Minimalists in Fiction: Little Tree

little tree

“The Education of Little Tree speaks to the human spirit and reaches the very depth of the human soul.”

– Rennard Strickland

The Education of Little Tree is a novel written by Asa Carter under the pseudonym Forrest Carter. It tells the story of an orphaned boy adopted by his Cherokee grandmother and half-Cherokee grandfather in the Appalachian Mountains during the Great Depression.

Like Mutant Message Down Under, the book has experienced its share of controversy. The book was originally sold as a nonfiction memoir, but it turns out it’s really fiction.

“One way you look at it, [The Education of Little Tree is] a tree-hugger book. But the other way, it’s a right-wing, government-leave-me-alone book.”

– Dan Carter

Asa Carter was a Klansman, a white supremacist, writing not memoirs or novels, but speeches for George Wallace. Then he moved, changed his name to Forrest Carter and created a whole new persona as a part-Cherokee former cowboy.

To learn more, read the Texas Monthly’s article, The Real Education of Little Tree and Salon’s article, The education of Little Fraud.

“Granma said very few was picked to have the total love of the trees, the birds, the waters – the rain and the wind.”

– Little Tree

If you read the book for what it is, a fictional romanticized account of Native Americans living in the 1930s, you may enjoy its description of living in harmony with the earth.

There is a distinct anti-government slant, as Dan Carter indicated, but regardless of your political views, this will make sense to you in the context of the tale of a Cherokee family after the Trail of Tears.

“It is the Way….Take only what ye need.”

– Granpa


Granpa teaches Little Tree to leave the best plants and animals to reproduce and to take only what they need. He says it’s “the silliest damn thing in the world to go around killing something for sport.”

Granma makes various herbal remedies and tells Little Tree about “dead” people walking around who, for instance “saw nothing but lumber and profit” when they looked at a tree.

The family’s friend, Mr. Wine, tells Little Tree it’s a sin to throw away something someone else can use and that there’s a “difference between being stingy and being thrifty.”

If you was stingy, you was as bad as some big shots which worshipped money and you would not use your money for what you had ought. He said if you was that way then money was your god, and no good would come of the whole thing.

The Education of Little Tree – the Movie

You may also be interested in the The Education of Little Tree movie. I haven’t seen it, but Roger Ebert describes it as “another fine family movie.”

If you’re read The Education of Little Tree or seen the film, please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

P.S. Thanks to Lois for telling me about this book.

2 thoughts on “Minimalists in Fiction: Little Tree

  1. Christy, you are welcome I hope you enjoyed the book. My son found this at our library when we home schooled. At the time it was still believed to be a memoir and he begged me to add it to his reading for science. He was especially impressed with the tracking of the fox. Once he read it he brought it to me and added it to the pile of books I would read.

    when we learned this was a work of fiction it didn’t detract from how we felt about the book, it was a good story whether fiction or not.

    I did not know the author had been a clansman, that does surprise me.

    • It surprised me too. Wonder if he felt differently when he wrote the book.

      I did enjoy reading it – but then I enjoy reading nearly everything 🙂

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