Off the Reservation: Reflections on boundary-busting, border crossing loose canons

May 15th, 2001 | By | Category: 12-4: Colleges for the Community, Media Reviews

by Paula Gunn Allen
Beacon Press: Boston, 1998

Review by Maria Escalante

Off the Reservation by Paula Gunn Allen is a thought provoking collection of writings that invites the reader to re-examine long held beliefs of Western culture. The first section titled “Haggles” is a collection of essays that touches on political, spiritual, and ecological concerns for Native Americans. Throughout the book Allen brings out the impact of Western culture on Native Americans and women.

The second section (Wyrds) focuses on the role of literature in the Native American and minority experience. Allen argues in one essay that a new field of literature is emerging from border crossing individuals, who fit in more than one world based on their ethnic background. Allen pulls this idea from her own background of Laguna Pueblo, Mexican, Lebanese, and German, which, like many Native Americans of mixed blood descent, has given her the ability to cross borders.

The third section (La Frontera) examines her family roots. She reveals how her multi-ethnic family was a source of strength. Throughout the book Allen weaves the power of the feminine. Given the varied topics that Allen covers, this book could be applied to a number of classes such as literature, environmental sciences, Native American history, women’s studies, religious studies, or political science.

Maria Escalante is the librarian for the College of Menominee Nation in Keshena, Wis.

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