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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 eclectic mixture does not obscure the author’s own distinctive voice. Although settings vary—Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wisconsin—the most frequent location is that part ofTexas near the Mexican border known as the Valley. And although her characters range from fourth-graders to grand­ mothers, the most frequent character is an adolescent. Often, although not exclusively, the crucial experiences of her characters involve some sexual encounter, awakening, or, more often, confusion: a husband’s sexual experi­ ence with a woman casually met in a seaside restaurant in “South Padre,” a young girl’s sexual attraction and repulsion resulting from a Polish boy’s strange words and drawings in “Alligator Dance,”a servant girl’s affairwith her married employer in “What the Thunder Said.”Peery often places her charac­ ters in the difficult role of adjusting to a different place or adjusting to different relationships with those close to them. Reviews 129 Features that contribute to the high quality and distinctive voice of these stories are careful attention to details, providing authenticity of place, lan­ guage, character, and ethnic differences; convincing first-person narration from either female or male perspective; and perhaps the key feature of these appealing stories: the characters may receive a glimpse of understanding as a result of some crucial experience but never a complete revelation because the author is always alert to the limit of human understanding. She is aware of the fine line between laughter and tears, aware of the paradoxical complexity of human emotions that contain “both loss and finding,” and is aware that sometimes we have to “move away to see the placewe came from,”then “love it more for knowing what was lost.”First-rate stories. THOMAS W. FORD University ofHouston A BriefHistory ofMale Nudes in America. By Dianne Nelson. (Athens: Georgia University Press, 1993. 137 pages, $19.95.) Although the title of this book did not atfirst inspire great confidence, the stories themselves latched onto my imagination immediately. The plots un­ wind simply but with care and cause. Internal, balanced, and somewhat bare, they leave room for our own suppositions or ponderings without being obtuse. Setting and theme, though utilized less emphatically, develop thoughtfully, revealing subde designs compatible with the action. And, best of all, the characters ring clear and true, twisted and interesting. Their distinct voices, quirkybutcommonplace, mostoften carrythe weight of the stories’meanings. Once involved with the text, the confusion of the title recedes and the actions and situations of the characters rightfully come to the fore. These are people we could meet any day, who travel the roads we all know, who rush to the same...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 128-129
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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