Monthly Archives: April 2012

Shell Shaker

Author: LeAnne Howe

Tribe of author and/or tribe featured in book: Choctaw

Favorite quote: “Thoughts, Voices, and Grandparents plant corn on top of the sacred mound and hundreds of years come into view in the dance of Green Corn and tomorrows.” (pg 159)

Summary: “If you don’t learn from the past, you’re doomed to repeat it.” That’s basically the theme of Shell Shaker. The [fictional] novel goes back and forth in time between 1991 and the 1730’s and 40’s. In the 1730’s, a young woman named Anoleta is wrongfully accused of murdering her husband’s other wife. Her husband’s name was Red Shoes, a man who at first everyone love him, but as his hunger for power grew so did the everyone’s hatred for him and they sought to kill him. Shakbatina, Anoleta’s mother, takes her daughter’s place and is killed instead of her daughter.

In 1991 Auda Billy, a decendant of Shakbatina, was wrongfully accused of killing Redford “Red” McAlester, the chief of the Choctaw Nation. Like Shakbatina, Auda’s mother Susan claimed that she was the one who killed Red. After having encounters with spirits, Auda’s two sisters—Tema and Adair—and several other relatives return home to help Auda and Susan out. The family believed that Red Shoes’ spirit haunted the whole town and that the only way for things to get better was to bury McAlester and many material things in Mississippi.

Analysis: I apologize if my summary was confusing. The book is not as confusing as my summary was, but as I said above, the novel goes back and forth and it consists of two parallel plots that are eerily similar.

            I think the book was interesting and entertaining. In the book Auda is the oldest daughter of the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter. I found that amusing because I am the only daughter of the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter. However, I digress.

            I think that the characters were well-developed and they seemed realistic. In fact the people were much like many families—there might be hatred within the family, but along with that hatred comes with fierce loyalty and if anyone outside of the family accuses one inside the family, the whole family will come together and defend that one.

            Native Americans are often portrayed as mystic people and this book is no exception. LeAnne Howe paints the Billy family as those who are in touch with the spirits and the spirits often talk to them. In fact, it almost seems as if the current members of the Billy family are not only the descendants of the ones in the 1700’s, but actually are the people back in the 1700’s who were given a second chance to right the wrongs in the past. Though I enjoyed this parallelism—and possible reincarnation—I’ve seen many movies and books that do the same thing that I feel as if this is overdone. But don’t take my word for it. I really think that you should read this book for yourself and find out about the Billy family and how they right the wrongs of their ancestors.


Faces in the Moon

Author: Betty Louise Bell

Tribe of author and/or tribe featured in book: Cherokee

Favorite quote: “She wanted us to member too, and I guess that’s what I’m a-doing with you. History ain’t nothing more’n membering. A man can’t know who he is all by hisself. A woman neither. Both need something to member.” Pg 141

Summary: Lucie grew up hearing the stories of her ancestors. She heard stories from her mom and other relatives. However, once she was grown she moved to California, away from her family and the stories they told, though she never totally forgot the stories. Then she finds out that her mother is seriously ill and she returns to Oklahoma. At her childhood home she remembers her childhood and the time she spent with her Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Jerry after Lucie and her mom’s boyfriend had a run-in. Most of the novel takes place during her stay with her aunt—who has TB—and her uncle, where she found more freedom on their farm than she had living with her mom. Throughout the whole novel there is a reoccurring theme: identity. Her family was always reminding her of who she was and where she came from.

Analysis: It took me a little bit to get into the book, mostly because this book was different than the previous two books I read—Ancient Child, based on a Kiowa tale, and Geronimo, an autobiography. This book didn’t have near the “action” that the other two books had; it primarily focused on memory, where flashbacks and snippets of past dialogue were on every turn of the page. However, I grew fond of the book and it even reminded me some of my life. Like Lucie, I grew up hearing stories of my family. My family always reminded me of where I came from; they wanted me to be proud of who I am and my ancestors.

            In most books about Native Americans, people have a tendency to make them mystical people. The people in this book weren’t like that. Lucie and her family were normal Oklahomans. In fact some could go as far as to say they were normal, Oklahoman hicks judging by their dialogue. I enjoyed the dialogue and felt that it was realistic and had the Oklahoman accent pegged. Of course Bell, the author, is from Oklahoma.

            Perhaps the only fault I found with the book is that most of the book was a flashback. I admit that I got caught up in the flashback, and actually enjoyed it more than the present story. It was just jarring when the story switched back to first-person and it was the present. Though I can’t think of a solution while I type, I do feel that there should be a better way to blend past and present together without having that jarring effect.


Rounding the Human Corners

Author: Linda Hogan

Tribe of author and/or tribe featured in book: Chickasaw

Favorite quote: “Solace comes through apprehending the material and holy world precisely as it is.” ~William Kittredge (wrote the introduction to Rounding the Human Corners)

Summary: It is hard to write a summary on an anthology of poems without adding my analysis too, but I’ll do my best. Rounding the Human Corners is a different book than any of the others I have read thus far for this blog as well as those I’m reading and intending to read for the blog. This book is an anthology of poems that Linda Hogan wrote about human nature and about nature in general. The poems are divided down into three categories: Unlayering the Human, Rounding the Human Corners, and Affinity. The first section’s poems focus on various aspects of human nature or observations that Ms. Hogan has had. The second section focuses more on her observations. The third section focuses mostly on nature and her observations of nature.

Analysis: I was fortunate enough to have met and talked to Linda Hogan on a couple occasions. She is a kind, soft-spoken lady and her views reflect in her poetry and vice versa. It is hard to say if her poems influenced how she views nature or if her views of nature influenced her poems. Either way, she is no hypocrite. She practices what she preaches and that’s harmony with self, harmony with others, and harmony with nature.

Few, if any, of Ms. Hogan’s poems rhyme. By some people’s standards this is a fault, but I like that her poems don’t rhyme—mostly because the poems that I write rarely rhyme. Though Linda Hogan is Chickasaw, these aren’t “Chickasaw poems.” What I like about her poetry is that it applies to all people and not just Chickasaws or those who are affiliated with the Chickasaws. Linda Hogan’s poetry leaves no one out. I highly suggest reading only a few poems at a time so that the reader can reflect on the poetry and the words in the poems. I feel that without this reflection a wonderful message is being missed.


Apology

I apologize that I haven’t stayed regular with my postings. I’ve been reading, but due to not having Internet at my apartment and trying to do some graduation-related work (specifically my portfolio), I haven’t had much time to blog. However, I’m about finished with my portfolio and the revisions so I’ll be able to start up writing again. Stay tuned and keep reading.

~Siedra