Spider Woman's Granddaughters: Traditional Tales and Contemporary Writing by Native American Women

Paula G. Allen, Editor Beacon Press (MA) $19.95 (242p) ISBN 978-0-8070-8100-6
These 24 compelling and bleakly evocative narratives compiled by Allen, a professor of Native American studies at the University of California, all stress the theme of loss: loss of identity, loss of culture, loss of personal meaning. By juxtaposing traditional stories with contemporary tales, Allen allows readers to see how the same themes, values and perceptions have endured through the centuries, ``testaments to cultural persistence, to a vision and a spiritual reality that will not die.'' Echoes of the traditional ``Oshkikwe's Baby,'' about an old witch who steals babies, can be found in two stories. In Louise Erdrich's ``American Horse,'' a white social worker separates a boy from his mother for his own ``good,'' to the anguish of mother and son. In ``As It Was in the Beginning,'' by E. Pauline Johnson, a preacher takes a girl away from her family to attend a mission school; the tale is a powerful indictment of the hypocrisy of the ``Christian'' white culture in dealing with native Americans. The importance of storytelling in keeping the Pawnee culture alive is beautifully conveyed in Anna Lee Walter's ``The Warriors,'' in which their alcoholic uncle teaches two sisters that they must struggle to find beauty in the midst of squalor and poverty--``For beauty is why we live,'' he says. Allen's somewhat patronizing attitude toward her non-Native audience--in her introduction and editorial notes--is sometimes intrusive, but should not detract from the poignant impact of these stories. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1989
Release date: 04/01/1989
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-449-90508-1
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4176-2949-7
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