- Remedies for a New West: Healing Landscapes, Histories, and Cultures
The focused approach of this wide-ranging and wonderfully interdisciplinary collection on the West as an ailing patient will be of great interest to scholars and residents of our region. This “clinical approach” accords with the way many western residents feel about their battered land and with the most effective strategies experts are finding in response, whether that response is needed to address an ailing ecosystem, collapsed rural economy, or dying language and culture. More important, as Richard Byyny notes in his foreword, the problems and solutions discussed here are not unique to the West itself: “This book is focused on the West, but its lessons embrace the planet” (ix). [End Page 89]
As the title and clinical approach suggest, this book concentrates on restoration from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, ranging from Klamath dam removal and the restoration of wild rivers to restoring the Navajo Nation’s sovereignty and political autonomy. Readers of Western American Literature will especially appreciate the importance the editors give to the role of myth and literature in supporting or resisting such restoration efforts. By recognizing the critical historical and cultural causes of the West’s current environmental and social problems, the editors lay a firm foundation for the diverse essays that follow and effectively ground the entire study in the humanities.
Sara Krakoff and Andrew Cowell, for example, in “Healing the West with Taxes” and “Indigenous Languages of the West,” discuss preserving and restoring Native cultures from legal and linguistic perspectives. Similarly, John-Michael Rivera and Brenda M. Romero, explore the complicated continuity of Mexican American culture, ritual and identity, from the disciplines of history, English, and music. The close connections between our culture and ecology are also explored in essays such as Allan Wallis’s “Oh Give Me Land, Lots of Land,” which examines western sprawl and its effect on our landscapes and wild ecosystems. Sharon Collinge then demonstrates how we can respond to such landscape loss in her piece, “Reversing the Trend of Habitat Loss in the American West: The Uncertain Promise of Ecological Restoration,” while Hanna Gosnell offers hope for the future in her article, “Healing with Owls: Rewilding the Southern Rockies.” And finally, the West’s legacy of hard-rock mines and nuclear waste dumps is addressed by Joseph N. Ryan and Len Ackland.
Whether one is interested in exploring the contemporary West through an ecological, economic, political, historical, or literary lens, this collection has something insightful to offer. Remedies for a New West is unflinching in its honest assessment of the patient’s health and problematic health history but hopeful and clear in its recommendations for the future. [End Page 90]