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The Year in Books
Beyond the Mainstream


Toni Graeme (Editor): Women Who Lived and Loved North of 60
Trafford Publishing (Trade Paperback), ISBN 1552124495

Leanne Howe: Shell Shaker
Aunt Lute Books (Trade Paperback), ISBN 1879960613

Alvia Golden: Acts of Love
Crimson Edge Chapbook by Chicory Blue Press (Trade Paperback), ISBN: 1887344004

I recommend three very different books, all by and about women who live beyond the outer edges of the North American mainstream:

Book: toni graeme,women who lived and loved north of 60
Women Who Lived and Loved North of 60 by Toni Graeme comprises a collection of short-short remembrances from 36 women, each of whom decided for one reason or another, to spend a part of her life in Canada's arctic regions. None of them were native to that part of the world, so they found every aspect of the daily life new, challenging and frequently exciting. Read about the cheerfully resourceful ways that they resolved problems, from how to keep house for a family of four including a baby in diapers on a weekly water allowance of 45 gallons, or how to vanquish that pesky bear in the kitchen. The story by the woman who went north to teach and who stayed on to marry an Inuit hunter sparkles as the gem of this collection. She describes her immersion as wife and mother into the "comfortably huge" Apitak clan, and recounts with love some of the wealth of knowledge that she learned from community elders -- more than she could ever teach in return!

Book: leanne howe, shell shaker
LeAnne Howe's Shell Shaker spans a centuries of American history, stretching from the European invasions of Native American country to present day invasions of another kind into the Native American reservations. Based loosely on Choctaw history, myth, and on two unsolved murders set 250 years apart, the story moves effortlessly back and forth through time with an ease born of the conviction that the Choctaw nation is indestructible, that it possesses "life everlasting." Narrative transitions glide between the people who live on the earth, and those who bide their time elsewhere until they must return to this life. The ageless spirit Shell Shaker -- a born peacemaker who meets her death dressed in red war paint -- even narrates some pivotal parts of the story.

Book: alvia golden, acts of love
Sometimes a woman must wait until the last decades of her life before she attains the personal freedom to write truthfully about her innermost self. Alvia Golden penned Acts of Love, two short memoirs dealing with her lesbianism and the ways that her secrecy about it affected her life and relationships, after her sixtieth birthday. "Acting Out" offers a delightfully satirical first person narration by the irrepressible alter ego of a closeted lesbian woman. It reads as very light-hearted, subversive and funny, but if you take the time to slow down and reflect on the tragic underpinnings of the piece, you will understand why Golden likens such repression to the arbitrary and ruthlessly policed separation of East and West Germany. And you will appreciate, too, why she concludes in her afterword, "I hope I live sentient long enough to reclaim the self I spurned."

This small pile of books will transport your favorite armchair to thought-provoking yet everyday worlds. I know you'll enjoy the people you meet there as much as did I!

Moira Richards

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