Reference Books

SMOKE RISING: THE NATIVE NORTH AMERICAN LITERARY COMPANION, Ed. Joseph Bruchac, Visible Ink Press, 1995, 440 pages, $17.95. 0-7876- 0479-8

This book was created in parallel to Gale's huge hardcover reference work, which contains essays about all the authors whose works are excerpted in this companion. The unprepared Native Lit prof can appear quite knowledgeable and erudite, teaching a course from the companion, while making use of all the critical and background info in the longer reference work; the prepared one will generally find the assortment of selections well chosen too. For each author, there is a briefer bio note, mentioning key dates, tribe, and key works -- the more detailed ones ar found in the hardcover reference. In some instances, the reprints consist of material that would be quite hard to find from old or transient publications. Photos of most of the modern authors add to student interest. Canadian, as well as Native, authors are well represented. I feel there should have been more excerpts from the voluminous work of Basil H. Johnston, but the excerpt from School Days is interesting. Even though -- or perhaps because -- most of the work of E. Pauline Johnson, another Canadian native (Mohawk) of the late 19th century is so saccharine and mostly without literary merit, the fact that she has been taken up by Canadians as a representative national poet should have led to her inclusion here, as well as in the critical backgrounds book. In quite a few cases, where the original work is hard to get hold of -- playwrights and poets especially -- it is frustrating to have the incomplete excerpts.

For the most part, the professor or teacher of Native Lit will find this -- supplemented with a few complete paperbacks -- and backed by the hardcover-collected critical appraisals -- a good text for a standalone college course in Native Lit. Both books also belong in high school libraries.

Reviewed by Paula Giese

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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated: Sunday, August 8, 1996 - 12:26:09 AM