Warrior Princess

So in addition to wasting reality television, I did do some useful things in Portland.  I went to yoga, I went to the library, I went to the art museum and I went to a book reading at Longfellow Books.

As a writer, I like to support bookstores when I can.  Especially cool independent bookstores with friendly staff who say things like, “A Moleskin journal?  You must be a writer!  You’ll have to come back here and do reading when your book gets published.”  Um… okay!

But I went a little overboard in supporting Longfellow.

In fact, it’s a good thing I’m finally back in Philadelphia because if I’d stay in Portland, I’d have spent every last penny there.

Anyway, I went to a reading given by novelist Christina Baker Kline, who recently published a book called Orphan Train.  I bought Orphan Train of course (I have no will power when it comes to historical fiction) but I didn’t stop there.

The reading started a few minutes late, they had wine and we were seated in between two shelves of books.  What was I supposed to do when my eyes fell upon a book called Warrior Princess: My Quest to Become the First Female Maasai Warrior?

Warrior Princess

I bought it of course, justifying the purchase by telling myself it would be good for my work as an adjunct instructor in anthropology.  I could recommend it to my students if it was any good and we could use it as a jumping off point for a discussion about gender and the division of labor in hunter gatherer societies.

Plus, the author, Mindy Budgor, was 27 at the time when she decided to run off to Kenya.  She’d quit her job, moved back in with her parents, applied to grad school, etc.  That seemed like the sort of narrative I could get behind.

But…

Well, I’m having a hard time getting beyond her descriptions of the Massai.  Especially considering that today marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream Speech.”  (Did you know that whole part ad-libbed by the way?)

Budgor uses words like “childlike” and, in describing a dance they performed for the American volunteers, she writes “These guys are in heat […]  This must be their mating call.”

Umm… no.  I know we can’t all have degrees in Dance Anthropology but a little more sensitivity could have gone a long way.

Plus the basic premise is rich white chick decides to “save” the women of Kenya by bringing modern feminism to the Maasai.  While hoping to land some sort of marketing contract for UnderArmor in the process.

I’m teaching my first class of the fall semester tonight and I can’t wait.  I’ve revamped my lesson plans, reorganized my entire “office” so that I can keep my multiple sections straight and have requested about a gazillion new books from the acquisition folks over at the campus library.  I will not, however, be recommending Warrior Princess to my students.  At least not yet.  Granted, I still have about 200 pages to go– maybe the author comes around eventually?– but it just goes to show that even 50 years later, even with an African American president in the White House, we still have a long way to go.

11 Responses to “Warrior Princess”

  1. Landlord

    And no editor thought to clean up this kind of thinking/writing? Sheesh… reality show writing has taken over the book world as much as it has our TV’s.

    Reply
  2. aka gringita

    Well, you might not assign it — but you might read a passage or two, using it as a cautionary tale, so as not to make the purchase and your time a complete loss.

    Reply
  3. jlillymoon

    I get the whole missionary save the world kinda thing. It’s a lifestyle I could not force upon myself. That kind of dedication… But I think that modern feminism only really works in first world cultures. I try to stay away from books like that. I agree the premis sounded great. But honestly if the Masai have been a culture long before us, why ruin it. I can see the point of another point of view but you are right. Reality tv is now in our book stores. It’s all about the new frontier. Marketing to the third world and looking like you are caring at the same time.

    Reply
    • Kat Richter

      Yeah, I’m hoping she has some sort of revelation before the end but we’ll see. It’s an interesting debate, “modern feminism” and “first world” vs. “third world.” We spend a lot of time talking about those terms in my class, as the whole first world/third world thing is a holdover from the Cold War and isn’t really an adequate classification system even though we (myself included!) still use it. Missionaries have a long history, as I’m sure you know, of trying to “rescue” people in the so-called third world. This book is just another example, and all too often the “rescue” rhetoric is reflected in our foreign policies. Your point about trying not to “ruin” the Maasai culture is an interesting one– in the book, the warriors with whom she interacts talk about “preserving” their “traditional” ways of life but are working with a group of volunteers from North America to build a school. In this day and age, its hard to escape the effects of globalization.

      Reply
  4. Jerseyite Lurker

    I’d finish the book and then decide, giving as much weight to her actions all through the book as to the way she words her perceptions in the early part. Some insights come from this little blurb: .

    Reply
  5. Ciiku

    I totally get what you are saying…
    I didn’t see the point of this book when I first heard of it and anyway, that superiority complex is getting on my nerves.

    Reply

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