Young Adults Books

MESSENGERS OF THE WIND: NATIVE AMERICAN WOMEN TELL THEIR LIFE STORIES, edited by Jane Katz. Ballantine Books, 201 E. 50th St., N.Y., NY 10022, (800) 726-0600, FAX: (212) 572-8700. Illustrated, index, selected bibliography, notes, map. 331 pp., $23.00 cloth. 0-345-39060-1

Katz introduces twenty-five Native American women who relate, in their own words, what life means to them, what has shaped it so far, and what the future seems to hold for them and their loved ones. Divided into themes such as "Mending the Tears, Weaving the Strands" and "Look Little Ones, All the Places are Holy," these inspirational narratives contain a common vision: preservation of culture and language are mandatory for tribes to continue to exist. Highly recommended as a supplemental text for undergraduate classes in Women's Studies. Grade: A. Reviewed by Steve Brock

A second Look: Katz has added a few "updates" other very brief essays generally published first elsewhere, and in no sense bios or life stories. This book was first issued by Katz in 1977 as a Dutton papeerback called I am the Fire of Time: The Voices of Native American Women. It was $6.95, back then. She's repackaged what she had, using different topical pigeonholes. She followed up on Ada Deer, who in 1977 had already been elected Menominee Tribal chairwoman (not reflected in the short note, then, from her college days as a DRUMS leader for Menominee land restoration). Katz now knows she's advanced in life to head the BIA. Other contemporary women -- like Laura Wittstock -- haven't ben caught up on since whatevr Katz excerpted of their writings in the early '70's. The repackaging (and re-pricing) is a double marketing target: As Brok notes, for Women's Studies. But this was a poorly-selected, shallow book in 1977. Katz made essentially no contacts with the contemporary women whose work was represented therein, even though she was then living in Minnesota where seveeral of the women were also living then. It was a cut-and-paste book then, and it remains that now, though at 3 times the price. For Women's and Native studies, I would urge one of the many fine books compiled by Native Women scholar/editor/writers, who are able to contact contemporary Native writers, and bring a sense of perspective to thir work, not just clip things. In some cases, scissors appear to have been used politically. Cherokee physician Connie (Red Bird) Pinkerman (formerly Uri) is represented by a meaningless paragraph about her joining the Native Physician's Association in the late 1960's. But by the time Katz compiled the first book, Connie had exposed the systematic genocide -- sterilization of Native women of childbearing age -- being officially practiced in BIA Indian hospitals, something that created a world scandal and exposed Connie to US government assassination attempts. Bias and shallowness marks Katz's selections. She guts powrfgul, active, thoughtful Native women leaders, and presents little snippets to avoid the politics of reality -- dealt with in many ways by Native women leaders over the years -- for today's academics in Women's Studies, and Native Americna Studies. A rich market. I imagine thistrivial book sells very well as a text for their students . By Paula Giese

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

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 1996 - 7:19:04 AM