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Changing Ones: Third and Fourth Genders in Native North America

4.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312224790
ISBN-10: 0312224796
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  • Changing Ones: Third and Fourth Genders in Native North America
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Will Roscoe makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of both Native American culture and alternative gender construction in this extension of the groundbreaking research in The Zuni Man-Woman. More than 150 tribes across America have members who engage in some form of gender identification beyond "male" and "female." Roscoe's study reveals how integral these third and fourth genders, and same-sex marriage, have been to the tribes' societies, in contrast to the intolerance demonstrated by the Judeo-Christian culture of the descendants of European invaders. His analysis of these tribes, rooted in the empirical evidence of their histories, also provides a fascinating counterpoint to theories about homosexual identity rooted solely in modern, Western preconceptions. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Will Roscoe is writing the history the history books don't talk about." - Bay Area Reporter

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (June 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312224796
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312224790
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #331,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Stephen O. Murray VINE VOICE on May 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
By starting with life experiences of some individual male and female berdache, Roscoe literally captivates readers, before carrying us into the comparative, theoretical, analytical second half which is sophisticated but clearly written. Will Roscoe's work on North American berdache/"two spirit" is far and away the most theoretically sophisticated and historically systematic work in a burgeoning field. While many people have been pawing at a few historical records and fantasizing a great deal, he has systematically gone through a multilingual literature, showed how the discourse unfolded in specific European national traditions, and sorted out continuities and discontinuities in space and in time (both in the discourse and in the phenomena of Native American cultural survivla, insofar as it can be glimpsed through Christianity-distorted lenses).

Although Roscoe's primary focus is on historical records of "berdache," he has also discusses contemporary "gay Indians," building on his earlier book _Living the Spirit_. My only regret is that Roscoe did not include his article "Was We'Wah [the Zuni "man-woman' he wrote an earlier book about] a homosexual?" in this book. _Changing Ones_ is the single indispensable book on the subject of gender and sexuality of Native American gender-mixing roles.
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Format: Hardcover
Will Roscoe has compiled a wonderful and invaluable overview of a long-neglected topic. As he notes in the introduction to this volume, our language is currently burdened by an archaic and often unhelpful lexicon in addressing 'third and fourth genders' so commonly encountered in pre-Columbian North America. This book includes a compilation of the historical and current literature, and readers will find the extensive Glossary and the Tribal Index to be of great use as a source for further investigation. Roscoe's will undoubtedly remain one of the most useful contributions in this are
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The book was an easy and enjoyable read. Roscoe makes the historical documents and stories a lot more accessible than just an offering of dry comments. I loved how he related the two spirited of then to those of today and how he discribed the many forms of discrimination they must face both then and now.

The only issue I find with this book is that, although he states that historically those of two spirits were not necessarily homosexual, nor were they limited to the activities of one gender over another but many times participated in both, he doesn't mention modern day two spirit people who identify as bisexual except in the context of a modern "problem", alongside alcoholism, drug use and prostitution. He does this while alluding to bisexuality being accepted historically and stating how some two spirit people had children, which at the time, was impossible without both genders being involved.

I find it interesting that although Roscoe is doing humanity a service by providing this kind of education to all as well as liberation those two spirit who may still feel alone in their reservations amid so much persecution; he is shortchanging the very essence of the Two Spirit person, denying ALL it's many shades. This only perpetuates the poisonous discrimination the gay movement has fought so hard to dismantle, yet keeps alive within it's own community.

In this aspect, I would consider this writing as the gay community has considered many of the first writings on homosexuality- up to a certain point, discriminating and ignorant. However, besides that it's an excellent book considering what is available out there.
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This would be a good text for a class. It was easy to read and packed with information about Native American alternative gender roles. It's important for us to know that dual-gendered systems are not the only social arrangements out there. Imagine a society where a GLBTQ person was considered-- instead of being somehow defective-- to belong to a third or fourth gender, where they were usually respected for who they were and what they could contribute. Their gender identities made them rare and special, and they were thought to bring good luck. Often they became medicine men and women, or skilled craftpersons. Though interrupted by European colonization, this positive perspective is now slowly being regained by a new generation of Native Americans. A very enlightening book, with good scholarship, photos and references.
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Mr. Rosco provides a detailed anthropological ethnographic account of First Nations views on gender variances. This, while important as disrupting the western gaze upon gender and the social construction of the male/female binaries, reinforces what he attempts to disrupt. If it had been written from a truly Indigenous, which relies upon interrelationships and how subjects relate to each other, the 'queerd' information is presented as, the non-normative other. For had it been presented in with concerns of Indigeneity there would have been a background with each respective Nation (tribe) and their views on the constructions of gender. By looking just at Two-Spiritedness takes the individual(s) out of social context and fulfills and reinforces the western constructs of gender. A good book, however it falls short of showing the continuum contained within respective First Nations societies and the importance of gender roles and expression.
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