From captivity to kinship
Native American orphans and sovereignty
in Making home
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While literary representations of indigenous peoples by non-Native writers now appear infrequently outside of popular genres, contemporary Native representations of Native orphan children have become common, which this study views as a literary trend growing out of widespread experiences of child removal and foster care, as well as of alternative child-rearing and kinship practices. In this chapter, key questions are posed to four works in which Native American orphan figures appear: Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees (1988) and Pigs in Heaven (1993), Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms (1995), and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Gardens in the Dunes (1999). What “signifying capabilities” do Native American orphans have? What specific challenges to American and/or Native identity do authors respond to through their use of orphan figures? In what types of narrative or ideological processes are Native American orphans involved? The analysis suggests that authors use the figure of the orphan to interrogate the possibilities and limitations of American and Native nationhood, particularly in regard to their ability to accommodate, assimilate, or otherwise mediate difference. In the process, writers of fiction establish theoretical alliances or antipathies with multiculturalism as a model for American or Native social and political life.

Making home

Orphanhood, kinship, and cultural memory in contemporary American novels


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