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4 1 4 W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L it e r a t u r e W in t e r 2 0 0 9 students’ experiences there as adolescents. Interesting comparisons can be made with Standing Bear’s own account of these events in his 1928 book My People, the Sioux. Similar to the character John Pai, Momaday’s Standing Bear is the voice of articulate Indian critique and defiant Indian survival. Moreover, The Moon in Two Windows is haunted by the spirit of an Indian child who died en route to Carlisle. Momaday’s screenplay ends with the adult Standing Bear walking with his young son among the graves in the Carlisle cemetery. Some readers have criticized Momaday’s earlier works for seeming to avoid overt engagement with American Indian politics. Few will miss Momaday’s explicit critique of US Indian policies and educational practices in Three Plays or fail to register the outrage expressed over the violence performed on the minds and bodies of Indian children. And all readers will recognize, once again, Momaday’s particular gift of capturing on the page the power of the spoken word to commemorate both loss and survival. Reasoning Together. By the Native Critics Collective. Edited by Craig S. Womack, Daniel Heath Justice, and Christopher B. Teuton. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008. 451 pages, $24.95. Reviewed by Daniel Gustav Anderson George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia This is a unique and important volume. Unique for what it is—a collection of essays produced by twelve scholars in conversation and published collaboratively. According to Craig S. Womack, the intention motivating the project was for a group of Native scholars “to reflect on the history of their discipline and to pool their thoughts in a dialogue in print,” an arrangement which “allows Native critics to speak for themselves” (3,101). And important for what it does—present a set of correctives and points of departure in contemporary thought about the North American West and the strata of cultures in and of the West. This project emphasizes, in Womack’s words, “a commitment to grounding literary theory in social practice,” specifically the actual conditions by which Native people live, from (and into) which Native people have produced and continue to produce culture, and about which Native critics think and write (101). In fact, there is a double gesture involved for this collective: first, native critics are persistently and consciously situated in a Native context, as Native, responsive to the material and social conditions they continue to inhabit and responsible for those conditions (land, people, culture—understood in some­ times divergent ways). Second, these critics think through texts that are them­ selves products of and contributions to that same flow—historical narratives, poems, fragments, rituals. The breadth of the book’s thirteen contributions reflects this depth of complexity, exploring it and opening it up and thereby raising new points of inquiry and meaningfully recontextualizing familiar B o o k R e v ie w s 4 1 5 subjects. This is appropriate given the emergent position of explicitly Native cultural studies and the intellectual and ethical demands this project makes of a critic. Womack, for instance, calls for a “compassionate criticism,” which he characterizes as a “creative and life-affirming scholarship ever opening itself up to new ideas instead of closing them out” and motivated “by love of one’s own community rather than by hatred of those one disagrees with” (357). Open inquiry meets situational ethics. The themes and issues raised in this text are of import to scholars of the cultural matrix of the North American West insofar as one cannot avoid “the Indian” in genre films and novels or the experience of Native life in cultural geography. These writers present a complete and coherent representation of the West— and to understand “the Indian,” one would do well to begin with what Native scholars have to say. Further, this project’s contributions generally have purchase for at least two other emergent intellectual developments that are themselves indigenous to the West: ecocriticism and integral theory. Specifically in the case of the former, Cheryl...


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pp. 414-415
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