Asylum in the Grasslands (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
Literary opinion-makers in the English-speaking world seem to prefer writers who can be comfortably slotted in this or that genre. John Updike is indulgently permitted to publish volumes of his book reviews and an occasional slim volume of poetry, but he is a writer of fiction. X is a poet, Y a playwright, Z a critic. Writers who move indiscriminately between poetry and fiction, not occasionally but habitually, who mix poetry and prose in a single book and then proceed to write plays: these shape-shifters do not fit the familiar categories.
Diane Glancy is just such a writer. The daughter of a Cherokee father and a mother of European descent, she has published more than thirty books: poetry, fiction, drama, essays, and unclassifiable combinations thereof. She is a shape-shifter and a boundary-crosser. Many though not all of her books meditate in some way or another on the tragedy of the American Indian experience. She unsettles readers who would prefer to romanticize that history with patriotic clichés or simply to forget about it. She unsettles readers who sentimentalize the Christian “errand to the wilderness.” However, unlike many of her peers in Native American literature, who regard Christianity as an alien religion, symbolic of imperialism and exploitation and cultural genocide, Glancy sees the core claims of Christianity as good news for American Indians. She unsettles readers who are allergic to Jesus even in the...
(The entire section is 1437 words.)
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