Spider Woman's Granddaughters: Traditional Tales and Contemporary Writing by Native American Womenby Published 12 May 1990
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"Impressive....Haunting....Enchanting...Every story in the book, which covers nearly a century of tradition, is interesting, written with intelligent passion."
THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
Native American scholar, literary critic, poet, and novelist Paula Gunn Allen, who is herself a Laguna Pueblo-Sioux Indian, became increasingly aware in her academic career that the writings of Native Americans, especially women, have been marginalized by the Western literary canon. Allen set out to understand why this was so and, more importantly, to remedy the situation. The result is this powerful collection of traditional tales, biographical writings, and contemporary short stories, many by the most accomplished Native American women writing today, including: Louise Erdrich, Mary TallMountain, Linda Hogan, and many others.
"Spider Woman's Granddaughters: Traditional Tales and Contemporary Writing by Native American Women" Reviews
Spider Woman's Granddaughters: Traditional Tales and Contemporary Writing by Native American Women edited with an introduction by Paula Gunn Allen, is a must read for those wishing to gain an understanding of the culture and context within which Native American women write.
This slim volume is divided into three sections: The Warriors, The Casualties, The Resistance. Gunn Allen introduces each section by situating it within its cultural context. Each section includes traditional writings that have been transmitted orally for many decades, as well as contemporary examples by well-known authors like Louise Erdrich, Anna Lee Walters, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Linda Hogan.
Gunn Allen’s excellent introduction to the collection provides a brief historical overview of the oppression and broken promises experienced by Native Americans. She also situates the traditional tales, some of which are biographical, and she draws connections between these tales and their contemporary counterparts. Her introductions are enlightening in that she approaches each section by clarifying terms and context, revealing nuances and subtleties in Native American writing that may not be readily apparent to all readers.
Some of the traditional tales may pose a challenge for readers steeped in the Western tradition of story-telling because they do not necessarily adhere to a linear, cause and effect pattern. They weave in and out, frequently circling back on themselves, revealing biographical details about Native lives and perspectives. The contemporary writings pick up many of the same themes of traditional tales while situating them in modern society. The themes remain the same: the struggle to maintain tradition, culture, kinship, and values against the onslaught of a dominant culture that tries to subvert all things Native.
A compelling collection of traditional tales and contemporary short stories, some of which are heart-wrenching.
This book has many stories written by Native American women.
I'm half Native American and I love to read books about Native Americans and learn more about the culture. This book I had found while searching on my library's website and I was very excited to borrow and read it.
The stories are very well-written and a few of them I really did like. All the stories were pretty good, but I actually found the whole book to be depressing.
Reading this made me realize how much people focus on race, gender, etc and focus on what they can't do because of their race, or gender. I know history, I know what has happened to Native Americans and other races. But, if the book taught me anything, it's that race shouldn't be our main focus and we shouldn't focus on what we can't do because of our race.
The book is definitely not a favorite and I don't think I'll read it again, but I think I did take something from it and learned from it.
This book was incredible. Part of what makes it so is that the editor, Paula Gunn Allen, wrote an in-depth introduction so that the non-native reader would understand background conversations among Native writers about their own writing and to introduce cultural nuances of the stories. At the beginning of each section she wrote about the Native concept of that section's title, one of which was warrior, which does not always mean someone who goes to war. She also wrote a brief introduction to each of the short stories giving it's time and place in Native literature and what some of the cultural expectations or illustrations were. A prime example was the stories of Yellow Woman/Corn Woman and her impact on the people. Gunn Allen also created a glossary and provides notes about each writer so that the reader can follow up with other things these women have written.
The stories themselves are breathtaking. Some of them are a punch in the gut as the reader is faced with the decimation of native people by the Europeans. I could barely get through Louise Erdrich's story because what happens in the story is so horrible. Some of the stories show the beauty of Native life and traditions. My favorite section was the one entitled "Warriors" because it showed women who were warriors in ways that the tribe would recognize instantly, but that non-native people would not; we might simply describe the woman as being "strong."
Not enough ways to praise these powerful, painful and beautiful stories.
I thought more about these stories on my morning walk. My siblings and I inherited our mother's difficult and tragic childhood. These stories helped me understand our mamma better. May she and we all walk in peace with beauty all around us.
This was sort of a mixed bag. Some of the stories were very well-written and moving, but it varied, and with the best there was some frustration at how fragmentary they were. The arrangement was interesting, where often there would be one traditional tale followed by a contemporary tale with similar themes, so you could draw some interesting comparisons that way.
The most-irritating segment was by the author. I had not originally seen that, but had been wondering whether she always wrote that way, or if it was just a way of trying to convey the influence of the marijuana on the narrator's thoughts. Seeing that it is the same writer, I see from the introduction and section notes that she can write other ways, but then in those parts there is a lot of resentment that comes through. It makes sense, but I think it weakens the overall work.
I don't regret reading it but I am not recommending it.