- Fictions of Western American Domesticity: Indian, Mexican, and Anglo Women in Print Culture, 1850–1950 by Amanda J. Zink
By Amanda J. Zink. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2018. ix + 329 pp. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $75.00 cloth.
This work attempts to pull from popular fictional sources of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as novels, magazine articles, and the like, in order to prove how domesticity in the West further reasserted racial divides among Native, Mexican, and Anglo-Americans. Drawing on Great Plains authors such as Edna Ferber, Willa Cather, Elinore Cowan Stone, and Evelyn Hunt Raymond, Zink dissects the heroines of their fictionalized novels to show “the ways white women colonized western women of color by creating characters who brought ‘the right ways of living’ to the Other women in their western adventures” (3). Though Zink puts forth compelling arguments in her book, she assumes the reader is familiar with all the sources being critiqued, making for a more difficult read when one has to do further research while simultaneously dissecting the narrative to understand the argument the author is making.
The book is compiled into four thematic chapters, each addressing the evolution of domesticity in American print culture. Material presented within these chapters proves relevant to the author’s argument. Pulling from various scholars who have studied the key novels that form the foundation for her writing, Zink further reasserts her point that “white writers sometimes drew characters that use domesticity to colonize American Indian and Mexican American women, as if to enable and legitimize their own public activities” (2). The author seems to say that these primarily female authors directly instilled an air of racism into [End Page 215] their novels as a result of their fiendish outlook on multicultural races. This book uses sources that are mostly based in Oklahoma, which contains a sizable percentage of the Native population in the Great Plains. As a result, Zink makes use of essential archival sources located in this region to lay claim to her work.
This book adds to the historiography of American print culture in that it evaluates how biases are interpreted and intertwined in fictional manuscripts. The premise is sound, but the intended audience is those who are knowledgeable in earlier American literature, such as graduate students or scholars in the field. Ultimately, Zink’s book provides an exciting insight into domesticity and how that in turn further affected racial divides in the Great Plains between 1850 and 1950.
University of Wyoming