Monday, 1 April 2013

Are you an Issues Writer? - Sarah M Anderson

Indigenous Issues and their portrayal.

A look at vintage cinema and the modern romance.  A totally random holiday post.

I'm an American Indian fan from way back though sadly disadvantaged being an Australian.  I'm old enough to remember all those movies from the sixties and seventies with John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Glenn Ford, Audie Murphy and so on.  I saw all those Spaghetti Westerns with Clint Eastwood and Terrence Hill.  I saw The Magnificent Seven and fell in love with James Coburn.

I also saw A Man Called Horse and Little Big Man. Along with a relatively unknown school library book "Comanche", a book that was quite graphic despite being targeted at young teens.  They made a big impact on me. (I have Googled for the book and all I find is one by Fabio)

American Indians are perceived as much more romantic than our own indigenous people here in Australia.  The most well known movie about an Australian Aborigine made in the seventies was "The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith."  It is about a part indigenous young man who struggles to cope with his place in the world. Jimmy murdered everyone in such a violent and bloodthirsty manner that half the people in the cinema in Cunnamulla walked out.  It probably did nothing for race relations in a town that was 50% indigenous.

Even "Jedda," a more sympathetic portrayal of a young indigenous woman brought up in a white world, made by Australian film maker Charles Chauvel in 1955, ends badly for the young woman, torn between her attraction to a tradition male and a half-breed who would keep her in the white world. Recently we have  movies like Samson and Delilah dealing with the alienation of indigenous young people and  "Rabbit Proof Fence" is about the stolen generations, when indigenous children were taken from their families to be brought up in white homes and on mission stations.

So what does all this have to do with Sarah M Anderson.  It is probably about a year ago I first read a Sarah M Anderson book.  She writes about Cowboys and Indians with emphasis on the Indians.  It is because of this that I would class her as an issues writer.  She doesn't beat you over the head with it.  The books are primarily about the romance.   But you can't help learning a little along the way.

All of the books I've read by Sarah have American Indians in strong lead roles.  Women and men who are dealing with the conflict that comes when one group in society is disadvantaged.  That disadvantage can be manifested in many ways, economically, educationally and in most cases, a disparity of power.   They also deal with the dichotomy between fitting into the broader society in order to work with the powers that be and maintaining the links to tribe and culture.

The first book in her new Bolton Brothers series has just been released (what's not to love about men on motorbikes.) This is a totally gratuitous link to a blog that features hot men & bikes & cars.

Straddling the Line by Sarah M Anderson   *****

Straddling the Line

Sarah M. Anderson has written another of her amazing stories about conflict between cultures and the struggle to find who you are when you are literally 'Straddling the Line'.  I love it when the title of the book can have multiple meanings and this is one of those.

Josey White-Plume doesn't know which side of the line she really belongs.  She's tried living in the white man's world in New York and it didn't work out. So she's come home to the Reservation to try living in her Lakota world.  She is desperate to be accepted as one of the Tribe and is working her darnedest to be the person she thinks will be welcomed.  The last thing she needs is to be attracted to Ben Bolton, a numbers cruncher white guy.

Ben is also struggling to find his place in his own tribe, the Bolton family.  He doesn't quite fit, trying to walk the line between his father's old fashioned obsessions and making their motor cycle business viable in the modern world.  When Josey walks into his life, wanting help for the school she is helping build on the Reservation she opens his eyes to so much more.

How these two interact, the relationship they build is just beautiful to see. Josey and Ben are two very different people but they compliment each other in their strengths and weaknesses.  They have a lot to teach each other and a lot to learn.  Together they are amazing. Together they can straddle the line between two worlds and make it work for both of them.