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Reviews 349 1) a discussion of oral and literary traditions that distinguish Native American storytelling from the ethos of individualism celebrated in Euroamerican writ­ ing, 2) the communal significance and purpose of Native American stories, 3) the battles against intellectual apartheid, racism and sexism which Native women writers assume, 4) an historical overview ofIndian/White relations from an indigenous perspective, and 5) a discussion ofthe selection and organization of the text. The collection is composed of parts of traditional oral tales, reflec­ tions told to collaborators, and short stories. Paula Gunn Allen has done a remarkable job of introducing her readers to a wide range of oral and written literature which is diverse in subject and voice, yet unified into a reflection on the devastating effects of “discovery”and westward expansion. The book is divided into three units: “The Warriors,”“The Casualties,”and “The Resistance.” ‘The Warriors” includes traditional stories of women’s brav­ ery and resourcefulness in battle, their significance in genesis legends, and women’songoing heroism even in the face of defeat. This section also includes stories of how girls are taught to become defenders. “The Casualties”section is a painful look at the rending of families and the loss of children as the most overwhelming aspect of cultural genocide. The stories in this unit explore the splintered acts of holding on, physically and spiritually, in the face of devasta­ tion. “The Resistance” looks at how Indian peoples can reject taking part in their own cultural and physical holocaust. These stories reveal how the oral tradition can incorporate the present in an ongoing Indian world view. The importance of ironic distance to the dynamics of the dominant culture, and the need to work out complex bicultural identities in the face of ridicule and shaming, is also a major focus. For those who have not considered that “Manifest Destiny”for some meant holocaust for others, Spider Woman’s Granddaughters will be disturbing. It is, nonetheless, the sort of reading that must happen if Americans are to achieve multicultural understanding. ALANNA KATHLEEN BROWN Montana State University Shadows in My Hands: A Southwestern Odyssey. ByJane Candia Coleman. (Athens: Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 1993. 117 pages, $23.00.) Jane Candia Coleman’saccount of her personaljourney, both physical and emotional, is a book those of us now stuck in the East might plunge into now and then when the setting sun on the western horizon pulls us into personal memories of dust whirls, youth and a “solitude so deep it had no starting point, no end.” Or her book might be a place where those of us who have never experienced the western “light of a thousand miles of sky reflected”could find the courage it takes to move ourselves and our lives to “a place where individual­ 350 WesternAmerican Literature ity is necessity not crime.” Or for those of us fortunate enough to live where valleys stretch “into infinity . . . and the sky . . . surrounds the whole with deli­ cate light,”Coleman’sbook might be a reminder ofthe splendorwe live in every day. Calling on her male muse, Coleman, while able to transport us to the western landscape, dips dangerously into the romanticism of personal rebirth in the telling of her conversion story ofEasterner become Westerner, complete with understanding of “magnificence” and “self.” Throughout this metamor­ phosis, as the element of light plays on the western expanse, giving color to a “yellow cat,” “blue, lavender, red, ocher . . . living things,” “sky, . . . magical blue,” “yellow grass, red earth, the green of cottonwood trees,” Coleman struggles some and then saysthat she is “at home in the saddle as one born to it.” Perhaps Coleman’s color becomes too much color, until her West is mud­ died like the canvas of a novice and too enthusiastic painter, while her effort to change into a part of the West becomes little more than a desperate act of “simply playing cowboy.” In the end she says she “would not trade places with anyone else on earth,” and I’m happy for her in that place as I close the book, but wonder at any one person consciously concerned with “truly belong[ing] ” in the yet seemingly boundless and indeed...


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pp. 349-350
Launched on MUSE
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