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Swann, Brian, ed. Voices from four directions; contemporary translations of the native literatures of North America.

SWANN, Brian, ed. Voices from four directions; contemporary translations of the native literatures of North America. Univ. of Nebraska Press. 615p. index, notes, bibliog, c2004. 0-8032-9310-0. $27.50. JSA *

Two valuable books in one, this anthology of the stories of native North Americans ranges from Alaska to Labrador and from the Great Lakes to New Mexico, explaining and presenting the tales and poetry of over 30 native groups. Arranged by region, each group of tales is preceded by a careful explanation of its sources, its original language, and of the ethnologists' efforts to transcribe and/or translate it. The person who reads only the introductions to each section will gain knowledge of how the tales were told, who told them to the English-speaking transcribers, and a brief history of the tribe, the original tribal language, and the researchers who tried to save the literary heritage of the groups. Each introduction has its own notes and bibliography.

The tales themselves differ widely in length, topic, and style. Since many were used as teaching tools in non-literate societies, they relate tribal history, from creation stories to tales that tell of the first encounters with white men. Others have morals, teaching life values in the guise of entertainment. In most of the tales, humans and animals interchange forms easily, transformations that should be quickly accepted by young American fans of Spider-Man.

J--Recommended for junior high school students. The contents are of particular interest to young adolescents and their teachers.

S--Recommended for senior high school students.

A--Recommended for advanced students and adults. This code will help librarians and teachers working in high schools where there are honors and advanced placement students. This also will help extend KLIATT's usefulness in public libraries.

*--The asterisk highlights exceptional books.

Patricia Moore, Brookline, MA
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Author:Moore, Patricia
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 2004
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