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My great-grandmother belonged to the Bird Clan. Hers was one of the fugitive bands of Cherokee who resisted capture in the year that General Winfield Scott was in charge of prodding the forest people from their beds and removing them westward. Those few who escaped his notice moved like wildcat families through the Carolina mountains…
Somebody somewhere in pop music once said “the queen of hearts is always your best bet.” That couldn’t be more applicable than to Week 36 of my Deal Me In 2016 short story project. My Deal Me In 2016 list can be found here. Deal Me In is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis. I drew the Queen of Hearts this week which corresponded to Barbara Kingsolver’s short story “Homeland” and it’s one of my favorites so far this year. “Homeland” is included in my copy of Home and Beyond: An Anthology of Kentucky Short Stories edited by Morris Allen Grubbs.
I’ve been familiar with Barbara Kingsolver for about ten years now – ever since it seemed like everyone in my circle was reading her novel The Poisonwood Bible. I never read it but its on my shelf. And after reading “Homeland”, the first of Kingsolver’s works that I’ve read, I can’t wait to read more.
In the story, Great Mam is taken from where her family lives in Morning Glory, Kentucky back to where she grew up in the Hiwassee Valley of Tennessee. The story is told by Great Mam’s adult great granddaughter, Gloria St. Clair, who was eleven at the time of the trip in 1955.
One might say that the story sums up the old adage “you can’t go home again” but that’s really too cliche. The trip itself only takes up about two pages out of the total of fourteen. The story’s depth comes from Great Mam’s attempts to bestow the wisdom of her Cherokee culture to Gloria. Of the family, Gloria seems to be the only one who listens. Gloria’s father, Great Mam’s grandson, married a white woman who, all these years later, still chides Great Mam for not having a church-sanctioned marriage.
Because Gloria is telling this story as an adult, it’s easy for the reader to get the impression that Great Mam’s legacy is at least appreciated by the narrator.
And finally, as an epilogue, a Cherokee legend is told that explains to a certain extent why Great Mam refers to Gloria as “Waterbug”. It’s a beautiful ending to a beautiful story.
What about you? Have you read anything by Barbara Kingsolver? Any stories or novels you would recommend?