Tiger Lily Review

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Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Description: Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair… Tiger Lily. When fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan deep in the forbidden woods of Neverland, the two form a bond that’s impossible to break, but also impossible to hold on to. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. However, when Wendy Darling, a girl who is everything Tiger Lily is not, arrives on the island, Tiger Lily discovers how far she is willing to go to keep Peter with her, and in Neverland.

Told from the perspective of tiny, fairy-sized Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily is the breathtaking story of budding romance, letting go and the pains of growing up.

My Review:

1 1/2 units

I can totally see the criticism Native reviewers, such as Debbie Reese, have given this book.  It’s billed as being about Tiger Lily, but it’s not told from Tiger Lily’s perspective, it’s told by Tinker Bell, whom I’m sure most of us imagine as the blonde Disney pixie.  It is a long-standing problem for Native peoples to have their stories told for them by non-Native people.  Further, Tiger Lily’s tribe isn’t based on any real group of Native Americans, so there is no grounding of her culture in anything other than imagination and tired stereotype.

Dr. Adrienne Keenes has made the point that it is time to stop trying to get good depictions of Tiger Lily and the “Piccaninny Indians.”  Tiger Lily doesn’t really serve any role to forward the story about Peter Pan and the pirates.  She mainly is there to make some girl-girl tension fighting over the white boy.  

Also, seriously, why would anyone be trying to salvage a character based in such racist, exoticized views, that the entire group is referred to as the Piccaninny Indians.  Piccaninny was a racist and derogatory term used to refer to black children in the bad old days.  It seems mis-applied here, used to heighten otherness from the British.

Basically, I think that my biggest problem with this book is the source material.  Anderson’s writing seems good, she has thought out ways to parallel the story and flesh out Tiger Lily’s community beyond only her as the .  However, I just am not happy with it because it continues the image of Native American peoples as part of fantasy, not reality.  It continues to gag Native American characters who are only interpreted through white eyes, and it doesn’t ground the Native tribe in any real.

I’m with Dr. Keenes, let’s just drop Tiger Lily instead of trying to make her palatable, because there is too much cultural baggage with her to make Peter Pan work.

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