Spider Woman's Granddaughters Summary


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Spider Woman’s Granddaughters: Traditional Tales and Contemporary Writing by Native American Women, edited by Allen, is a collection of two dozen traditional tales, biographical writings, and short stories by seventeen accomplished American Indian women writers. All of the women follow the tradition of Grandmother Spider, who, according to the Cherokee, brought the light of thought to her people who were living as hostages in their own land. These stories are war stories, since all American Indian women are at war and have been for five hundred years.

Some of the selections are old-style stories; others deal with contemporary issues. All are by women intimately acquainted with defeat, with being conquered, and with losing the right and the authority to control their personal and communal lives. They have experienced the devastating destruction of their national and personal identities. They powerfully demonstrate the Indian slogan: We shall endure.

The first selection, “The Warriors,” contains eleven stories of strong women who are self-defining, fearless, respectful, prayerful, and self-assertive. Their warpath is an odyssey through a brutal and hostile world. Each recognizes that the Indian family must continue to cling to tradition. A warrior must remember where she comes from; beauty is what gives human beings dignity; and the young must be taught how to keep their sense of value intact. These women warriors do not give up...

(The entire section is 435 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Allen, Paula Gunn, ed. Studies in American Indian Literature. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1983.

Bruchac, Joseph, ed. Survival This Way: Interviews with American Indian Poets. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1987.

Swann, Brian, and Arnold Krupat, eds. I Tell You Now: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987.