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Another intriguing novel from Clausen (Sinking, Stealing, 1985; Mother, Sister, Daughter, Lover, 1980), who here uses her wry intelligence and stylistic grace to explore the lives of a contemporary lesbian-feminist academic and the long-dead radical woman journalist whom she takes as a spiritual ancestor. Dale McNab drinks too much; has just been denied tenure; and her long-term relationship is on the rocks, complicated by arguments over monogamy and the addition to the household of her lover's teen-aged daughter. Dale accepts the label ""butch,"" but she resists anyone trying to stereotype her emotions and sensibility. Though feeling like an outsider in her family, she has a special affection for her Grandma Rose, and she agrees to help her put her memoirs in order for possible publication. Among the old papers, Dale finds a provocative photo of a boyish young woman, arm-in-arm with her grandmother, and is thus introduced to Prosperine Munkers, who, in her brief life, refused to be constrained by ideas of the proper role for women. Dale is fascinated; she hopes to make up a collection of ""Proppie's"" writings, which include first-hand accounts of the labor revolt in the Minnesota Iron Range before WW I as well as fairly passionate letters to Grandma Rose. Naturally, said grandmother is not very helpful: she wants Dale to work on her book. And just as well-meaning writing teachers have had their effect on her prose, replacing ""her native blend of awkwardness and grace with uniform mediocrity,"" so Grandma Rose's memories of Prosperine have been unconsciously reworked by social conditioning to edit out anything that might raise an eyebrow. Observant, funny, provocative and moving. Clausen's fiction, not yet well-known to the mainstream audience, deserves wide readership.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1988
Publisher: Crossing Press