Native American tales relate the story of California's Sonoma Mountain.
Sarris (Writing and Native American Studies/Sonoma State University; Watermelon Nights, 1999, etc.) is chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, and these stories were previously published in the tribal newsletter. Inspired by traditional Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo creation tales, they're set near Santa Rosa, California, and tell the story of nearby Sonoma Mountain. As Sarris points out, it “isn’t one story; it is many stories that make up the one story.” The book is like an ancient story cycle as it gathers together 16 different tales, each introduced by Coyote’s twin granddaughters, Answer Woman and Question Woman. Coyote is “the one who created this world, this Mountain.” His granddaughters may be a pair of crows who sit on a fence partway up the mountain or they be humans. Answer Woman knows the stories but cannot think of them unless asked by Question Woman. The book begins and ends with tales about a pretty woman and her necklace, which act as a framing device, connecting the stories just as "this necklace contains the songs and stories of your home, this wondrous Mountain. Each shell bead contains a song, and each abalone pendant one of the stories." Local animals—crow, mole, centipede, lizard, rattlesnake, skunk, bat—play significant roles. Each story addresses something different. When Question Woman asks, “How did night come about in the first place?" Answer Woman responds, “I can give you the answer with one story. Listen.” When asked, “How did pain come about?” Answer Woman responds, “Listen carefully. It’s the story of how a mountain was made.” At one point Answer Woman responds that stories “are like windows that we can look out of and see a part of the real world.” An illustrated volume would be welcomed.
These are charming and wise stories, simply told, to be enjoyed by young and old alike—“stories need us if they are to come forth and have life too.”