GHOST SINGER by Anna Lee Walters. University of New Mexico Press, 1720 Lomas Blvd. N.E., Albuquerque, NM 87131-1591, (505) 277-2346, (505) 277-9270 FAX. 248 pp., $17.95 paper. 0-8263-1545-3
This is the novel the Smithsonian Institution doesn't want you to read. Walters< otoe-Pawnee, has written a thrilling and complex story (now out in a paperback edition) about Navajo ghosts, the bodies they once inhabited stored in cardboard boxes at the Smithsonian, who haunt and murder the anthropologists studying them, as well as members of their own tribe. Grade: A. Reviewed by Steve Brock
A Second Look: No reason at all the Smithsonian should worry about anyone reading this mellerdrammer. There's no cultural authenticity in it -- that would be tribal. And tribally, Navajo people believe when the body is dead, it's done. There may be a chindi left around a while, but that's not really the dead person's spirit or ghost, it's a sort of ambinet left-behind evil.. Navajos are one of the few tribes that don't care about the shunned and abominated objects that are corpses and bones being returned, and aren't clamoring to have them back from the Smithsonian. The reasons for that lie in their own traditional culture. Walters is quite unfamiliar with this, and seems to have picked on them because for whatever reason she didn't want to deal with the issue in relation to either of the tribes she is descended from. Just because a book is written by a Native person does not mean it is in any sense authentic, and this one definitely isn't, in all its "Indian" ghostly fake Navajo trappings. She took a trendy subject in Indian country, no doubt about that. But she was perhaps afraid to present it in relation to her own tribe, and so picked on one she knows little or nothing about. Th book's so ineffective in its mellerdrayma and cultural falsity it almost seems a parody of an issue that important to many tribal peoples. 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