Book Two: The Egg and I

The Egg and I, Betty MacDonald

Okay, I really loved this book. Everything about it pushed all my buttons. A young wife moves to the country with her husband who has a dream of starting a chicken farm. She has to help her husband with all of the farm work and also run a household including doing all the cooking, washing, baking, canning and cleaning, all without running water or power. And the country she moves to is the Olympic Peninsula, just an hour or so from where I grew up, so of course I'm a softie for that. It's a story told with such a great sense of humor by a woman who obviously disliked much of her circumstances. There's a reason this book is a classic, including the fact that it introduces the Maw and Paw Kettle, Betty MacDonald's hilarious neighbors, to the world.

However, it's just too hard to ignore the horribly racist chapter about the Pacific Northwest Native Americans, "With Bow and Arrow" (never mind the various comments sprinkled throughout the book about how much she can't stand "Indians.") I know some people can excuse this because of when it was written (1945) but this level of awfulness is just too much. Not only does she put down specific Native Americans that she meets for being drunk or lazy, but she says that "the coast Indian is squat, bowlegged, swarthy, flat-faced, broad-nosed, dirty, diseased, ignorant and tricky. There were few exceptions among the many we knew." Oh, but it gets worse. "Little red brothers or not, I didn't like Indians, and the more I saw of them the more I thought what an excellent thing it was to take that beautiful country away from them."

I know, right?! I honestly think that there's no excuse for that kind of writing, no matter what the time or place. For a book that is so very funny and touching and moving, to have such a vitriol-filled chapter thrown in the middle of it, just really poops all over a great thing and leaves a bad, poopy taste in my mouth.


Blogger Lance Sleuthe said...

May I recommend "Love Among the Chickens", in case you wish to pursue this theme?

January 27, 2011 at 7:47 PM  

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