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Speaking for the Generations: Native Writers…

Speaking for the Generations: Native Writers on Writing (Sun Tracks)

by Simon J. Ortiz

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0816518505, Paperback)

Whether reared in Amarillo, Texas, or on the Six Nations Reserve in southern Ontario, the nine Native writers anthologized here cite amazingly similar influences. Each claims a deep connection to the land. The urge to tell stories, they say, stems from being raised in a culture that is rich in storytelling--that has relied, in fact, on storytelling. "The ancient Pueblo people," writes Leslie Marmon Silko in the book's opening essay, "depended upon collective memory through successive generations to maintain and transmit an entire culture."

Now, though, they find themselves writing in a language that is not culturally their own. In fact, it is the language of the colonialist. Unlike Okanagan, says Jeannette C. Armstrong, which, having never been written down, is "devised solely for use by the human voice and the human body," English "is deaf to music and only chances on it through the diligent work of writers." Many of these writers feel an obligation both to protect and promote their Native culture, and to educate the outside world about that culture. "I consider it a moral responsibility of the Native writer," says Victor D. Montejo, a Mayan from Guatemala, "to be a voice for the people and to let the world know about not only the achievements of his or her people but also the crimes committed against them." And finally there is the conflict of audience (is one writing for Natives, or for other readers?) and the feeling sometimes that one is less a member of one's community than a spokesperson for or interpreter of it. "Once," says Elizabeth Woody, a Yakama-Warm Springs- Wasco-Navajo Indian, "a friend tried to coax me into going to a distant powwow with her by saying, 'Why read and write about Indians when you could just be one for a while?'" --Jane Steinberg

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:42 -0400)

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