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Home Places: Contemporary Native American Writing from Sun Tracks written by Larry Evers

 

Home Places: Contemporary Native American Writing from Sun Tracks written by Larry Evers

Overview:

What has nourished native peoples on this continent since time immemorial, say the editors of this volume, are wellsprings of creativity. "Down at the source," Havasupai singer Dan Hanna assures us, "a spring will always be there." The creative wellspring of American Indian culture is well represented in this anthology, a compilation of stories, songs, poems, and other writings taken from twenty-five years of Sun Tracks: An American Literary Series. Editors Larry Evers and Ofelia Zepeda have gathered the contributions of nineteen Native Americans in compiling this collection. Some are stories from oral traditions, others are autobiographical writings, and some are songs or poems. But all are contemporary, and all have as a unifying element a strong central theme in Native American writing: home places. Some of the contributors define the home place as a center of established values, while others speak of its cultural or physical geography. Healing powers are often found at home places. Home is a place to defend against those who would reduce it to insignificance, a place to reclaim, or a place reclaimed but not yet realized. One writer recalls a home that must be pulled from deep beneath the waters of the Columbia River. By listening to these stories of home places, the reader can gain a new appreciation of the contemporary verbal expressions of Native American communities. Home Places, note the editors, "asks you to listen to Native American signers, storytellers, and writers, and in this way to celebrate the wellsprings of creativity that continue to flow from the home places in Native America."

Synopsis:

What has nourished native peoples on this continent since time immemorial, say the editors of this volume, are wellsprings of creativity. "Down at the source," Havasupai singer Dan Hanna assures us, "a spring will always be there." The creative wellspring of American Indian culture is well represented in this anthology, a compilation of stories, songs, poems, and other writings taken from twenty-five years of Sun Tracks: An American Literary Series. Editors Larry Evers and Ofelia Zepeda have gathered the contributions of nineteen Native Americans in compiling this collection. Some are stories from oral traditions, others are autobiographical writings, and some are songs or poems. But all are contemporary, and all have as a unifying element a strong central theme in Native American writing: home places. Some of the contributors define the home place as a center of established values, while others speak of its cultural or physical geography. Healing powers are often found at home places. Home is a place to defend against those who would reduce it to insignificance, a place to reclaim, or a place reclaimed but not yet realized. One writer recalls a home that must be pulled from deep beneath the waters of the Columbia River. By listening to these stories of home places, the reader can gain a new appreciation of the contemporary verbal expressions of Native American communities. Home Places, note the editors, "asks you to listen to Native American signers, storytellers, and writers, and in this way to celebrate the wellsprings of creativity that continue to flow from the home places in Native America."

Library Journal

"Listen./You can hear it./The stones in the earth rattling together." Simon J. Ortiz is just one of the Native Americans included in Home Places who takes us beyond the stereotypes and clichs we may have come to expect. Chosen from 25 years of Sun Tracks, the literary magazine published from the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Arizona, these poems, stories, and songs are rich in tradition, ancestry, and the wonders and beauty of the natural world. As these paths go out into the world, however, they travel inward as well: the women and men writing become real, their hearts and souls stripped bare. "My house is the red earth: it could be the center of the world," says Joy Harjo. As real as her place is to Harjo, this world has many centers. As the editors point out in their introduction, "nearly as many Indian tribes exist in the 20th Century as when Europeans first encountered them in the 1600s." It is only fitting, then, that this is a multilingual text, incorporating as many as five Native languages. Both new and established writers represent the more than 300 tribes who still inhabit home place in North America. Zepeda is a Tohono O'odham woman, a mother, a daughter, and a poet. Her tribe, Desert People of the Southwest, are steeped in traditional values and cultural ways. Ocean Power (a bilingual volume) depicts the respect and even reverence she was raised to feel in the presence of nature. Her relationship to the world is more, though; it is sisterly, motherly. The respect is mutual, as she understands it, and that makes reverence possible: "Grown men with dry fear in their throats/watch the water come closer and closer." Blaeser comes from much of the same tradition, though her home place is more to the north. A Chippewa from the Minnesota lake region, she writes poems informed by the natural world as well, but she acknowledges more openly the outside world, full of its own ritual and tradition. She opens her mail with an allusion to million-dollar sweepstakes, notices Wrigley Field on a trip to "the Chicago Pow Wow," and sees the dichotomy in her hands: "One wears silver and tourquoise, a Zuni bracelet and a Navaho ring./One wears gold and diamonds, an Elgin watch and a Simonson's half-carat." Blaeser's place includes the rivers and trees and wondrous wildlife but also Barbie dolls, the 4-H, and awareness of the bomb. There are still many people who imagine the indigenous people of North America in flashes of John Ford films and memories of the novels of Louis L'Amour. Their ideas are crusted with clichs from another time, wrong even then but certainly outdated. More reading of work like thisthe writings of contemporary Native Americanscould go a long way toward dispelling the myths. Recommended for any large collection, but especially any with a special interest in Native Americans.Louis McKee, Painted Bride Arts Ctr., Philadelphia

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Title: Home Places: Contemporary Native American Writing from Sun Tracks

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