BLOODLINES by Janet Campbell Hale


Odyssey of a Native Daughter
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 A different sort of Native American autobiography from novelist and Coeur d'Alene tribal member Hale (The Jailing of Cecelia Capture, 1985). Offering no ``visions of spirits, drums and feathers,'' these overlapping essays instead focus with pathos, though not much insight, on ``family dysfunction.'' Hale's Canadian-born mother, of mixed Indian and white descent, grew up English-speaking in white society but left an abusive and racist white first husband (losing custody of two children) for Hale's father and life on the Coeur d'Alene reservation. The author, ten years younger than the closest of her three older sisters, never witnessed the domestic violence that marred the early days of the marriage, but she was aware of her beloved father's occasional drunken binges and her mother's fury as she repeatedly packed Janet up and fled, taking menial work in a variety of towns in the Northwest. Hale says that she became the family scapegoat to her mother and sisters, enduring all-but- inexplicable rejection and constant verbal abuse. She recounts some Northwest history from a Native American perspective, and jumps through her own passage from single parenthood to Berkeley to lecture tours and a university appointment as a distinguished visiting writer. Family ties are important, she realizes, but those who come from destructive families must break away. Rather than family heritage, the author clings to the most admired quality among the old Coeur d'Alene: ``Courage has been bred into you. It's in your blood.'' Hale never quite brings herself or her world to life here, but, given her past, readers will be relieved at her survival and success.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-41527-0
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1993