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society. Even then, women continued to impose constraints upon themselves. Things happened to them rather than being instigated by them. This lack of agency is one of the chief aspects of women's experience that Conway explores. Because the scope of her study is large, it includes some rather strange bedfellows. The book moves from discussions of historical antecedents to contemporary autobiography— from St. Augustine to Kathryn Harrison 's The Kiss (1997). While some readers might wish for more discrimination , Conway's overview seems consistent with her purpose and piques our curiosity about some fascinating historical figures. The current interest in memoir and autobiography shows no sign of diminishing . As Conway observes, "What makes the reading of autobiography so appealing is the chance it offers to see how this man or that woman, whose public self interests us, has negotiated the problem of selfawareness ... so that while we think we are reading a gripping story, what really grips us is the inner reflection on our own lives the autobiographer sets in motion." (EK) The Undiscovered Country by Samantha Gillison Grove Press, 1998, 226 pp., $23 In Samantha Gillison's first novel, Peter Campbell, a Harvard biology graduate student, travels to the rain forest of Papua New Guinea to do research for his Ph.D. dissertation. His dissertation concerns disease as it relates to inheritance in isolated communities, a subject that requires collecting blood samples as well as mapping kinship. He and his wife, June, agree to make the journey together with their six-year-old daughter, Taylor, a decision arrived at partly out of the blind desire to refresh their marriage and partly out of naïveté. In planning the journey they don't talk to anyone who tells them what living in the mountains of New Guinea is really like. They arrive in Port Moresby, a shabby city of aluminum siding and concrete blocks, dry orange earth, outdoor cooking fires, broken beer bottles covering the ground and intense tropical heat. Gillison locates the consciousness of each chapter skillfully in different characters—upon the arrival of the family in Port Moresby, for example, in the mind of a pregnant and very uncomfortable hostess to their brief visit, who coolly evaluates the Campbell family, wondering, among other things, why they are taking their daughter into the highlands. Trekking to a remote Albini village, they begin to encounter not the rain forest of television or National Geographic but a place more like the jungle of Joseph Conrad: alien yet strangely seductive, halludnogenically vivid, a landscape in which plans and intentions often go awry. Early in their journey a marsupial rat falls from the rafters of a hut onto Taylor's sleeping bag, driving the six-year-old into hysterics. Yet it is the child who soon begins adapting to the environment—rather too well, in fact, for her parents' comfort. She refuses to do schoolwork and disappears all day in the jungle with newfound villager friends. This novel is a striking antidote to fuzzy thinking about the experience The Missouri Review · 203 of living as tourists in the jungle. In acutely sensuous prose, Gillison tells a story that is both frightening and real. In the tradition of Heart of Darkness or The Turn ofthe Screw, she weds gothicism and realism to show how a place may become malevolent , and how a lack of self-awareness may be lethal. In some ways, The Undiscovered Country is more frightening than these two classics because "The horror!" is witnessed from the inside. (SM) The Children by David Halberstam Random House, 1998, 783 pp., $29.95 Taylor Branch's 1988 Parting the Waters told the story of the civil rights movement through the eyes of the movement's leaders: Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, A. Phillip Randolph and others. As its title implies, David Halberstam's The Children tells the story through the eyes of the foot soldiers of the movement . Specifically, Halberstam focuses on a group of students in Nashville who formed their nonviolent consciousness under the tutelage of Vanderbilt divinity student Jim Lawson. These young people came from all different regions and classes but were united by their revulsion atAmerica's institutionalized racism...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 203-204
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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