Spider Womans Granddaughters: Traditional Tales and Contemporary Writing by Native American Women by Paula Gunn AllenImpressive....Haunting....Enchanting...Every story in the book, which covers nearly a century of tradition, is interesting, written with intelligent passion.
THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
Native American scholar, literary critic, poet, and novelist Paula Gunn Allen, who is herself a Laguna Pueblo-Sioux Indian, became increasingly aware in her academic career that the writings of Native Americans, especially women, have been marginalized by the Western literary canon. Allen set out to understand why this was so and, more importantly, to remedy the situation. The result is this powerful collection of traditional tales, biographical writings, and contemporary short stories, many by the most accomplished Native American women writing today, including: Louise Erdrich, Mary TallMountain, Linda Hogan, and many others.
These stories involve American Indian storytelling where each story is a lesson for the reader to learn. The Cherokee have a myth of a part-woman part-deer who uses a unique way to correct and influence negative male behavior towards women. The reader is introduced to the protagonist Ray and his buddy Jackie. One of the men, Jackie, exemplifies the apathetic masculine man who is led by outer appearance following the women without asking any questions. On the other hand, Ray is more aware and questions the odd behavior of the women. It is as if the women are asking the men whether or not they still find them attractive without hair. The lesson to learn is men are to respect women, and not treat them as a materialist thing to catch.
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One of the most commonly dissected themes that authors of every descent, heritage, and culture choose to explore in their writing is the theme of spirituality. As with the weighty and difficult themes of ethnocentrism, racism, and morality, the theme of spirituality provides the Native American author with the unique opportunity to enlighten the reader and foster a feeling of understanding through interiority that speaks to the human experience, either facet by facet or as a whole. Allen slowly shifts the reader into focusing on the theme of spirituality by showing a shift in the protagonists, Ray and Jackie, and their perception of reality on page "She held his eyes with hers. It was a tight fit, but nobody seemed to mind. Ray drove, backing the pickup carefully to thread among the haphazardly parked vehicles that had surrounded theirs while they were at the dance. As he did, he glanced down for a second, and thought he saw the feet of both women as deer hooves" Allen Allen adeptly layers in elements of the Deer Woman tale as the men perceive them in the story, as in the above passage.
The Deer Woman , sometimes known as the Deer Lady , is a spirit in various forms of Native American mythology that is primarily associated with fertility and love. Deer Woman stories are found in many Native American tribes, told to young children or by young adults and prepubescents in tribes like the Sioux , Ojibwe , Ponca , the Omaha people , Cherokee , Muscogee , Seminole , Choctaw , the Otoe tribe , Osage , the Pawnee people , and the Iroquois - and those are only the few that have documented Deer Woman sightings. In Ojibwe tradition, she can be banished through the use of chanting and tobacco. Others claim that the spell she casts can be broken if one looks at her cloven hooves. Other stories and traditions describe the sighting of Deer Woman as a sign of personal transformation or as a warning. Deer Woman is also said to be fond of dancing and will sometimes join a communal dance unnoticed, leaving only when the drum beating ceases.