Living on the Borderlinesby Published 01 Feb 2019
|Living on the Borderlines.pdf|
For the loosely connected Seneca community members living in Upstate New York, intergenerational memory slips into everyday life: a teenager struggles to understand her grandmother's silences, a family seeks to reconnect with a lost sibling, and a young woman searches for a cave that's called to her family for generations. With these stories, debut writer Melissa Michal weaves together an understated and contemplative collection exploring what it means to be Native.
Living on the Borderlines Reviews
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Thank you so much to the Feminist Press for sending me an advanced copy of this collection of stories.
I was very excited to read Living on the Borderlines because I grew up in upstate New York, not far from where many of these stories take place. I know a lot of the small towns, highways, and landmarks referenced. That always makes for a fun reading experience.
But beyond that, I loved the stories themselves. I especially appreciated how so many common themes wound through each of them: cultural and personal change, turning inward in the face of strife, a strong sense of identity. It tied all the stories together and made them a true set, and it reinforced the feeling of authenticity that came through on every page.
Melissa Michal writes in a way that is simultaneously straightforward and lyrical; light and impactful. A beautiful debut.
An uneven but mostly good collection of stories. The author must've grown up in the Rochester area, where I live. She mentions many locations around here, which made it fun. She writes from the perspective of having feet in both Native and non-Native worlds. It was another interesting chronicle of how those with Native blood navigate a society which has sought to strip them of everything, and still holds them back to this day.
This short story collection centers on people of Seneca descent mostly living in what is called upstate New York, but also in New York City mansions, Nebraska footpaths, BC islands, and rural Tennessee. The stories and characters vary widely in point of view, and as the title implies, they dance along the borderlines between white and indigenous, a constant reckoning with a colonialist and racist society. But in addition to their broad experiences and world views, the characters all deal with themes of family, history, tradition, and intergenerational trauma.
The familial relationships here are so strong and tender, no matter who they bond: long-lost siblings, grandparents and grandchildren, spouses and friends, the dead and the living. Many of the indigenous characters live off of but close to reservations, some white people live in indigenous communities, and some of the indigenous characters are surrounded by whiteness. Melissa Michal has created such potent stories around all of them, with disturbing and beautiful elements all at once. All of the characters, even in the shortest stories, are full of depth and nuance, and that is everything, especially in a short story collection.
In the acknowledgments at the end of this collection, Michal writes that she deliberately attempted to ‘think about that orality in story, although imperfect in execution. It’s a process breaking the rules and expectations about Western language and sentence structures so set into our minds through education systems. But here we are, moving forward, sliding through syllables, around the commas, and into the voice.’ This comes across so well, and makes for a reading experience outside the rigid western structures she writes of. That’s not to say this isn’t readable- it absolutely is, and it’s gorgeous and immersive. I highly recommend this book to every reader.
I received an ARC from (superstar indie publisher) Feminist Press in exchange for an honest review; opinions are my own.