(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In the three-part story “Homeland,” eleven-year-old Gloria St. Clair travels the path cleared by her great-grandmother, Great Mam, an elder of the Cherokee Bird Clan. Young Gloria is destined to grow up and become a Beloved Woman, the one who stores her family history and her tribe’s myths and legends in memory. The youngster worries about the weight of this responsibility: How will she ever be able to remember Great Mam’s immense knowledge of family, nature, and Cherokee myth? In the end, she succeeds brilliantly.

The first part begins with a brief overview of the tribal history of Great Mam, a member of the Bird Clan, which resisted General Winfield Scott’s attempts to move the Cherokee westward. In the second part of the story, the first-person narrator interjects herself into the narrative by providing her American name, Gloria St. Clair, followed by her other name, Waterbug, which Great Mam gave to the eleven-year-old Gloria, promising someday to explain its significance to the girl. Gloria and her great-grandmother spend their evenings on the porch, apart from the rest of the family: Gloria’s mother, Florence Ann; her coal-miner father, known throughout as Papa; and her brothers, Nathan and Jack.

Although Great Mam rarely speaks of her own life, preferring instead to talk of family history and tribal legend, Gloria has heard her great-grandmother’s story from her mother. Florence Ann is not a Beloved Woman as Gloria will be but rather a Baptist and therefore is mired in guilt over her family history. It seems Great...

(The entire section is 637 words.)