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Other titles in the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize series:
An Inside Passage (River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize)by Kurt Caswell
Synopses & Reviews
The environment may surround us, but when that environment is a natural wonder like Yosemite National Park, it also reaches whats inside us. For Mark Liebenow, Yosemite did just that, and did so when he needed it most. In Mountains of Light, winner of the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize, Liebenow takes us deep into the heart of this wilderness, introducing us to its grand and subtle marvels—and to the observations, reflections, and insights its scenery evokes. Acting as our guide, Liebenow calls on the spirit and legacy of naturalist John Muir to rediscover nature and recover his own exuberance for life. Whether celebrating the giant sequoias, massive granite mountains, and wild, untamed rivers, or losing himself on an unmarked trail, Liebenow is always accompanied by thoughts of his wife of eighteen years, whose recent and sudden death tempers and informs his journey.
Interwoven with his experiences are the stories of the Native Americans who lived in the valley for thousands of years and of the early settlers who followed. Melding documentary with introspection, environmental reportage with a search for meaning, Liebenows work draws on the lore of geology, botany, biology, and history to show how each aspect of the environment is connected to the rest.
When he was out playing Indian, enacting Hollywood-inspired scenarios, it never occurred to the child Roger Welsch that the little girl sitting next to him in school was Indian. A lifetime of learning later, Welschs enthusiasm is undimmed, if somewhat more enlightened. In Embracing Fry Bread Welsch tells the story of his lifelong relationship with Native American culture, which, beginning in earnest with the study of linguistic practices of the Omaha tribe during a college anthropology course, resulted in his becoming an adopted member and kin of both the Omaha and the Pawnee tribes.
With requisite humility and a healthy dose of humor, Welsch describes his long pilgrimage through Native life, from lessons in the vagaries of “Indian time” and the difficulties of reservation life, to the joy of being allowed to participate in special ceremonies and developing a deep and lasting love of fry bread. Navigating another culture is a complicated task, and Welsch shares his mistakes and successes with engaging candor. Through his serendipitous wanderings, he finds that the more he learns about Native culture the more he learns about himself—and about a way of life whose allure offers true insight into indigenous America.
Although finding a way to feel at home in the world is ultimately the lifes work of us all, rarely has the search ranged as far or found as precise and moving an expression as it does in An Inside Passage. Winner of the 2008 River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize, Kurt Caswells narrative chronicles his travels in the rugged mountain forests of Japans Shiretoko National Park, on a vision quest in Death Valley, and to the sacred waters of the Ganges River. Whether contemplating a great blue heron as it rests riverside at the onset of a storm, reflecting on a beloved students untimely death, walking through the Navajo reservation, or receiving the blessing of a Hindu priest, Caswell unerringly finds the moment of truth. His journey also takes us across the landscape of his marriage, both its initial sweetness and its eventual failure. The ensuing inner dislocation echoes a larger estrangement that makes more poignant Caswells quest to find a place he can call home.
About the Author
Kurt Caswell is an assistant professor of creative writing and literature in the Honors College at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. His essays have appeared in numerous publications, including Isotope, Ninth Letter, Northern Lights, Potomac Review, and Matter.
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