The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990

Book Reviews

Texas General Land Office and other state agencies face many of the
same issues of development versus preservation but on a much smaller
landed estate. Land in Texas is largely a private affair, and that makes
all the difference.
Austin, Texas WILSON E. DOLMAN
Westward the Women: An Anthology of Western Stones by Women. Edited by
Vicki Piekarski. Stories by Willa Cather, Mari Sandoz, Leslie Silko,
and others. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1988.
Pp. 179. Introduction. $10.95, paper.)
The question posed by editor Vicki Piekarski in her introduction to
this anthology is, "Why ... do we continue to associate Western fiction
writers with husky dark men in cowboy boots, pen in one hand and six-
shooter in the other?" (p. 2). She does a competent job of answering
that question, citing the flawed perception of the Western experience as
a largely masculine one and the neglect of fiction that failed to support
that perception as factors.
After enjoying the dozen stories Piekarski presents as representative
of the body of Western fiction written by females, the reader wants to
answer the editor's question with another: "Why, indeed-especially
when the female viewpoint is so much richer?" For here are stories that
place the reader in an entirely different West from that seen through
the masculine eye; that they have been largely overlooked seems a high
crime.
The stories in Westward the Women, arranged chronologically, span
eight decades of writing about the West, from Willa Cather's turn-of-
the-century portrait of a Norwegian misfit on the Nebraska plains to
the work of Leslie Silko, just hitting her stride in the 198os and skilled
at placing an ancient American Indian myth into a contemporary
setting.
Well-known writers-Mary Austin, Mari Sandoz-are grouped with
others little-known except to the serious student of women's fiction-
Ann Ahlswede, Lucia Moore, and others. Taken together, their work is
startling, inspiring, frequently amusing, and entertaining in the best
way: refusing to perpetuate the stereotype of the heroic, sturdy, un-
complaining men and women of the frontier, they concentrate instead
on their eccentricities and on the comic, as well as the tragic, situations
they face-as human beings, not solely as men (or women). Character
becomes the most prominent feature in the collection, with sense of
place not far behind.

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/. Accessed August 1, 2014.