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Reviews 127 white town the same as it does in the village.” For Stacey, the loss of each villager “became a missing piece of the circle which could never be replaced.” The bridge that separates white town and the Native village in Maracle’s passionate novel symbolizes not only the gulf between cultures, but Stacey’s painful struggle to place herself somewhere in the two worlds, somewhere between her ravenous desire to understand the differences between white and Indian and her own people’s complacency, expressed in an elder’s placating refrain, “No use thinking about.” Superficially, Ravensong, set in the early 1950s, is a predictable diatribe on white insensitivity toward Natives. Maracle’s attempt to explore Native spiritu­ ality by personifying the mythological trickster Raven as the perpetrator of a catastrophic plot to “finallywake the people up, drive them to white town to fix the mess over there,”is awkward and unconvincing. Where Ravensong succeeds and its power resonates long after the story ends is in its ensemble of absorbing women characters. Through tears, laugh­ ter, grief and pain, these women grasp at the fraying strands of their disinte­ grating community. They blame their losses on the traditional culprit, “too much Raven.” But, in the end, only Stacey understands that the Native’s demise falls instead on “not enough Raven.” JEAN M. EMERY Phoenix, Arizona 30 Miles from J-Town. By Amy Uyematsu. (Brownsville, Oregon: Story Line Press, 1992. 104 pages, $11.95.) “By the third generation,”Amy Uyematsu writes, “I was sacrificed/saved from broken tongues” (“The Shaping of Pine”). The poems in this first collec­ tion, winner of the 1992 Nicholas Roerich Prize, explore, in talkstory and quiet lines of metric regularity, the sacrifice of the Japanese language to assimila­ tion, the recovery of some of those words, and the alienation Uyematsu feels as a sansei (third generation American) growing up near, but not in LosAngeles’s Japan-town. Uyematsu becomes a “quickchange sansei”who could “fool/sound just like an american over the phone,” yet remains mute in public (“To All Us Sansei Who Wanted to Be Westside”). The duality of “not passing” in either hakujin (white) or nihonjin (Japanese) circles permeates the collection with a keen sense of loss. In “A Recent Conversation with My Grandmother,” Uyematsu awakens from a dream, hearing a melody from another time. Want­ ing to speak with her obachan (grandmother) she realizes the crisis of having given up “a language well suited to farmers/and poets,” substituting “these words with no memory.” Searching for memory is the core of 30 Miles from J-Toxvn. As a sansei 128 Western American Literature removed from the immediate humiliation and rage over war-time JapaneseAmerican internment, Uyematsu revisits the “tarbacked box” in which her mother was confined, not the “airless box” the poet experiences “every december 7/when the history lesson was me.” The poem follows out the faceless box thrust upon a mistaken Chinese-American murdered on Pearl Harbor Day 40 years later, every incident “ judged by the same eyes that watched mama’s train” (“December 7 Always Brings Christmas Early”). In “December 7”and in the collection as a whole, Uyematsu’s voice is subdued, overly so, saved by a sardonic wit that permeates the best poems (“Second Nature,” “Three Pulls of the Loom,” “Did You Hear What Happened to Moe?”). The last section of the book, “Harvest,” provides a pieced-together epiphany. In “Rice Planting,”the collection’s coda, Uyematsu realizes her life and that of her fourth generation son will be lived, as Maxine Hong Kingston has urged, as warriors rather than victims, boasting a hunger answered with riceballs big as a fist. JODI VARON Eastern Oregon State College AlligatorDance. ByJanet Peery. (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1993. 208 pages, $22.50/$10.95.) This is the first collection ofJanet Peery’s short stories, consisting of ten stories previously appearing in such publications as American Short Fiction, Southwest Review, and Shenandoah. They are the work of a gifted and talented writer, containing echoes of Willa Cather, Katherine Anne Porter, Mary Aus­ tin, Reynolds Price, William Faulkner,J. D. Salinger, and, yes, Mark Twain. Yet somehow this surprisingly lengthy and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 127-128
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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