When I read about Aarti’s premise for A More Diverse Universe, I thought it sounded like an excellent and intriguing idea. My thinking was that if enough blogs chose to participate, this event could take on a life of its own and have readers searching out fantasy and science fiction that strays out of the color bounds and gives voice to those who are seldom heard. I, of course, didn’t even know where to begin in searching for a book, but Aarti was very gracious in finding a few that she thought I would enjoy. I chose this one because it was a favorite of hers and because I shamefully admit that I know very little about Native Americans. I think it was a great choice for me.
Part of this book was entirely fantasy, with the three ageless Native American protagonists and their wild coyote tagalong miraculously escaping the confined ward that they are in and heading off into the sunset. But along the way, they must reweave the world and try to tell the story of creation to each other as they travel. Most of these sections were hilarious, with a clever blend of Native American storytelling that seemed to always get polluted with Christian ideology. It became a mix of both the beautiful and the absurd as each member of the band tried to tell the story his own way, albeit unsuccessfully. Each story was rooted in the fundamental truths of how the Native American culture has been basically whitewashed by those Americans who seek to stamp out diversity and difference of any kind.
Another thing that came up time and time again was the imagery of water. Every story that the Native Americans told had water symbolically placed within the tale. I believe that this water symbolizes the Native Americans as a whole. As a people, they’re always flowing around those who seek to stop them, be it in their rituals, laws and practices, or in a society that doesn’t want to know about the lengths we have gone to to eradicate them. In one crucial piece of the story, the water was literally being held back by a dam that threatened to change the way of life for the Native Americans of this story. That is indeed some of the strongest symbolism that I have ever encountered.
The personal aspects of this tale were also rather engaging. Both on and off the reservation, the Native Americans strove to be individuals, as well as to either distance themselves or come closer to their original heritage. I particularly liked Alberta’s story. She seemed very headstrong in her refusal to commit to one man, while still remaining desperate to have a child. In the end, I was pleased by the choice she made. I was also rather fond of Lionel, a man who was forced to take a strong stance by the end of the novel that he was unable to undertake in the first few sections. But then again, there were those helpful Native Americans and their coyote around to assist him in making changes.
Like the water that was so copiously running through this tale, this was a fluid story that could change on a dime. It was engaging and left me more compassionate and genuinely interested in the Native American heritage and their modern plights. It was impossible not to feel a range of emotion when reading this book, from giddy happiness to reactionary anger. I was glad that I was exposed to this book and hope that more readers pick it up. The story is one that will stay with me and have me asking questions and seeking answers well into the future. A great and highly entertaining read. Recommended.