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Archive for the ‘Native Americans’ Category

Solar Storms by Linda Hogan. Hogan is a Native American and member of the solar.jpgChicksaw

tribe. This is the story of Angel, an 18-year-old estranged from her people, who has spent her life in foster homes. When she finally returns to her tribal homeland, she is accepted with love and warmth by the women who become her true mothers; her own mother is a woman possessed by demons, whose torment resulted in Angel’s torture as an infant. Angel still bears the scars.

Conversely, as Angel finds her true self and is reconnected with her culture, a devastating war is being waged between the Natives and a government that intends to dam up the rivers on tribal land to produce hydro-electricity. Angel finds her true spiritual home even as it is being flooded out from beneath her. The Natives’ struggle to hold on to their land, and their effort to sabotage dam workers is based on real events that occurred in Northern Ontario and Quebec from the 70’s onward. It’s a painfully poignant story. Angel’s resilience is frequently challenged by the events around her but she still finds a measure of peace. You have to slow down to absorb the language – often I want to plow through a book because I have so much to read. The language here is beautiful and complex, and you just have to adapt – much like Angel does, I suppose. This is a book I never would have picked up on my own, but it was recommended to me by another librarian. I’m glad he told me about it.

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I’ve spooned up the bloggy goodness of so many other authors and now I stand ashamed. “J’accuse!” I say to myself. Keeping up with this blogging thing isn’t so easy. And now to make ammends….I’ve been reading

Returning to Earth by Jim Harrison

The only way I would know this author is that his book Legends of the Fall was the basisearth.jpg for the film with Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins. I only picked it up because our very fine rare books librarian recommended it. I recommend so many books to others it seems only fitting that I should take someone else’s advice, as obstinate as I usually am in my reading tastes.

It was well worth the gamble. It’s rather hard to say what this book is about, but I’ll give it a go. It beings with the recollections of a man who is dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease. He’s reflecting on his life, not with regret, but with contentment about who he is and where he’s been. Of Chippewa and Finnish descent, he is a spiritual man who intends to die with the same dignity with which he lived.

The rest of the story is told by his family, after Donald’s passing. His daughter struggles to make sense of his death by studying and adopting Chippewa spirituality – she hopes to encounter her father in his animal form. Cynthia, Donald’s wife, is bereft despite her attempts to intellectualize his death. She is also at a loss to help her daughter, who she thinks is delusional. Cynthia and her eccentric brother David also try to find redemption from a past which included a horribly abusive father – somehow the manner of Donald’s death leads them to solace.

Having given the storyline, I have to say that this is a book about characters and ideas rather than plot. It’s about the struggle to find meaning in life and to put into context the tragic and sometimes unbearable things that happen to people. The language is beautiful, and there’s a real sense of place – though industry encroaches on the natural world of Michigan, it is the underlying current of the natural world which drives the characters. From the book jacket: “Jim Harrison writes about the heart of this country like no other writer – about the culture of Native America, the natural world and our place in it, the loss that has shaped our history, and the pleasures that raise life to the sublime.”–

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