A thorough academic work on matrilineal descent among Athapaskan groups.


A scholarly book investigates why Athapaskan-speaking people trace their lineage through their mothers.

The Athapaskan languages are spoken among the Indigenous people of Alaska and western Canada (specifically British Columbia and the Yukon). These people have traditionally traced their descent from their mothers as opposed to their fathers, a rare custom for hunter-gatherer societies. Allen (Lessons Learned Along the Way, 2017) suspects that this tradition has its origin in local trading practices, specifically with the Tlingit, a non-Athapaskan coastal people who also trace their descent matrilineally. The coastal Tlingit had extensive trading networks with the Athapaskan people, who tended to live farther inland. The author argues that it was advantageous for the Tlingit to extend their system of matrilineal sibs (or clan groups) to their Athapaskan trading partners, which they did by marrying Tlingit women to Athapaskan men. The custom was often characterized by matrilocality: the practice wherein husbands would leave their own groups to live with the families of their wives. Using 19th- and 20th-century ethnographic works as his source material, Allen lays out the social and economic structures of the Athapaskan people prior to widespread European interaction, illustrating how contact between diverse parties spread unique matrilineal practices across a large portion of northwest North America. This short book was written originally as Allen’s master’s thesis in 1971 and has not been augmented to make it more palatable for a general readership. The author offers little background information to give context for the work’s relevance, and the prose is rather dense and jargon-heavy: “Among the Vunta Kutchin, Balikci noticed that sibs exogamy was not rigidly enforced. He also regarded the tendjeratsia sib as a convenient way of classifying the descendants of sib endogamous marriages.” The specialized language is occasionally broken up by lovely, uncredited, full-color illustrations of Athapaskan traders, elders, dancers, and scenes of domestic life. Though not for a wide audience, Allen’s book is deliberative and well-documented, and he manages to condense a wide body of research into one cohesive argument. Those interested in the culture of Athapaskan people should enjoy this investigation into their matriliny.

A thorough academic work on matrilineal descent among Athapaskan groups.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4602-8235-9

Page Count: 80

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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