West of the Border: The Multicultural Literature of the Western American Frontiers by Noreen Groover Lape (review)
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tuality, language becomes a means of power, resulting in despotism. The ideas which Rosowski here presents arewonderfully intriguing and important, so much so that they seem to belongwith the original introduction rather than as an afterthought to Fuller, Cather, and Stafford, and as a transition to Robinson. The final chapter deals with Marilynne Robinson's Housekeepingwherein Robinson transforms the Western into a meditative tradition — including memory, analysis, and understanding— so as "to return the United States to the global community and to develop a polity of responsibility to the planet" (191). One troublesome issue I found myself returning to is the complex nature of defining the genre of the Western. If the Western is a narrative of place (stories taking place west of the Mississippi), then Fuller's work seems not to belong, as Fuller only traveled to the Milwaukee and Wisconsin Territories and to Mackinaw Island of the Great Lakes. If the Western deals with narratives of a certain time period (before the 1860s), then much ofCather's and Stafford's writing and all ofRobinson's writing would be excluded. Ifthe Western is a narrative ofa certain plot structure/formula, then none ofthe female authors would be considered Western writers, but rather anti-Western authors. And if the Western is a narrative ofwestward movement, then Housekeeping would not be included, as ultimately , Sylvie and Ruth movefrom the West to the world at large. A chapter, or a section, concerning the fluid nature of the genre itselfwould have been helpful for me, as I would not have found myselfdistracted in my mentally arguing against some assumptions which seem inherent in Rosowski's thesis. Ultimately, Rosowski's thesis also could be strengthened by setting the four female authors she addresses in a larger context offemale Western writers. As it is, without a background ofWestern writers, one could come from the book thinking that these are the only female Western writers to be found or that they are the only fourwriterswho challenge the Western myth. Rosowski does admit that these four are not necessarily representative as they are all white, educated women. An additional study would be interesting, tying these four writers to minority Western writers, analyzing and comparing narratives from the perspective of Native American and Chicana writers. Noreen Groover Lape. West ofthe Border: The MulticulturalLiterature ofthe Western American Frontiers. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2000. 224p. SPRING 2001 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + I2S Peter L. Bayers Fairfield University Ifone's conception ofthe "frontier" in American literature calls to mind images of gritty, individualistic male hunters, cowboys, and/or Indian fighters "winning" the West for civilization, Noreen Groover Lapes West ofthe Border might lead one to reconsider his or her assumptions about the American "frontier." A timely book which has much in common with other recent reconceptions oftheAmerican frontier , West ofthe Border has little to do with what one might consider the conventional images ofthe frontier and instead is driven by the notion that the frontier is a site of cultural contestation, a "contact zone," or a struggle between a "closed frontier" and an "open frontier." For Lape, "Closed frontiers denote die termination on intercultural relations and the institution ofAnglo dominance; open frontiers indicate die continuation of intercultural relations and resistance to Anglo dominance" (13). In her highly readable analysis ofan eclectic historical mix of autobiography, romance, trickster tales, dime novel, short story, and essays by Native American, white, and biracial Chinese American, African American, and Native American authors, she skillfully buttresses her argument that the frontier hardly embodies the traditional heroic image ofNatty Bumpo orJohn Wayne forging their white male identities over and against die "virgin" wilderness and "savage " Indians. Instead, her readings ofdiesevariousworks underscore thechallenges facing multiculturalpeopUs of the West who were not of the dominant culture. Lape does not make the mistake ofoversimplifying these authors by romanticizing them, but shows how their relationship to the dominant culture was often ambivalent, simultaneously subverting and bolstering the dominant culture and its values. In her historically grounded readings ofthe autobiographies ofJames P. Beckworth, Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, the trickster narratives of Mourning Dove and John Rollin Ridge, the short stories ofSui Sin Far and the romances of her sister Onoto Watanna, and finally...