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Reviews 361 This richness is beautifully illustrated in Yanktonai Sioux Watercolors, an engaging collection of twenty-three plates ofwatercolors by the Yanktonai Sioux artist John Saul, who was born in 1878 at the Crow Creek Agency in Dakota Territory and died in 1971. During his long life he not only worked as a shoe repairman, carpenter, blacksmith, and teacher of art, but also served on the WPA art project in South Dakota and became the artistic mentor of the wellknown Yanktonai painter Oscar Howe. Unfortunately his recognition as an artist in his own right did not come until the first exhibition of his work in 1967, just a few years before his death. Saul’s work is especially significant in that during his formative years he was surrounded by elders who had been born in the era of the fur-traders and the explorers. It is their culture that he reflects so successfully in his watercolors. This book contains a short biographical sketch, a photographic essay on Saul’s life, two chapters on Yanktonai traditions and ethnology, a third on the collection itself, and a fourth on Saul’s artistic genius. There are also six pages of commentary on the plates. The pictures portray a wide variety of subjects: a purification ceremony, games (the elk, the ice glider, the spear-and-hoop, the buffalo), and various items of the Yanktonai culture, such as women’s dresses, baby-carriers, buffalo robes, eagle-feather headdresses, moccasins, pipes and pipe bags, quill work, bows and arrows, and axes. These paintings provide striking evidence for Arthur Amiotte’s thesis that all too often the visual arts of the Sioux have been viewed merely as anthropo­ logical artifacts rather than as fine art. This retrospective of Saul’s paintings is proof of Amiotte’s assertion; they are certainly interesting to the ethnologist, but they will also appeal to the connoisseur of Native American fine arts. ROBERT C. STEENSMA University of Utah Memory Fever: A Journey Beyond El Paso del Norte. By Ray Gonzalez. (Seattle: Broken Moon Press, 1993. 223 pages, $13.95.) “Memory fever is the manifestation of life,”writes Ray Gonzalez in the final paragraph of “Memory Fever,” the title essay of this powerful collection. By the time the reader arrives at “Memory Fever,” the twenty-ninth and final essay in the book, the author’s life as a Chicano poet growing up in El Paso, Texas, has been richly manifested in a series of images and stories. The feverishness of Gonzalez’s memories, the dream-like unpredictability of the entire collection, becomes exaggerated in the last essay, a breathless succession of visions and remembrances. The opening essays in Memory Fever, “Mi Tierra” and “The Light," are cryptic, mystical gropings towards the “light” of meaning in the author’s life, 362 WesternAmerican Literature anticipating the larger purpose of the book: to place the individual life of the artist in the context of family, community, history, and the natural landscape. Part one contains six essays that seek—often successfully—to capture both the innocence of a desert childhood (an innocence that sloughs off even such anomalous events as the mass dying of sparrows during aJuly downpour) and the haunting mysteries of the austere land. Part two, which includes such pieces as “White Sands,”“Crossing to America,”“Without Discovery,”and “Road Kills,” becomes more overtly political than the first section, but even in these essays there is a persistent, studied naiveté, a literary manifestation of the experience of innocence. For instance, in “White Sands,” an interesting juxtaposition of childhood and adult experiences at White Sands National Monument near El Paso (the site of the Trinity atomic bomb test on July 16, 1945), Gonzalez recalls, “Concerns over nuclear fallout were not hot topics for high school students in an isolated, west Texas town during the sixties. No one thought about it. Itwas not an issue.”And yet the occasional downplaying of militarism, racism, poverty, and environmental destruction in many of the essays is pre­ cisely what results in persuasive power with minimal shrillness, accenting the passages where Gonzalez’s social criticism is more direct. Part three celebrates Mexican drink and food: mescal, menudo, and tamales. And part...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 361-362
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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