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B o o k Re v ie w s and African American culture and “by the relationship of landscape to human action” (13). Donovan concludes that for Allen’s and Morrison’s characters, that search for voice becomes a “reconciliation of an individual and communal consciousness . . . [, and] that reconciliation can occur only within their female relationships, in specific landscapes, through the power of storytelling” (137). In Feminist Readings, Donovan has synthesized studies from the fields of Native American literature and feminist literary and cultural theory and given us valuable insight into how they intersect and support each other. This is an important first step in opening a discussion about ways in which Native American female writers offer alternatives, depth, and commonali­ ties to gender-based theories. Leaning into the Wind: Women Write from the Heart of the West. Edited by Linda Hasselstrom, Gaydell Collier, and Nancy Curtis. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. 388 pages, $25.00. Reviewed by Barbara “ Barney” N elson Sul Ross State University Editors Linda Hasselstrom, Gaydell Collier, and Nancy Curtis bring together the prairie voices of over two hundred women to provide a patch­ work of rural life in the northern high plains of Colorado, Nebraska, North and South Dakota. While detractors accuse rural people of holding only economic-based relationships with land and animals, these rural women eloquently stitch together another story, making clear the differences be­ tween romance/nostalgia and the development over time of an affectionate clear-eyed acceptance of the dark side of place. The unique, sacred/profane-blurring, rural point of view sings in stories about a “master” irrigator with his “disciples” of children, the barefoot lure of squishing fresh cow dung between one’s toes, or the thrill of “watching the pantry fill up with sparkling jars of veggies and fruits,” as well as a little girl’s first trapline and an old woman’s first wolverine. Multiple voices weave overarching storyteller threads through this collection of excerpts from handwritten manuscripts, family photo albums, a seventy-year-old note­ book, diaries, poems, short memoirs, and letters— sometimes as many as three voices per page. The brief vignettes are organized into chapters with such labels as “This Soil, My Body,” “Grass Echoes Grass,” and “The River of Stories.” The women embrace weather as an internalized “parental voice” or as a stern partner in intimacy: wind drying the sweat on a woman’s face, bliz­ zards roaring through the night like a freight train, rain on canvas, gumbo mud, wind, sleet, hail, flood, lightning, or the coming tornado that “turned everything yellow” while the “air held its breath” and tree leaves “turned upright on their stems.” A n old woman sensuously imagines herself turning 2 1 2 WAL 3 3 ( 2 ) S u m m e r 1 9 9 8 into grass: “tangled blades of green / feathering my thighs, soft as lips.” Poetically the women describe grouse dancing, dream of monstrous yellow spiders dragging them off to nests of hay, or acknowledge their desire to “howl at the moon and piss around the edges” of land they do not “own” but fiercely claim as home. Relationships with animals often seem more important in their world than relationships with people. The stories blur boundaries between wild and domestic as women remember diapering frogs, feeding domesticated elk, leaving “horsehair from the currycomb / Where birds can find it to build nests.” While arguing that the word “cowboy” is misleading and should be changed to “cowmom,” these women explain with poignant examples how nurturing must always be balanced by death. Hasselstrom’s self-proclaimed “grumpy” introduction also makes an important contribution to western American literary criticism. Her salty tirade pointedly challenges urban appropriation of rural culture and “Bungee-jump journalists.” She agrees with a Wyoming poet whom she quotes as saying west­ ern history was mostly written by “trappers, travelers, traders, transients, tourists and transplants.” However, a quick perusal through back-of-thebook credits reveals that even Hasselstrom and her coeditors, with the noble goal of producing an anthology written by “real” rural women, include far too many urban-based non-natives, as well as academics and professional writers. But the magic still works and perhaps...


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pp. 211-212
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