Gatherings, Vol. 12: Transformation


245 pages
ISBN 0-894778-00-6
DDC C810.8'0897





Edited by Florene Belmore and Eric Ostrowidzki
Reviewed by Joan A. Lovisek

Joan Lovisek, Ph.D., is a consulting anthropologist and ethnohistorian
in British Columbia.


This latest volume of Gatherings: The En’owkin Journal of First North
American Peoples is about Native people coming to terms with historical
colonial experience and moving from colonization to decolonization. The
journal contains poetry and narratives by Native authors who range in
age and experience from 14-year-old students to academics.

The contributors write about familiar themes of contemporary Native
life, such as drug addiction, suicide, acculturation into white society,
and residential schools, as well as the less familiar, such as big
corporations and homophobia. The volume even includes a contemporary
coyote tale involving the trickster and an anthropologist. The piece,
“The Question of Cousins,” exposes a widespread if little-known
problem in Native communities of the difficulty in finding the
appropriate marriage partner who fits prescribed kinship rules.

Several of the writings are firmly based in mythology; for example,
“Maria” is written in the trickster theme, and “Squamish Floods”
takes a nonstructural form of a stream of consciousness like the flood
it describes. Three short works by a Métis-Cree about her life in the
1930s in Grand Rapids, Manitoba, fall into the category of oral history.
The collection’s standout piece is “Yo, Brown-skinned Girls Don’t
Steal Gold Rolexes,” a sassy, imaginative story about the experiences
of Juanita, a maid at the Tequila Sunrise Motel. After being falsely
accused of stealing a Rolex, Juanita takes a metaphysical trip though a
black velvet painting to a Mayan temple.

Considering the diverse nature of the writings and subjects, it is not
unusual that the volume has an uneven quality. The main problem is that
its unifying theme, “transformation,” is too broadly constructed to
link all the writing into a coherent whole, which makes a synthesis
difficult. Nevertheless, several of the pieces are impressive, and the
diversity of writing will likely attract a cross-section of readers.


“Gatherings, Vol. 12: Transformation,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,