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One Good Story, That One is a collection steeped in native oral tradition and shot through with Thomas King’s special brand of wit and comic imagination. These highly acclaimed stories conjure up Native and Judeo-Christian myths, present-day pop culture, and literature while mixing in just the right amount of perception and experience.
In the opening story of Geary Hobson’s riveting new collection, Plain of Jars, a young private confides to his friend that he’s trying to leave the Marine Corps. “I am not doing this just because I find the Marine Corps too tough,” Warren Needham says, but because violence is contradictory to his faith. The story’s surprising climax, however, reveals a different side of Needham’s contradictory nature. It’s this acute understanding of conflict that characterizes Plain of Jars, a book populated by bullies, men in combat, abusive spouses, and Native Americans seeking a sense of personal identity in an environment where conformity is law. The U.S. Marine Corps sets the stage for a number of these stories, whose protagonists combat racism, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and the looming reality of the Vietnam War. With pitch perfect dialogue and a sense of the unexpected, Plain of Jars tests the depths of complex lives.
The first book devoted exclusively to the poetry and literary aesthetics of one of Native America’s most accomplished writers, this collection of essays brings together detailed critical analyses of single texts and individual poetry collections from diverse theoretical perspectives, along with comparative discussions of Vizenor’s related works. Contributors discuss Vizenor’s philosophy of poetic expression, his innovations in diverse poetic genres, and the dynamic interrelationships between Vizenor’s poetry and his prose writings.
Throughout his poetic career Vizenor has returned to common tropes, themes, and structures. Indeed, it is difficult to distinguish clearly his work in poetry from his prose, fiction, and drama. The essays gathered in this collection offer powerful evidence of the continuing influence of Anishinaabe dream songs and the haiku form in Vizenor’s novels, stories, and theoretical essays; this influence is most obvious at the level of grammatical structure and imagistic composition but can also be discerned in terms of themes and issues to which Vizenor continues to return.
Waste and Contamination in Contemporary U.S. Ethnic Literatures
American Indian Writers and Indigenous Mexico
The forty years of American Indian literature taken up by James H. Cox—the decades between 1920 and 1960—have been called politically and intellectually moribund. On the contrary, Cox identifies a group of American Indian writers who share an interest in the revolutionary potential of the indigenous peoples of Mexico—and whose work demonstrates a surprisingly assertive literary politics in the era.
By contextualizing this group of American Indian authors in the work of their contemporaries, Cox reveals how the literary history of this period is far more rich and nuanced than is generally acknowledged. The writers he focuses on—Todd Downing (Choctaw), Lynn Riggs (Cherokee), and D’Arcy McNickle (Confederated Salish and Kootenai)—are shown to be on par with writers of the preceding Progressive and the succeeding Red Power and Native American literary renaissance eras.
Arguing that American Indian literary history of this period actually coheres in exciting ways with the literature of the Native American literary renaissance, Cox repudiates the intellectual and political border that has emerged between the two eras.
Set in northern Minnesota, The Road Back to Sweetgrass follows Dale Ann, Theresa, and Margie, a trio of American Indian women, from the 1970s to the present, observing their coming of age and the intersection of their lives as they navigate love, economic hardship, loss, and changing family dynamics on the fictional Mozhay Point reservation. As young women, all three leave their homes. Margie and Theresa go to Duluth for college and work; there Theresa gets to know a handsome Indian boy, Michael Washington, who invites her home to the Sweetgrass land allotment to meet his father, Zho Wash, who lives in the original allotment cabin. When Margie accompanies her, complicated relationships are set into motion, and tensions over “real Indian-ness” emerge.
Dale Ann, Margie, and Theresa find themselves pulled back again and again to the Sweetgrass allotment, a silent but ever-present entity in the book; sweetgrass itself is a plant used in the Ojibwe ceremonial odissimaa bag, containing a newborn baby’s umbilical cord. In a powerful final chapter, Zho Wash tells the story of the first days of the allotment, when the Wazhushkag, or Muskrat, family became transformed into the Washingtons by the pen of a federal Indian agent. This sense of place and home is both tangible and spiritual, and Linda LeGarde Grover skillfully connects it with the experience of Native women who came of age during the days of the federal termination policy and the struggle for tribal self-determination.
The Road Back to Sweetgrass is a novel that that moves between past and present, the Native and the non-Native, history and myth, and tradition and survival, as the people of Mozhay Point navigate traumatic historical events and federal Indian policies while looking ahead to future generations and the continuation of the Anishinaabe people.
Queerness and Everyday Colonialism in the American Renaissance
In Settler Common Sense, Mark Rifkin explores how canonical American writers take part in the legacy of displacing Native Americans. Although the books he focuses on are not about Indians, they serve as examples of what Rifkin calls “settler common sense,” taking for granted the legal and political structure through which Native peoples continue to be dispossessed.
In analyzing Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables, Rifkin shows how the novel draws on Lockean theory in support of small-scale landholding and alternative practices of homemaking. The book invokes white settlers in southern Maine as the basis for its ethics of improvement, eliding the persistent presence of Wabanaki peoples in their homeland. Rifkin suggests that Henry David Thoreau’s Walden critiques property ownership as a form of perpetual debt. Thoreau’s vision of autoerotic withdrawal into the wilderness, though, depends on recasting spaces from which Native peoples have been dispossessed as places of non-Native regeneration. As against the turn to “nature,” Herman Melville’s Pierre presents the city as a perversely pleasurable place to escape from inequities of land ownership in the country. Rifkin demonstrates how this account of urban possibility overlooks the fact that the explosive growth of Manhattan in the nineteenth century was possible only because of the extensive and progressive displacement of Iroquois peoples upstate.
Rifkin reveals how these texts’ queer imaginings rely on treating settler notions of place and personhood as self-evident, erasing the advancing expropriation and occupation of Native lands. Further, he investigates the ways that contemporary queer ethics and politics take such ongoing colonial dynamics as an unexamined framework in developing ideas of freedom and justice.
A Collection of Critical Essays
Sherman Alexie is, by many accounts, the most widely read American Indian writer in the United States and likely in the world. A literary polymath, Alexie's nineteen published books span a variety of genres and include his most recent National Book Award-winning The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
Now, for the first time, a volume of critical essays is devoted to Alexie's work both in print and on the big screen. Editors Jeff Berglund and Jan Roush have assembled twelve leading scholars of American Indian literature to provide new perspectives on a writer with his finger on the pulse of America.
Interdisciplinary in their approach to Alexie's work, these essays cover the writer's entire career, and are insightful and accessible to scholars and lay readers alike. This volume is a worthy companion to the work of one of our nations's most recognized contemporary voices.