Sunday, November 29, 2020

Review: The Beadworkers

The Beadworkers The Beadworkers by Beth Piatote
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These short stories, some poetics, and one play/script type story focus on relationships between people in the northwest that have some kind of indigenous background, most often Nez Perce. The author includes some Nez Perce language and some elements of traditional tales (Coyote may show up) but for the most part the stories are contemporary people navigating their lives.

I was immediately drawn in by the cover because Mt Hood was my closest mountain growing up and my morning bus ride often included a view of the sun coming up behind it. Looking closer, the image is rendered in beadwork by Marcus Amerman (beadwork is a tradition mentioned in multiple stories.)

My Mom had a close friend who grew up on the Yakama rez which is mentioned here, and I went to a few salmon bakes in my childhood, so in some ways the characters feel familiar to me. They are diverse - a wide range of rural, suburban, and urban people with shared ancestry that comes along with its own set of expectations and traditions often unknown to the non indigenous people around them, including gifts of blankets and specific locations for ceremonies. Some stories are experimental in form (one revolves around the creation of a board game) while others are more narrative. Highly recommended!

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