cover image Subduction


Kristen Millares Young. Red Hen, $16.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-59709-892-2

Young’s gutsy if circumscribed debut takes an outsider’s view of the Makah reservation on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. Forty-year-old anthropologist Claudia flees Seattle after discovering her husband’s adultery with her sister, and returns to the whaling village of Neah Bay, where she’d previously collected songs and stories from the Makah. En route to “Indian Country,” she reflects on her childhood in Mexico and compares herself to previous well-meaning but flawed interlopers who came to Neah Bay in the previous two centuries. After arriving, she meets Peter, an underwater welder in his late 30s who is returning home after years away, and the two begin an affair. In passages alternating between Claudia’s and Peter’s points of view, Young highlights the tension of Claudia’s awkward presence in Neah Bay, as she encourages a woman to pose with a mask that doesn’t belong to her, and of Peter’s return to investigate the murder of his father. Claudia’s complicated romance with Peter, as they move at cross purposes, brings her relationship with the community to an impasse, and highlights the limits of her hope for belonging. While Young diligently explores questions about cultural appropriation, in the end her tale falls short by being all about Claudia. (Apr.)