Paula Gunn Allen: The Woman Who Owned The Shadows


The latest addition to my website is Paula Gunn Allen‘s The Woman Who Owned The Shadows. Native American authors still get something of a short shrift in the US pantheon, which is a pity as there are some very fine Native American novels. This is one of them, telling the story of Ephanie Atencio, a Native American woman struggling with her identity. She has problems most of all with her role as a Native American, remembering both the cruel treatment suffered by native Americans in the past and the continued mistreatment and prejudice they face now. (This is of particular interest in the week when the US government has agreed to pay a settlement of $554 million to the Navajo nation.) She also faces some prejudice, as she is bisexual and homosexuality is particularly frowned upon by Native Americans. We follow her from a period when she seems to be dying, her first husband having left her and her two children staying with her mother, via a stay in San Francisco, a second marriage to a Nisei (Japanese-American man) which is also unsuccessful but produces another child, an escape to Oregon and a return home, where she tries to reestablish links with both the culture of her own people as well as her past. It is an interesting book, both as the portrait of a woman struggling with her own role, as well as for the many issues, past and present, faced by Native Americans.

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