Academic journal article Western Folklore

Mother's Table, Father's Chair: Cultural Narratives of Basque American Women

Academic journal article Western Folklore

Mother's Table, Father's Chair: Cultural Narratives of Basque American Women

Article excerpt

Mother's Table, Father's Chair. Cultural Narratives of Basque American Women. By Jacqueline S. Thursby. (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1999. Pp viii + 160, acknowledgements, introduction, photographs, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $29.95 cloth, $16.95 paper)

Jacqueline Thursby provides a great service to folklorists and Basque Americans alike with her overview of Basque and Basque American culture, Mother's Table, Father's Chair. In it, she compiles information from her own interviews, coursework, and field experience with the research and fieldwork of others. Her ample Works Cited also collects in one place past work on Basques and Basque Americans that should prove useful to anyone studying their cultures.

The book begins with a delightful story about how Thursby first became aware of the Basque population in and around the town where she was teaching high school. Her discovery brings to mind feminist sociologist Dorothy Smith's call for critical inquiry that begins in the writer's "everyday/everynight" world (Smith 1999:6-7). Thursby's Introduction provides a careful definition of the Basque American community as unique and ethnic. She explains that her study was undertaken at the request of Basque American women who told her "their stories had not been gathered and time was passing quickly" (2). She describes the writing process as "reciprocal," and describes herself as "'a scribe and an archivist as well as [a cautious] interpreting observer'"(2).

Unfortunately, the chapters of the book are not very well organized. The book is divided into three sections: background on Basque culture, a discussion of immigration to America, and Basque American culture. Due in part to this configuration, information from the first section is often repeated in the third section to allow direct comparison. Within the three sections, there is often no connection between paragraphs. Topics are briefly touched upon and then dropped without being fully described or developed. …

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