- Paperback: 174 pages
- Publisher: Oregon State University Press (March 1, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0870710079
- ISBN-13: 978-0870710070
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #970,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Above the Clearwater: Living on Stolen Land Paperback – March 1, 2004
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About the Author
Bette Lynch Husted's stories, essays, and poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Northern Lights, Northwest Review, and Fourth Genre. One of the essays in Above the Clearwater was selected as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2000, and another is included in the anthology, Best Essays Northwest. She has taught in high schools and community colleges in Oregon, Washington, and Montana, and now lives in Pendleton, Oregon. Above the Clearwater is her first book.
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Wow. It's hard to fathom that this book is neither well-known nor widely read. It's not simply a memoir or about a place. It's about reflection of one's life. The struggles, achievements, and decisions (good/bad) set against the broader context of the land and resources (including people) one can draw from.
The quality of writing is incredible. Simple and lyrical. You'll be hooked after reading the first page. I very rarely rate a book five stars. "Above the Clearwater: Living on Stolen Land" definitely deserves six.
Lynch-Husted herself is still trying to understand her relationship with her own father, a man broken and bent and gone too soon from the hardships of working in the woods and lumber mills most of his life. Yet she understood how hard and hopeless his life had been as he struggled to support his family, and writes of it in her essay, "Tracking My Father" -
"Men like my father were competent, but if civilization meant banks and progress meant bank accounts, they could not compete. The harder Dad worked at his manual labor, the more he condemned himself. He could see it happening, of course - but he didn't know how to stop it."
Recognizing the very hopelessness of a life of physical backbreaking labor, Husted worked her own way through college with the lowest of menial jobs, cleaning toilets and washing dishes, experiences I mirrored in my own college years, so yeah, I could relate. And then she tells of her first teaching job at rock-bottom wages and her subsequent graduate school experiences and more than thirty years of teaching in high schools and community colleges. She paints a picture of a woman infatuated her whole life with learning, of trying to learn it all, to read it all, and trying to pass this fierce feeling, this need, along to her students. And through all of it, she conveys her constant feeling of unworthiness to sit at this high table of learning; her inability to overcome the circumstances of her birth. Because Husted is all too aware of the unspoken class system in our country, a theme she explores in even greater detail in her later book of essays, LESSONS FROM THE BORDERLANDS.
Finally she describes the hardships and struggles within her own family - a Vietnam veteran husband with PTSD and a teenage son hooked on alcohol and drugs who disappears, stories told with heartbreaking clarity in "Salmon Run" and "Homeless."
And through all of her stories and thoughtfully poetic ruminations lurk the elusive shadows of the people who came before the Lynches and Husteds and other early homesteaders and settlers, the displaced Native Americans who provide the book's subtitle, LIVING ON STOLEN LAND. Husted demonstrates an enclopedic and intimate knowledge of their history too, the story of Chief Joseph and the flight of the Nez Perce; and the butchery and betrayals and the near extermination of many other tribes.
This is simply one hell of a good book, fascinatingly told stories in language that often approaches poetry. Read it, please.
- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER