Essays, stories, poems, and a few recipes by women from the High Plains. Some years ago memoirist Hasselstrom,...


LEANING INTO THE WIND: Women Write from the Heart of the West

Essays, stories, poems, and a few recipes by women from the High Plains. Some years ago memoirist Hasselstrom, librarian/horsewoman Collier, and publisher Curtis, residents of Wyoming, put out a call throughout the northern plains, asking for ""authentic"" and ""clear"" views of women's lives there. Their emphasis was particularly on the authentic: Protesting perhaps a little too much, they opine that the West has been popularized to the point where ""a New York stockbroker slips on pointy-toed boots in psychedelic colors to dine with a lady in a fringed skirt and mocassins,"" and real cowpokes are ashamed to be seen wearing cowboy hats for fear they'll be mistaken for these poseurs. They've turned up plenty of authentic work here. The collection suffers only from a predictable level of repetition, inasmuch as many of the 125 contributors (including teachers, housewives, cattle and sheep ranchers, and writers) turn to the same themes: the loneliness of ranch life, the smell of new-mown hay, the bitterness of an Alberta Clipper wind in the thick of winter. For all the sameness, though, many of the pieces--few by previously published writers--are very fine, among them Nellie Westerskow's remembrance of her first year of marriage, in 1921, when she and her husband were so poor they ""had to share the only fork until Nels found another at an abandoned homestead when he was out riding."" Garnet Perman's ""Evolution of a Country Woman"" is a good-natured enumeration of all the things that a ranch wife has to know (such as the fact that ""sheep have an IQ three points below that of wormwood""). Morgan Songi offers a lyrical account, noting that in the ""crystal mornings after an ice storm"" the beauty of the land makes up for the isolation of farm life. A fine example of regional anthologizing.

Pub Date: June 18, 1997


Page Count: 388

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997