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3 5 8 W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L it e r a t u r e F a l l 2 0 0 5 told is true” (28). Spending time in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—a contested space under Bush energy policy—she finds “the literal open space of democracy” (59). The algae and fungi, “working together to break down rock into soil,” represent “a radical form of democracy” (58). And in the understanding that develops among the travelers in their shared experience of wilderness, she sees the literal paradigm for how community can grow in open spaces that move the spirit. Not surprisingly for those who know her prior work, Williams becomes most poetic and stining in her descriptions of the natural world, as when she meditates on the arctic tern’s 22,000-mile migration from pole to pole in search of perennial light or discovers a herd of caribou over a ridge. As a whole, the book will affect readers differently as long as the election of 2004 is remem­ bered with feeling. Explicitly critical of George W. Bush from the first page, it requires some readers to stretch farther than others. But its ideals are lofty, its examples of communication honest, and its prose forceful. Still relevant after the election, the book deserves a place in any library or course on political phi­ losophy as well as in any collection or course with an interest in place-based, politically engaged literature. Crossing Vines: A Novel. By Rigoberto González. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003. 216 pages, $24.95. Reviewed by Daniel R. Martinez New Mexico Highlands University, Las Vegas, New Mexico In Crossing Vines, Rigoberto González captures the details, both everyday and unusual, of migrant grape pickers. Not since Tomás Rivera’s ... y no se lo tragó la tierra (1971) has a book so intimately explored the daily lives of migrant farm workers. While Rivera’s book takes readers through one year in the life of a young migrant, Crossing Vines compresses the emotions and events of a group of workers into one twenty-four-hour cycle. Bringing to light the continuing plight of migrant farm workers, González reminds us that while some have suc­ ceeded at the American Dream, others remain caught in the inescapable trap of low-wage work. Making use of vignettes organized around various times of the day, González creates portraits of people without commentary; he allows actions and motivations to speak for themselves. Throughout the chapters, González gives voice to those living on the margins of society. These are not people with ulterior motives but people working diligently for a better life. Different characters take center stage in each chapter. They twine in and out of the chapters allowing for full-figured versions of the lives these people experience to organically rise to the surface. Instead of one protagonist, characters float in and out of prominence throughout the chapters. However, this book is no Faulknerian point-of-view mish-mash, the third person nar­ B o o k R e v ie w s 3 5 9 rator works to control tone and rhythm, allowing a reader to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each character. González tells the stories ofvarious migrant farm workers in the grape fields of California. He reminds us that while things may have changed since the days of Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and La Huelga, much more remains the same. Long days, low wages, lack of job security and insurance is commonplace for the characters who are not ignorant of such benefits but rather tragically trapped by a commerce system that requires them to suffer the indignities of a sulfur-covered harvest for the benefit of consumers. The characters understand their socioeconomic plight but are more focused on daily survival. The book does not bring us back full circle to ... yno se la tragó la tierra; it takes us one step beyond. Instead of one protagonist struggling with the existential question of a just world, González’s characters often play both protagonist and antagonist. Like the grapes...


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pp. 358-359
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