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252Reviews ers return to Toomer's Cane. Like Cane, Wardi's text generates possibilities for further exploration and discovery, more critical analysis. Wardi's study can be read as an elegy that signals a return to origins, to those seminal texts in the African American literary tradition that are invested in the process of remembering. In her poignant conclusion, "Our People's Graves," Wardi reexamines the material markers of death in the novel Mama Dayand in Alice Walker's poem "Burial." Wardi's return to these markers and her treatment of Cane function as a metaphor for what her work offers. Suggesting that the pastoral is a site of ongoing song, of elegy, Wardi provides a means to recover (at least partially) aspects of an African American literary tradition. By reviewing the past and its literature and by "unearthing buried histories" (166), Wardi demonstrates an act of recovery similar to the ones she discovers in these literary texts. Ultimately, the arc ofmourning—ofremembering and finding meaning— comes full circle. Florida Institute of TechnologyLisa K. Perdigao Brennan, Jonathan, ed. When Brer Rabbit Meets Coyote: AfricanNative American Literature. Chicago: Univ. of Illinois Press, 2003. xvii + 307 pp. Cloth: $39.95. Jonathan Brennan has done Americanists a great service by putting together this collection of ten essays on African-Native American history and literature. The first striking aspect of the edited volume is its extensive introduction—which comprises one-third of the book and includes 269 endnotes. Brennan's introduction presents a thorough account of the historical, political, cultural, and literary connections between what have been considered separate entities in ethnic studies: Americans of African and those ofindigenous ancestry. The fact that many visibly dark-skinned Americans—individuals classified as African Americans—are actually partAmerican Indian (and likely part white European American) is a salient point in the volume. While miscegenation is widely recognized among scholars today, the existence and specific history ofAfrican-Native Americans has been, according to Brennan and his contributors, a best-kept secret . Thus, as a collection of essays focused on the culture and literature of African-Native Americans, When Brer Rabbit Meets Coyote identifies a long-neglected area of scholarship in ethnic studies. In discussing African-Native American writers, Brennan cites the hostility that Alice Walker has faced in claiming the Cherokee and white European parts of her racial heritage. As he reminds us, "although the former English colonies have structured racial and cultural categories in such a way as to make it difficult for writers to claim their African-Native Studies in American Fiction253 identity (in contrast to the more permeable policies of former French and Spanish colonies), African-Native Americans are not obligated to choose one community over the other. When they do choose to assume both identities , they sometimes alternate between identities and sometimes assume them simultaneously" (31). Several ofthe essays rightfully assert that, given the unique strain of racial classification in the U. S., identity politics cannot be ignored. The four parts of the book—ranging from discussions of folklore to captivity and slave narratives to treatments of crossblood subjectivities in contemporary ethnic works—address issues of identity from different angles. The cumulative effect is the convincing argument that multiethnic literary scholars should move beyond rigidly construed ethnicities to explore the fertile connection between African and Native American cultures. Part 1 includes two essays that examine "cultural syncretism" between African and Native Americans. Both essays identify historical moments when cultural contact occurred and forged hybrid versions of folktales that already existed in African and Native traditions. While researchers have been busy establishing the African origin of these stories, David Gay points out, they "overlook[ed] the fact that the Native American and African American versions oftrickster stories more closely resemble each other than their supposed African exemplars" (105). In fact, according to Sandra Baringer, the focus on origins "effaces opportunities for the study of cultural exchange, which is more complex than one oppressor versus one oppressed" (118) and, ultimately, "misunderstands the way oral storytelling works" (120). Part 2 includes three essays that examine the parallels and contrasts between Indian captivity narratives and African American slave narratives. According to the authors, because narratives by Indian...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-5806
Print ISSN
0091-8083
Pages
pp. 252-254
Launched on MUSE
2014-10-01
Open Access
No
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