Notes Concerning the Author
Forrest Carter (1925—1979), born Asa Earl Carter, was a native of Alabama who wrote three notable novels which became controversial after the New York Times learned that the author had been an anti-integration activist and advisor and speech writer for Governor George C. Wallace.
The Outlaw Josey Wales,which has been reprinted several times, is a tale of persecuted Missouri Confederates pioneering to Texas after the war. The quality of the story brought Clint Eastwood’s organization to make it into a well-known movie. The Education of Little Tree has an interesting history. It is the first-person story of a young Native American (probably a western North Carolina Cherokee) and his sufferings at the hands of rather cruel missionaries who want to deprive him of his identity. When multiculturalism was becoming popular, the University of New Mexico Press republished (1985) the book as a contribution to Native American studies suitable for schools. The work was received as a classic, given a prize for children’s literature, and made it onto Oprah Winfrey’s recommended reading list. The reaction when the author’s past was identified can be imagined. Among other things Carter was accused of “fraud” for passing off fiction as true. But he had simply used a common literary device of first-person narrative, and he indeed had some Native American ancestry, not uncommon in North Alabama.
The real fraud was on the part of the multiculturalists who misunderstood and probably never actually read the book. For the book is clearly an anti-Reconstruction story, the persecution of Little Tree being part of the general persecution of the South and not a screed about an oppressed minority. A truly ludicrous movie version during the days of the book’s popularity of course turned the mean Yankee missionaries into bigoted Southerners.
Carter’s other notable book, Watch for Me on the Mountain, demonstrates significant literary skill, telling a story of the last stand of an old Apache couple. It perhaps understands the spirit of Native Americans as well as has been done by any author. The book has sometimes been considered as an account of the last days of Geronimo and it has been re-published under that title.
Availability of these Books
The Education of Little Tree may be found on Kindle and as an audio book. Used copies of The Outlaw Josey Wales, in several different editions, and Watch for Me on the Mountain are abundant.