Synopses & Reviews
Doubters and Dreamers
opens with a question from a young girl faced with the spectacle of Indian effigies lynched and burned “in jest” before UC Berkeleys annual Big Game against Stanford: “Whats a debacle, Mom?” This innocent but telling question marks the girls entrée into the complicated knowledge of her heritage as a mixed-blood Native American of Koyangkauwi (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 mothers 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 mothers “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 Mothers 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: “Its been hammered into me / that Ill 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.
"Her poems are a braiding of mother, lover, and Earth." —Foreword Reviews
"Janice Gould is one of our best poets. The music of her poetry will delight you, and her gentle, courageous accounts of tribal, family, and personal history make this book unforgettable. Doubters and Dreamers is a masterpiece." —Leslie Marmon Silko, author of Gardens in the Dunes
About the Author
Janice Gould is an assistant professor of womens and ethnic studies at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. She has published two previous collections of poetry, Earthquake Weather, also published by the University of Arizona Press, and Beneath My Heart. She is also co-editor of Speak to Me Words: Essays on Contemporary American Indian Poetry.