Loving the Wind: Peter Pan and the blatant racism of 1911

disney-peter-panThanks to Disney, most people are familiar with the story of Peter Pan. The universal story is that Peter Pan is a flying boy who lives with his fairy, Tinker Bell, in Neverland, an island that exists second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning. When he loses his shadow in the nursery of the Darling home, he meets Wendy, and then her brothers, John, and Michael. He brings them to Neverland where they meet the Lost Boys, pirates and mermaids. They save Tiger Lily from the pirates, party with the Indians, and battle Captain Hook. Then, with a sprinkle of fairy dust, Peter flies the pirate ship back to London and returns Wendy, John, and Michael back to their room.

375px-peterandwendyThe Disney movie, and many other adaptations, were based on J.M. Barrie’s book, Peter and Wendy, which was published in 1911 (following the original play that debuted in 1904). But like many originals, Barrie’s book has so much more to it. There were stories about the Never bird, the regal descriptions of Captain Hook, the real story about how Peter came to Neverland…and the blatant racism that existed in 1911. (Of course, Disney did play up the racism in its own way. Just watch the music sequence of “What Makes a Red Man Red.)

Now, Peter and Wendy is not the only book that shows its age with sign-of-the-times racism. There’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the Oompa Loompas were black pygmies that came from “the very deepest and darkest part of the African jungle where no white man had been before.”). There’s The Story of Black Sambo (Sambo was a racist expression back in the day and the book’s illustrations resembled demeaning images black people were trying to distance themselves from, and I’m also pretty sure that my grandmother read me this story once). And The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn uses the “N” word more than 200 times.

Peter and Wendy is just one of many books that holds true to the racist times in which it was written. This is particularly in regards to how Barrie addresses Native Americans in his book. They are called redskins, and they belong to the Piccaninny Tribe. Piccaninny is an offensive word that generally means “small black children.”

The most that is spoken about the Indians is when Peter rescues Tiger Lily from the pirates.

Quoted from Chapter 10:

They called Peter the Great White Father, prostrating themselves before him; and he liked this tremendously, so that it was not really good for him.

“The great white father,” he would say to them in a very lordly manner, as they grovelled at his feet, “is glad to see the Piccaninny warriors protecting his wigwam from the pirates.”

“Me Tiger Lily,” that lovely creature would reply. “Peter Pan save me, me his velly nice friend. Me no let pirates hurt him.”

She was far too pretty to cringe in this way, but Peter thought it his due, and he would answer condescendingly, “It is good. Peter Pan has spoken.”

TigerLily tease2

When writing Loving the Wind, my focus was to give Tiger Lily a voice, and to also shine a light on what life was like in her tribe. Where Tiger Lily only had one speaking part in all of Barrie’s book, I gave her a whole novel of her thoughts, her feelings, her values, where she came from, and so on.

I also aimed to strip the story of racism. Instead of the Piccaninnies, Tiger Lily’s tribe was the Miakoda Tribe. Miakoda means “power of the moon,” and is of Native American origin. Because the moons (yes, there are more than one) play a central part of Loving the Wind, it was only fitting that Neverland’s tribe would be named after them. I also never describe the tribe as Native American or Indian at all, letting that be up to the reader. Sure, there are similar themes to Native American culture. But I wanted to separate these people from the tribes of America. After all, they live in Neverland, not America. Even the names of their homes have changed—instead of wigwams, the tribe lives in “yinshaws.”

I also explain the whereabouts of Tiger Lily’s mother. Neither the book nor the Disney movie addresses where her mother is. Loving the Wind shares how Tiger Lily’s mother actually died a few years back, just when Tiger Lily was nearing the age of young womanhood. This, obviously, would affect a young girl who was constantly at the center of attention because of who her father was.

One of the things that I kept the same as the book, that the Disney movie stripped out, was the story of the Never birds. These birds play a central part in the very beginning of the book. Here’s an excerpt:

From where I sat, the top of the forest spread out all around me, blanketing this part of the island in a sea of green. I could see birds fluttering in and out of trees, playing hide and seek as if all life were a game. I whistled to them, practicing a birdcall I had once heard Lean Wolf use. The birds paused, then scattered with the wind. Frustrated, I tried it again. Then I listened. Silence. And then, faintly, I heard one solitary bird mimic the tune I just whistled. I tried it again, and was met with a few more songs from the birds. The third time, the birds burst from the trees, singing the song repeatedly, incorporating it in their play. I grinned, but then caught my breath when a brilliant Never bird, the size of three large horses, erupted from the tree in an explosion of color. It soared overhead, calling out the song I had sung, searching the canopy for the song’s source.

Look for a few more Never bird appearances as you read the story.

One character that I mentioned above, Lean Wolf, was also mentioned in Barrie’s book—but just briefly. I won’t completely give it away, but let’s just say it didn’t end well.

In Loving the Wind, Lean Wolf is the strongest, bravest warrior of the tribe. He also has a thing for Tiger Lily. Unfortunately for him, the feelings aren’t mutual. The thing is, he’s a bit sexist and chauvinistic—a result of growing up in a chauvinistic culture. Tiger Lily’s tribe lives by strict gender roles—the men go hunt and provide; the women stay home, tending camp and watching over the children. Lean Wolf has a good heart, but these are the only roles he knows how to live by.

And, these are the very roles that Tiger Lily is trying to escape.

And that is just a smidge of what you can expect from Loving the Wind.

If you’re curious about the original story of Peter Pan, I highly recommend reading Peter and Wendy. If you can look past the racism of the times, the story is full of adventure and imagery, and the theme of never wanting to grow up is one that almost everyone can relate to. And, of course, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of my book, Loving the Wind, and find out more about Tiger Lily’s story.

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open-mic-september-flyer-gaiaI’ll be reading from Loving the Wind this Saturday at Gaia’s Garden in Santa Rosa from 2-4 p.m. If you’re in the Sonoma County area, please stop by and take a listen. See upcoming events for more information.

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The book that almost never was

TigerLily tease2

I’m about to tell you about the book that almost never was. Every year I write a book for National Novel Writing Month in November. This last year, however, I was stumped. I had just written Reclaim Your Creative Soul, and that book took a lot of energy out of me. I figured I would just skip it this year. But at the eleventh hour before the eleventh month, an idea came to me—why not just have fun with it this year? I know, a novel idea for a novel.

And so, I did. Having always been a fan of Peter Pan and Neverland, I began exploring the idea of writing about a character that only got a bit role in the original story: Tiger Lily. I began to develop who she was, where she came from, the values of her people, and her likes and dislikes. Just like Peter Pan is a coming of age story, Tiger Lily’s story was much the same. She became a princess held captive by rules she didn’t appreciate, and with hopes and desires that didn’t fit the mold of her people.

Throw in some pirates, a few Never beasts, the Lost Boys, and Peter Pan, and I suddenly had a story.

To up the ante, I not only wrote the story, I LIVE wrote it. Many of you followed along as I posted each chapter to Wattpad, allowing you to see the inside process of what it’s like for a novel to be written beginning to ending. While it was just a rough draft, I was pleased with how things worked out as I wrote. Many of you expressed interest as well, anxiously waiting for me to post the next chapter.

The story was never supposed to be published. It was just something to amuse myself and a few fans, and nothing more. However, the more I wrote, the more I realized that the story was taking on a life of its own. It was more than just an amusing tale, it was a story that needed to be told.

This story became Loving the Wind: The Story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan, and it just published this morning!

For the next few days, I am keeping the Kindle version of this book at 99 cents so that there are no barriers for you to buy this book. This is my gift to you for sticking alongside me, cheering me on, and anticipating this very moment. Please don’t delay in buying this book now, as the price goes back up after the weekend.

Furthermore, I have a few contests on my Facebook page if you’d like a chance to win the print version of this book. Just look up #LTWgiveaways and you’ll find a bunch of contests that are going until Sunday.

Thank you for all your support, and happy reading!

Love,
Crissi

Pre-order “Loving the Wind: The Story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan”

ltw-FRONT-cover-finalIf you’re a Kindle reader, Loving the Wind is now available for pre-orders! Even better, it’s temporarily discounted to 99 cents! Read the untold story of Tiger Lily and how she met Peter Pan in this fun prequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter & Wendy.

bit.ly/lovingthewind

Here’s what one reviewer said:

Crissi’s latest book, “Loving the Wind” is a fun new dimension to the Peter Pan stories we know and love. She captured the voices of the characters so well, I felt like I was a pixie on the wall watching the whole time.
It takes us to Neverland through the eyes of Tiger Lily, a young native girl who is mentioned in the original stories, but not much is known about her.
Tiger Lily’s story as told by Crissi is deep and rich. We get to experience her adventures from just before she meets Peter in the belly of a pirate ship to the end of the book (but not the story, hopefully!!) as a wise young woman in her tribe. She takes us with her as she learns what it is to love her people as a leader.
Tiger Lily is the girl I want to be when I grow up. Brave in spite of her fear, bold in standing up for those who had no voice, humble in her accomplishments, and open to the lessons in hardships she experienced. She’s wise and graceful in the end, when she’s finally accepted the path that is before her, unexpected as it is.

So, the question is, should you read this book? If you appreciate a new angle on the characters we’ve met before, absolutely. This is a fun, easy to read story. It flows along nicely- not too fast or slow. Plenty of action, some really great lessons, and friendly enough for families. This is a coming-of-age storybook I’ll encourage my own daughter to read when she’s old enough to appreciate it. Thank you Crissi for the amazing gift of this story!

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P.S. Would you like a chance to win a print copy of this book for free? Follow me on Facebook and take part in my 6 Days of Giveaways.

Days of Giveaways for “Loving the Wind”

Loving the Wind publishes this Thursday, Aug 18! What better way to celebrate than with some free gifts? 🙂

image1Starting today, I’m counting down to the release of Loving the Wind on my Facebook and Instagram pages with chances to win a signed copy of the book. Want to be a part of the excitement? Be sure to follow me!

Today’s giveaway is over at Goodreads. Go to bit.ly/GRgiveawayLTW and enter for a chance to win one of three signed copies of Loving the Wind.

HINT: Tomorrow’s giveaway is explained in Facebook video, and part of it requires that you join my newsletter. (If you join now, you’ll get a free gift!)

So, head on over to my Facebook page. You may even want to turn on notifications so you don’t miss a post. And then enter for a chance to win!

Good luck!

Being chased by a novel (NaNoWriMo prep)

Earlier this week, I had the extreme honor of chatting with a 4th grade class in Virginia (via Google Hangout from California) to discuss NaNoWriMo, and how they could write a novel in 30 days. The class will be trying their hand at this challenge, with an appropriate word goal for 9-year-olds, and had so many great questions about the experience, and about my own creative process.

One boy asked me, “Do you ever doubt yourself?”

“All the time,” I told him honestly.

And it’s more than the truth. At the time that we talked (it was Tuesday), I had 5 days left to figure out what I was going to be writing for NaNoWriMo, and nothing was coming to me. Usually by this time, I have my whole entire novel mapped out, and have been carrying on personal conversations with my characters. This year, my original plan was to write the sequel to Come Here, Cupcake. But last week, I chose to save that novel for a time when I can be more diligent and give it the detailed attention it deserves. I decided to, instead, write a novel that was more fun and carefree, not even worrying about whether I would publish it or not.

Problem was, nothing was coming to me.

Do you ever doubt yourself_So when that student asked me if I ever doubted myself, I couldn’t have been more honest by saying yes. I was currently doubting myself. I was starting to think I would never come up with a novel idea, and that I would enter NaNoWriMo on Nov. 1 already a loser.

And then, later that day, my novel idea barreled at me, tackled me, and wrapped itself around me so tight, I could barely breathe from excitement.

In her Ted talk, Elizabeth Gilbert relayed a conversation she had held with the late American poet, Ruth Stone. Ruth described how there were times when she’d be working the fields (ironically, in Virginia, where the students I talked to live!), and she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. She would actually feel the earth shake, and she knew she needed to get to a pen and a piece of paper as fast as she could before the poem thundered through her. She would, in her words, “run like hell” toward the house, the poem at her heels as she ran. Often, she’d make it, and was able to collect the words as they moved through her and write them on the page. But other times, the poem would barrel through her before she got to the paper, and then would continue over the landscape, looking for another poet. And sometimes, she would almost miss it, and feel it go through her just before she got to the paper, and at the very last second, she’d grab the pencil with one hand and the end of the poem with the other. She would then pull the poem back through her, transcribing as she did, so that the poem would be written from ending to beginning, completely backwards on the paper.

When I first heard this Ted talk, I thought it was utterly amazing. I also thought how poetic it sounded, but not very realistic. I mean, really?  A poem chased you?

But on Tuesday, it happened. My next novel chased me as I drove into work that day. I felt it thunder down the hillside, and the air around me shake. And I was suddenly consumed with it, with no paper or pencil around to write it down. Ideas kept pouring through me, and I begged them to stay with me until I could get to my desk and write them all down. I tried to memorize each thought and idea, trying to retain everything. And while a few fragments dissipated on the walk from my car to the office, the majority of them stayed so that I could capture each lingering thought and place it on paper.

Since Tuesday, the ideas keep coming, thundering over the hillside and barreling through me. And I keep doing my part and writing them down. My notes are a mess of ideas. My soul is consumed with this new story. And last night, I finished mapping out the entire book.

I am now ready for Nov. 1.

What time is it? NaNoWriMo time! Can you tell I’m kind of a Peter Pan fanatic?

Because we’re all friends, I’ll reveal what I’m writing here. I’ve decided to write fan fiction by retelling part of the story of Peter Pan from the eyes of Tiger Lily. Like all great literature, this has been done by a couple other authors. But I’m not worried about that. Like I said, this novel is for fun, and may never be published. Or maybe it will. For now, that’s not a decision I care about. I’m only concerned with enjoying the next 30 days as I fine tune my writing muscle with a piece of writing I couldn’t be more excited about writing.

To prepare, I’m re-reading Peter and Wendy, which has been a completely enjoyable experience. Man, I love this story! Of course, the parts about the Indians show a different sign of the times, so a few details will be changed (like the way they speak, and the name of their tribe).

During the next month, I will try to blog about my writing process as much as I can. I will be spending a lot of time writing my novel, you know. I’m also considering sharing the novel publicly as I write. The jury is still out on that one, however, as rough drafts are often terrible things. But wouldn’t it be fun to see the process of a novel as it’s being written?

Are you doing NaNo? Share what you’re writing in the comments!

P.S. Be my NaNo buddy at nanowrimo.org/participants/crissi.