Thursday, June 28, 2007

Book Review: The Way to Rainy Mountain

June 28, 2007

"A single knoll rises out of the plain in Oklahoma, north and west of the Wichita Range. For my people, the Kiowas, it is an old landmark, and they gave it thename Rainy Mountain. The hardest weather in the world is there. ... To look upon that landscape in the early morning, with the sun at your back, is to lose the sense of proportion. Your imagination comes to life, and this, you think, is where Creation was begun."

So begins N. Scott Momaday's tribute to the Kiowa people, retelling the Kiowa legends he heard from his grandmother, speculating on actual history, and--best of all--describing his own memories of the Kiowa life he knew as a child. This is a very short book--less than 100 pages--and excellent for a look into Native American life and the plight of the Kiowa tribe. The book consists of three parts on each 2-page spread: a myth, a piece of history, and Momaday's own reflections. His writing is simple and poetic:

"East of my grandmother's house the sun rises out of the plain. Once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth, I believe. He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape;...He ought to recollect the glare of noon and all the colors of the dawn and dusk."

I read this book as part of a Minority Literature class in graduate school, and I revisited it because I was considering it for my American Literature class in the fall. Now I remember that I always intended to read Momaday's Pulitizer Prize winning novel House Made of Dawn, so I will add that to my reading list. And while the format isn't quite what I was after for my class as a novel, I will definitely include some of his reflections as part of our coursework.

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