Boston Mountain Tales: Stories From a Cherokee Family

Aug 15th, 1998 | By | Category: 10-1: Teaching Math and Science, Media Reviews

by Glenn J. Twist
Published by Greenfield Review Press,1997. $14.95

Review by Rick Heredia

Genealogy is enjoying great popularity, and many people are interested in writing their life stories, if only for the family record. So it’s fitting that a book like Boston Mountain Tales appears when it does, proving that family history can be as interesting as any historical novel. The book is a collection of nine stories based on historical incidents that happened to be the author’s family. The stories are set in and around the Boston Mountains in Arkansas. By writing the book, author Glenn Twist (Cherokee/Creek) shares with a much larger audience stories that might have been limited to his immediate family and descendants. As a result, readers get an intriguing, sympathetic glimpse of the Cherokee experience in those mountains.

Twist told these tales for more than 30 years around campfires as a Scout leader before he began writing them down, after arthritis forced him to retire. Then came the cancer, and he suddenly found himself in a race against time to complete his manuscript. All writing is hard work–if it is worth anything, if it is to say something to readers, if it educates and entertains or moves them. It is to Twist’s credit that, despite the debilitating cancer, he was able to write a book good enough to be published as part of the Frank Waters Memorial Series. Twist and Waters died within a few months of each other in 1995.

Boston Mountain Tales opens with a short story, “Susie’s Place,” which sets the stage for the other eight stories that follow. Susie and her five children’s graves are in an isolated part of the forest. Visiting Susie’s burial ground and reading the headstones, Twist reminisces about Susie and her family. His monologue, rich in quiet melancholy, effectively captures the sights and sounds of the forest and paints a vivid picture of Susie and her times on the mountain. For Twist, the headstones bring to mind “log cabins, oxen and wagon, hand scrub boards, tub mills, chamber pots, and outhouses; all of which predate what we refer to as modern civilization.”

Like Susie, Twist’s characters in his other stories, from Ganu’teyo’hi’s white wife in “The Dispossession” to Little Flower in “The Promised Land,” are survivors in a world that wants to strip them of their land and their possessions, their culture and dignity. Often, the penalty they pay is death. Despite this, they are a feisty, persevering bunch, who lose more often than they win but somehow keep struggling and dreaming for better days. Many of the protagonists in these stories are women, often the unsung heroes in the clash of cultures between Native Americans and whites. Twist’s writing style is straightforward, and the book is easy reading. The author uses dialogue steeped in regional dialects. He offers a compassionate account of events that, as Twist hoped, lets future generations know something of a time and place he experienced.

Rick Heredia is the public information officer at D-Q University.

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