Review by Choice Review
Over the past five years, increasing numbers of reference works have been published on American Indian literature. This concise volume provides biographical and critical information on the lives and works of more than 40 American Indian writers, with particular emphasis on characters and themes in the works of Louise Erdrich, Leslie Marmon Silko, James Welch, and Sherman Alexie. Indeed, roughly a third of all the entries are devoted to Erdrich and Silko (not surprisingly, Whitson's 1994 dissertation was on Erdrich). Other writers covered extensively include Linda Hogan, N. Scott Momaday, Gerald Vizenor, and newcomer Susan Power. The style is clear and accessible, and entries range in length from a paragraph to several pages; grainy black-and-white photographs accompany some entries. Readers needing authoritative biographical information on authors or detailed critical analyses will want to use other works, such as Dictionary of Native American Literature, ed. by Andrew Wiget (CH, Jun'95), Native American Writers of the United States, ed. by Kenneth M. Roemer (1997), or Native North American Literature, ed. by Janet Witalec et al. (CH, Jun'95). Whitson's title is unique for its focus on literary characters. In this niche, it will be a useful companion to those other works, and a necessary addition to libraries at institutions teaching American Indian literature (particularly the writers mentioned above) and literature by women of color. S. A. Vega Garcia Iowa State University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review
The author of this guide is an associate professor of English at Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois. More than 300 entries are arranged in alphabetical order by author, title, character name, theme, or significant historical event. The literary entries have analysis of the character, plot, themes, and autobiographical elements of the work or character. The biographies give the authors' tribal affiliations and analyze their lives as they relate to their work. Portraits are frequently included, and many of the thematic entries also have evocative black-and-white photographs. Entries range in length from a paragraph or two to slightly more than two pages. There are extensive cross-references . The writing is outstanding, fluid, and dynamic. Whitson delves into the psyches of the authors and characters of the literature that is born of the diverse Native American experience. Her love and understanding of the works is evident. There are several common elements: divided families and abandonment, alcoholism and depression, involuntary dislocation from the ancestral culture and nonacceptance from the culture into which these real and fictional people are supposed to be "adopted." Also common are character types such as disaffected youth in search of their birth culture and wise people who guide them on their journey. In her introduction the author states that she attempts to "provide summary and interpretive information on those texts that would most likely be read and studied by high-school students and college undergraduates." She also states, "In no way does this volume attempt to be comprehensive." There are entries for approximately 40 authors, from Samson Occom (b. 1723) to Sherman Alexie and Louise Erdrich. There is no entry for Susan Power, although there is extensive coverage of her 1994 novel, The Grass Dancer. Whitson does not analyze books marketed specifically to the YA audience, such as Michael Dorris' Morning Girl, Guests, or Sees Behind Trees, that are likely to be taught in high schools; she does not even mention the prolific and popular YA author Jamake Highwater. Although the bibliography is useful for further research, a complete list of works by the authors treated would have been helpful, as would a list of authors by tribal affiliation. Gale's Native North American Literature [RBB Ap 15 95] covers 78 writers but does not have separate discussions of titles, characters, and themes. Garland's Dictionary of Native American Literature [RBB Ap 15 95] contains scholarly essays arranged by historical period. This new title is an excellent addition to literary criticism for the reference sections of public and academic libraries. Many high-school libraries will find it useful and affordable, too.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up-An introduction to the literature of Native Americans from the 18th century to the present. In addition to novels and poetry, which are well represented, the alphabetical entries include sermons, autobiographical sources, and issues and policies. Important topics such as boarding schools, racism, and storytelling are also covered. Cross-references appear throughout the book. There are some interesting omissions in the index, including reservation life and the subject of mixed-blood characters and authors. Black-and-white photographs accompany the text and a lengthy bibliography concludes the volume. This thoughtful overview will support research on a novel, an author, or the literature.-Mary B. McCarthy, ACLIN/Colorado State Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.