"BLUE DAWN, RED EARTH: New Native American Storytellers" by Clifford E.--Ed. Trafzer

"BLUE DAWN, RED EARTH: New Native American Storytellers"

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From Native American literary authority Trafzer, an inviting bookend to 1993's similar collection of stories by relative unknowns (Earth Song; Sky Spirit). Trafzer is back in familiar territory but not without an engaging editorial edge. His hook for the 30 pieces here is the storytelling experience: While some resemble tall tales or campfire ghost stories, others exhibit an incisive, experimental quality that Trafzer suggests is a consequence of the Native American struggle. Fantasy--and the meaningful weight of the Native American oral tradition--is also a prominent feature, in stories such as Craig Womack's ""The Witches of Eufaula, Oklahoma"" and Jim Barnes's ""The Reapers,"" both essentially morality tales of hapless, overconfident ""modern"" Native Americans being confronted head-on by the power of traditional yams. Lorne Simon's ""The Names"" treads the same ground, but her sheeted spirits with their eyes sewn shut are more melancholy that menacing, and the sad creatures in Patricia Riley's ""Wisteria"" disappear when their human companions die. The ironies of race and color inform Eric L. Gansworth's ""The Raleigh Man,"" which finds militant Native Americans terrorizing dispossessed white people. In Chris Fleet's ""Bagattaway,"" titled for the ancient Indian game now played as lacrosse, a contemporary warrior meditates on the vulgarizing of Native American ritual sport. Gerald Vizenor's loopy ""Oshkiwiinag: Heartlines on the Trickster Express"" deftly combines storytelling, railroads, banking, and dentistry, while Tiffany Midge's ""Beets"" debunks some domestic myths about food culture. Other tales shift with ease from the serious to the comic to the tragic to the absurd. Jason B. Edwards's ""Dreamland"" even supplies a streetfight to make its point about fractured nobility. Though many of the stories seek insights from the natural world and from Native American institutions and language, none strikes a nostalgic or sentimental chord, and each works in a strongly contemporary way. A fine gathering of accomplished voices that demonstrates the full breadth of the Native American storytelling renaissance, in all its guises.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0385479522
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday