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Doubters and Dreamers opens with a uestion from a young girl faced with the spectacle of Indian effigies lynched and burned “in jest” before UC Berkeley’s annual Big Game against Stanford “What’s a debacle Mom?” This innocent but telling uestion marks the girl’s entrée into the complicated knowledge of her heritage as a mixed blood Native American of Koyangk’auwi Concow Maidu descent The girl is a young Janice Gould and the poems and narrations that follow constitute a remarkable work of sustained and courageous self revelation retracing the precarious emotional terrain of an adolescence shaped by a mother’s tough love and a growing consciousness of an ancestral and familial past In the first half of the book “Tribal History” Gould ingeniously repurposes the sonnet form to preserve the stories of her mother and aunt who grew up when “muleback was the customary mode of transport” and the “spirit world was present”—stories of “old ways” and places claimed in memory but lost in time Elsewhere she remembers her mother’s “ferocious upright anger” and her unexpected tenderness “Like a miracle I was still her child” culminating in the profound expression of loss that is the poem “Our Mother’s Death” In the second half of the book “It Was Raining” Gould tells of the years of lonely self making and “unfulfilled dreams” as she comes to terms with what she has been told are her “crazy longings” as a lesbian “It’s been hammered into me that I’ll be spurned by a ‘real woman’ the only kind I like” The writing here commemorates old loves and relationships in language that mingles hope and despair doubt and devotion veering at times into dreamlike moments of consciousness One poem and vignette at a time Doubters and Dreamers explores what it means to be a mixed blood Native American who grew up urban lesbian and middle class in the West

10 thoughts on “Doubters and Dreamers

  1. says:

    The poems in Doubters and Dreamers are spare with a quiet power that creeps up slowly Her poems focus on nature lived experience family and love The book opens with a poem about the lynching of a native effigy and the challenge continues from there mother daughter relationships are explored for their difficulty and questions of identity and sexuality appear again and again Some of the love poems are very beautiful The poems play with form prose poems which are really the best in the book – despite the sparseness her writing tends toward the grammatically correct complete sentence giving the prose poems a real chance to shine lyrics sonnets particularly crowns or sequences and even a villanelle