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American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) Paperback – February 25, 2003

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (February 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142437093
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142437094
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Sioux writer and activist Zitkala-Sa (1876-1938) was born in the year of the infamous Battle of Little Big Horn--her people's last victory over the invasion forces that would soon force them onto reservations, on one of which she grew up under a regime of forced assimilation. Her writing career blossomed early, with stories published in the Atlantic Monthly when she was in her early twenties. She could have been a mere exotic, but she found a way to capture the interest of non-Indian readers, who preferred the romanticized noble savage to the often-sad reality of Indian life, and to give voice to her threatened culture. Her work, surprisingly, seems undated, perhaps because, unfortunately, the situation of Indian people has changed so little. This first comprehensive collection of her work, consisting of a significant sequence of mythic tales as well as memoirs and poetry, reveals Zitkala-Sa as a crusading, spiritually aware woman. Patricia Monaghan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Stories help understand native americans.
Marla J. Campbell
I was required to read this for my American Multicultural Literature class in college, and I actually enjoyed it!
C. Verch
The book is edited, with an introduction and notes by, Cathy N. Davidson and Ada Norris.
Michael J. Mazza

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Cyrus Emerson on October 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
There are two short stories by Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Bonnin) that have greatly effected my consciousness.

"Why I Am a Pagan," writen for the Atlantic Monthly in 1902 is a brilliant essay. It deals with the spritual independence of Native Americans. An independence found outside the walls of a church, as Bonnin herself writes:

"A wee child toddling in a wonder world, I prefer to their dogma my excursions into the natural gardens where the voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of birds, the rippling of mighty waters, and the sweet breathing of flowers. If this is Paganism, then at present, at least, I am a Pagan."

Her voice is innocently defiant, because she is a native of a land under the occupation of a foreign government. Only by being conquered are her beliefs, and customs, found to be immoral. To hold on to them in the face of oppression takes great courage.

This theme is continued in another short story "The School Days of an Indian Girl" (Atlantic Monthly, 1900). In this short story, Zitkala-Sa, writes about the experience of a young Native girl going to a distant "White" school. The story hits upon the cultural clashes that occur.

At home the young Native girl is the apple of her mother's eye. Taken from her home she becomes a subject to authority. Zitkala-Sa describes the event of her hair being cut at the "White" school:

"I cried aloud, shaking my head all the while until I felt the cold blades of the scissors against my neck, and heard them gnaw off one of my thick braids. Then I lost my spirit. Since the day I was taken from my mother I had suffered extreme indignities."

Zitkala-Sa's writing is unrelentingly honest, but has some comedic tones in it as well.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Diane Schirf on September 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
Zitkala-Sa: American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings edited with an introduction and notes by Cathy N. Davidson and Ada Norris. Highly recommended.
Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin), a South Dakota Sioux (through her mother; her father was white) born in 1876, the year of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, was an educator, musician, writer, and activist. She served as the secretary and treasurer of the Society of American Indians (SAI) and as editor of SAI's American Indian Magazine.
This collection of Zitkala-Sa's work includes background information about the author; a chronology of contemporary events; selections from "Old Indian Legends" (retellings of oral story traditions); "American Indian Stories"; selections from American Indian Magazine; and some of her poetry, pamphlets, essays, and speeches.
"Old Indian Legends" introduces Sioux traditions, including Iktomi (a trickster who often takes the form of a spider), Iya the glutton (able to consume whole villages), and the characters of the Sioux world-coyotes, ducks, the terrifying Red Eagle and the stranger who slays it, turtles, toads, mice, bears, badgers, and more. While at first these traditions and stories may strike the outsider as different and alien, to some extent they can evoke some European fairy tale traditions (which also may seem alien to modern sensibilities). Some of the most charming, like "Dance in a Buffalo Skull," are written in human terms but have no human characters. "Dance," with its "two balls of fire" growing "larger and brighter" and building of suspense, is an excellent short horror story as well.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on June 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
"American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings" is a collection of pieces by Zitkala-Sa (also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin). The book is edited, with an introduction and notes by, Cathy N. Davidson and Ada Norris. Born on the Yankton Sioux reservation in South Dakota in 1876, Zitkala-Sa worked as a writer and activist for Native American causes, and died in 1938.
The editors divide Zitkala-Sa's writings into 4 main sections: "Old Indian Legends," "American Indian Stories," "Selections from _American Indian Magazine_," and "Poetry, Pamphlets, Essays, and Speeches." I really loved the legends, which are Zitkala-Sa's versions of tales that had been passed down orally. These stories are full of magic, transformations, fantastic beings, and amazing feats. Many tales feature Iktomi, a "spider fairy" who is a mischievous trickster.
The section on stories features realistic narratives of Indian lives. All together these stories create a vivid and fascinating portrait, with details about Indian crafts, food preparation, and social customs. The many nonfiction pieces in the book cover a number of topics, such as Native American soldiers in World War I, Native American religion, and Indian political issues. Many of these pieces show the author to be a really forward thinking woman with a global perspective; her acknowledgement of the "universal cry for freedom from injustice" really seems to foreshadow the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other great activist-writers of the later 20th century.
The book is full of great supplemental materials: a comprehensive introduction; a lengthy bibliographic list of suggestions for further reading; an informative note on the texts; and endnotes.
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