Darkness in El Dorado Controversy - Archived Document

Internet Source: National Public Radio, Weekend Edition Sunday (1:00 PM ET), August 18, 2002
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Listeners' letters

Anchor, Liane Hansen

Time now to catch up on some of your letters.

Regarding the interview with Dirk Wittenborn on his novel "Fierce People," Erica Chan(ph) writes 'At one point Wittenborn mentioned some controversial information regarding the Yanomami Indians, a group of Indians from the Amazon along the Brazil-Venezuelan border. Mr. Wittenborn spoke of his learning about the Yanomami Indians in college and described them as the meanest people in the world. I would like to refer Mr. Wittenborn to a book by Patrick Tierney called "Darkness In El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon." In it, Mr. Wittenborn will be re-educated about how the Yanomami Indians were falsely portrayed, studied and exploited, resulting in the miseducation of college students and others who read any of the early research on these indigenous peoples.' The story by reporter Guy Raz about Karl May, the 19th century German novelist, whose books about the American West have engendered a cult following in Germany, prompted this from James Michaels(ph) of Portland, Oregon. 'You left out one crucial element of your story regarding Karl May. That is, the strong influence he had on one of his biggest fans, Adolf Hitler, in regard to themes of the stories about acquisition of new territory and the genocidal treatment of the inhabitants therein.'

Jean Sandhoffer(ph) of Terryville, Connecticut, was moved by the interview two weeks ago with children's book author and artist Allen Say. 'I remembered with great intensity my enthusiasm for sharing the book "Grandfather's Journey" with groups of five- and six-year-olds when I worked as a language development specialist,' she writes. 'Although I used the book for at least four consecutive years, I always had to fight back tears on the next-to-the-last page of the book, pausing to compose myself before turning to the last page. I remember my young charges' bewilderment at my poorly disguised expression of sadness and more than once was asked in great innocence by the children "Why are you crying, Miss Sandhoffer?" Such is the power of Allen Say's storytelling and illustration, of tales, of journeys of discovery, of traditions, both new and old. Thanks for exposing your audience to this artist and writer I've been moved by for years.'

Finally, Janice Mercure(ph) of Portland, Oregon, was happy to hear Paul Conley's profile of the late jazz bassist Eric Von Essen. 'I was prompted to listen once again to my four LPs to rejoice in their music and to share the sad loss of such a talented bass player-composer. Though he is and will be missed, his music keeps him alive. It was a lovely tribute.'

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