Motivations to read

May 30, 2010

People of the Whistling waters

This post refers to a New Age Western short fiction book which I read few days ago.

Cover of the book

People of the Whisting Water Cover page

For the last couple of days I have been reading People of the Whistling Waters by Mardi Oakley Medawar which is published by Bantam Books. Its available at Amazon under $0.01 First of all I liked the cover of the book. One is supposed not to judge a book by the cover but what to do, sometimes covers do capture your attention. On top of it when its supposed to be written about the times of ‘The Wild West’ . But wait, I am getting ahead of myself 🙂

The book is short at 400 odd pages. The book is a fiction which would be part of what I call as the ‘New Age western genre’.Although calling it just an another ‘Western’ (as in the mindset) would not do justice. It doesn’t take the typical route of the White Western gunslinger bringing law to the wild west by blowing away the bad guys and teaching culture and religion to the natives (read American Indians) who didn’t know any better as popularized in scores of books and moving pictures (cinema) circa 1950’s and is part of American movie culture.

The book seeks rather to navigate the complex web of emotional,practical, nature-respecting and loving richness of the natives of Crow Nation(one of the countless ethic nomadic/semi-nomadic tribes belonging to America well before the Europeans came). What was fascinating to discover is the hardships and issues that mixed race loves and marriages had at that time which is also very much a contemporary issue in India. What was also interesting is a sort of honor killing which as a trend has been prevalent here in India as well as globally.

So as far as universality of themes go such as endangered wise races, honor killings, love, American western with a twist, all those have been used very wisely. The authoress uses simple,flowing language. She is also conscious of not putting the characters in black and white but have shades of grey. Most of the characters are loud, physical in nature which seems to be a more natural way of living than the supposed hypocritical sophistication of today’s time.

What is/was also interesting to me was the fact that the book was first published in 1993. Just couple of years after Kevin Costner’s 3.5 hours magnum opus Dances with the Wolves which for the first time showed a side of the American Indians to the whole world which was not known before. One could argue that as it had become popular (or commercially a safe decision) to defend or show perspective from the Native American Indian community and hence the authoress might have made the decision to write the book or at least was influenced by it.

There have been lots of books and movies before which showcased this particular perspective. The earliest movie (which was a book also I later learned) was the 1970’s ‘A Man called Horse‘ .

While reading and reflecting about the book it also became interesting to note for the self how popular notions and culture change and yet not change over time. Most of these movies even today show the imperialist white man being the leader/savior. For e.g. James Cameron’s Avatar has been criticized for same reasons as well.

While I do have friends who are Europeans I do think they haven’t been able to articulate and understand other civilizations till date. Seriously, otherwise America which is supposed to be the land of the Brave, has freedom of Press and has a constitution which has things like First Amendment wouldn’t have passed (or would be in passing) regressive laws like the Arizona Immigration Law. I know this is a bit beyond the review of the book but can’t help it as its a current issue and even though I am not an American Indian I do feel for them.


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