December 16, 2009

ICT reviews Seeing Red

Review … ‘Seeing Red: Anger, Sentimentality, and American Indians,’ by Cari M. Carpenter

By Lisa Garrigues“Seeing Red” takes us back to a different time, the 19th century, and examines how anger was communicated as a force for social change by three different American Indian writers: S. Alice Callahan, E. Pauline Johnson, and Sarah Winnemucca.

Callahan, Johnson and Winnemucca used a prevailing literary genre of the time--sentimentality. Though the frank expression of emotion was what moved sentimental literature, how much room did these three writers, as Native women, have to articulate their anger about what was being threatened and destroyed, and how successful were they? Carpenter, an English and Native American studies professor asks this question. She also raises some thought-provoking questions about white Americans’ appropriation of Indian-ness or Indian causes as a way to express their own anger.
Garrigues's conclusion:[B]y examining the early possibilities for expression of anger in Native literature, Carpenter recognizes that these expressions were the roots for Joy Harjo’s “we have just begun to touch the dazzling whirlwind of our anger” and lay the groundwork for Sherman Alexie’s mix of anger and humor.

By shining the light on the anger that was, with varying degrees of success, expressed by these early American Indian writers, Carpenter helps us look at what part anger plays as an agent of change in the contemporary world, in Native discourse and resistance, and in our daily lives.
Comment:  "White Americans’ appropriation of Indian-ness or Indian causes as a way to express their own anger"...hey, I resemble that!

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Books.

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