Stories create us. We create ourselves with
stories. Stories that our parents tell us,
that our grandparents tell us, or that our
great-grandparents told us, stories that
reverberate through the web.
Joy Harjo, interview with Angels Carabi
in The Spiral of Memory
The stories we hear and tell, those we inherit and those we generate, all shape who we are and who we might become. The stories in this collection will delight, confound, excite, and disturb you, fool you repeatedly, then coax you on. Grappling with Native American histories and contemporary realities, these stories document intergenerational suffering and celebrate survival. The protagonists, though inevitably wounded, do not fear struggle. Whether tracking a panther in hurricane country or escaping pursuers across an icy glacier, swimming upstream through grief or diving into the mysterious depths of a lake, their journeys traverse the depths of memory and the expanses of the heart. When Paula Gunn Allen’s character Joseph Joe riffs about the blues in the San Francisco Bay Area, we remember the Relocation Act of the 1950s that, with promises of employment and housing, displaced Native people from homelands to urban centers. When Patricia Riley’s Eddie T. surreptitiously teaches her granddaughter the old Tsalgi (Cherokee) ways in order not to offend her Christian daughter-in-law, we remember the missionary boarding school officials who stole Native children and force-fed them English, Christianity, and European American epistemologies so that when they returned home, they were strangers to their own families. When Louise Erdrich’s mysterious Fleur Pillager, betrayed by the selfishly brutal actions of yet another white man, is launched into radical trickster resistance, we remember the long trail of broken treaties. As these stories show, the past is alive in the present, carried on by memory, grit, and story.
What is it about these stories that is characteristic of Native American experiences? A way of perceiving the natural world, feeling connected to the land, rather than assuming dominion over it? Whether rejoicing or grieving, intuiting a small but meaningful place in the web of life? Affirming a connection to a home/land, a first language,