Here’s a short story from 1989. Steeped in the mythos of Cherokee Indians, it’s a brief look at how the passage of time can affect cultural heritages.
Over three short parts, Kingsolver follows the life of 11-year-old Gloria St. Clair, who’ll have to deal with her tribe’s expectations when she gets older.
This is actually one short story in a collection, but Faber & Faber clearly figured it was the stand out one from the lot.
Homeland and Other Stories is the full title. But the publisher’s focus on recently concise little works means we have this beautiful looking little book.
The story begins in the 1950s. Young Gloria and her family visit their homeland of Cherokee, Tennessee.
The idea is from her father, who wants his mother (Great Mam—the figurehead of the family) to bask in her history one last time.
"My great-grandmother belonged to the Bird Clan. Hers was one of the fugitive bands of Cherokee who resisted capture in the year that General Winfield Scott was in charge of prodding the forest people from their beds and removing them westward."
The family finds this now to be a tourist trap, leaving them angry and confused as to why their background is represented by a tawdry and dilapidated destination.
Despite a sense of revisionist history and a cheapening of their way of life, Gloria realises she still has her heritage. No matter whoever attempts to destroy her family’s history.
Before she dies, Great Mam gives Gloria the nickname Waterbug. She informs the young lady she can “keep track of things” and preserve their culture.
The result of this is Gloria, despite her naivety in youth, has a sense of natural awakening. She becomes a true descendant, even in less than inspiring circumstances.
So, Homeland is a short story. But it’s perfectly told, with an excellent writing style befitting the scene Kingsolver lays out.
It’s steeped in a sense of history changing—the new world overwhelming the past. But despite the depressing situation, a young lady rises above the negative outlook to carry her family’s way of life forward.
Rather inspiring, we think. A fine tribute to an indomitable spirit.
We picked up Homeland for a few quid. The result is we’ve come across a great writer. And we’re eager to consider reading her other works.
About Barbara Kingslover
Kingsolver is an American novelist and poet. She gained a degree in biology, but also began a career in writing back in the late 1980s.
She often focuses on themes such as social equality, poverty, and single mothers.
Her works include The Poisonwood Bible, The Bean Trees, and Flight Behaviour. The latter deals with climate change.
So, she’s not afraid to take on hefty subjects. She was even accused of being a traitor after a piece in The Los Angeles Times titled “No Glory in Unjust War on the Weak”.
A criticism of President Bush’s policies, the backlash was pretty thunderous to her heartfelt plea for order.
She turned that negative experience into The Lacuna (2009), her literary response to the negative backlash. Impressive, non?