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I just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s story “Homeland” June 1993] and was delighted, saddened, and moved. Her writing is brilliant. The contrast between Great Mam’s deep, life-giving connection to the earth, and its brutal exploitation by coal-mining companies and the trivialized tourist traps of Cherokee says more than a hundred ecology books could say about where we have gone wrong, and why. The way that Native American stream keeps insistently pushing into the narrator’s consciousness, and into ours, whether she likes it or not, whether we like it or not — it’s like the way in birth a new life pushes into your world, claiming your responsibility, claiming your love.
What I didn’t like about the piece is the way the boys are portrayed as uncaring morons, whereas the real custodial job of cherishing tradition devolves upon the woman, as if men are not up to it. I’m not sure this is Kingsolver’s fault — after all, if she lived it that way, then that’s how she has to write it — but it’s an attitude I meet with all too often in ecofeminist writing. Any attitude that men are not as good as women is a rejection of yang, a crippled vision. I listened deeply to the tradition handed down to me by my Nova Scotian mother and grandmother, as well as by my New Englander father; I have a penis and testosterone glands, I played cowboys-and-Indians as a kid, and I’m not gay, but I’m no less sensitive to the earth, the suffering of the oppressed, my cousins in the woods, or the small people in the sky.
But I suppose if I really want to carry my point, I’ll have to write it in a story as moving as hers — which will be very tough to do. Thank you for introducing me to Kingsolver’s work, and I want to thank her for doing it so splendidly.