How Should I Read These?: Native Women Writers in Canada


264 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8401-X
DDC C818'.54089'9287





Reviewed by Beverly Rasporich

Beverly Rasporich is a professor in the Faculty of Communication and
Culture at the University of Calgary. She is the author of Dance of the
Sexes: Art and Gender in the Fiction of Alice Munro.


At a glance, I surmised that this book on Native women writers was
dated. The chapters are organized around early work in the field,
Jeannette Armstrong’s Slash, Maria Campbell and Linda Griffith’s
Jessica, Ruby Slipperjack’s Honor the Sun, Beatrice Culleton’s In
Search of April Raintree, Beverly Hungry Wolf’s The Ways of My
Grandmothers, and the writing of a more contemporary author, Eden
Robinson, whose Traplines was published in 1996. In fact, this book of
contemporary literary criticism is at the cutting edge of scholarship
and offers a unique and imaginative reading of its authors under study.
Drawing on postcolonial, feminist, poststructuralist, and First Nations
theory, Hoy positions herself as a cultural outsider reading these texts
through her own subjectivity and experience and in a nonlinear way. In
her own words, “The argument ... is neither categorical nor linear.
Each chapter pairs a particular author or text with a theoretical issue
or problematics around the reading and teaching of Native women’s
writing. But the overall argument is cumulative, dialogic,
interrogative. It is not fully located in any one passage, but works by
accretion. Neither individual chapters nor the reasoning of particular
sections of chapter can stand as conclusive.”

The critical approach here is extraordinarily hybridic. Academic
scholarly analysis is juxtaposed with a personal autobiographical
journey, interspersed with philosophic quotations from multiple sources
that Hoy says can oppose, solidify, challenge, or qualify her arguments.
She sees herself as staging arguments both with herself and with her
readers. Simply put, the approach here is postmodernist in its
self-reflexivity and intertextuality, and in its address of race,
gender, and class issues. It is a difficult book to read for any length
of time unless one understands and is sympathetic to current academic
theory. The introduction is particularly useful to anyone teaching
writing by Native women.


Hoy, Helen., “How Should I Read These?: Native Women Writers in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024,