The Beadworkers

Beth Piatote. Counterpoint, $23 (208p) ISBN 978-1-64009-268-6
Piatote’s debut collection mixes poetry, verse, and prose to form an impressive reflection on the lives of modern Native Americans. Piatote, a Nez Perce enrolled with the Colville Confederated Tribes, fits much nuance and profundity into stories that often reflect on the ways in which contemporary mainstream American culture continues to erase the identities and traditions of indigenous groups. In “Beading Lesson,” the narrator teaches a girl how to make traditional beaded earrings, noting how fewer and fewer people have been learning the skill in recent years. In “wIndin!,” two friends work on a piece of political art, a board game that comments on systemic oppression of Native Americans throughout history. A woman reunites with an old friend and considers the ways their relationship to each other and their families have changed in “Katydid.” The most impressive and longest, “Antikoni,” is a reimagining of Antigone, complete with a chorus of Aunties. In Piatote’s version, Antikoni strives to rescue the remains of her ancestors from the museum where they have been interred by the “White Coats” and “White Gloves”—“We were born into this suffering. That our own/ blood would be divided/ from us, that our mourning could never come to an/ end, for it can never/ properly begin.” The Nez Perce language is featured throughout the verse passages, and Piatote includes many explanatory footnotes. This beautiful collection announces Piatote as a writer to watch. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 08/08/2019
Release date: 10/01/2019
Genre: Fiction
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