Early on in Eskimos, Chicanos and Indians, we learn that his first-hand expe 20 MA 28, ‘978 . *11,1,r07,; ‘,7
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