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Mary Scriver <[log in to unmask]>
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Western Literature discussion <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 31 May 2017 11:46:50 -0600
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Dear Dr. Rehan,

This is going to be quite different from most of the answers you get, I guess.  In fact, I’ll probably develop it for a bit of a polemic on my blog, prairiemary.blogspot.com.    
I’m not responding to the request for specific books, but rather to the context.  The “American West” of lit thinking is often concentrated on the colorful century when the genocide of the prairie and coastal indigenous people was clearing the way for whites.  It celebrates the whites and their entitlement by character and power, but tradtional American West writing often pushes the indigenous people off into a separate category of “Native American.”  There is another almost sub-category about what to do if one is stranded between the identities of white and indigenous.  Much of “Native American” writing is by whites, and later by assimilated Native Americans because they are the ones who know how to write.  I don’t mean in literary terms, but in terms of simple English literacy.  Earlier truly authentic indigenous stories are oral.  This is a ground of much controversy over entitlement.

Even if one interprets “WAL” as the story of the frontier and the industrial revolution (railroads, dams, resource development, grain, oil) it was and is, in fact, multi-cultural and multi-racial.  The Chinese built the railroads.  The Mexicans were the first cowboys.  The women and missionaries brought convictions about how to be in the world.  Blacks escaped the Civil War and slavery by going West.  The story of children on the frontier is pretty chilling.  Vulnerable people suffer at the heart of frontier.  When women begin to write, this aspect begins to “daylight.”  Military and explorers are strong aspects that appeal to white males.

The political formation of nations, where the boundaries are drawn, the impact of commerce (fur-trapping, livestock, devising supply towns) is salient, and international impacts like the 19th century wars and famines in Europe driving up the population of the USA, all become important.  This is only beginning to develop in lit terms.

Environmental issues are often vivid in the West which has relatively thin population and therefore is seen as “not being used.”  Some of the most excellent writing is not fiction so much as the exploration of nature and what has come to be both “Deep Time” and “Deep History.”  I’m thinking of people like Loren Eiseley or Ed Abbey or even Theodore Roosevelt.  Those who respond to high skies and long horizons, as the seedbed of freedom and individuality.

With this framework accepted, the potential for books that will appeal to Pakistanis is VAST.  They are now what the American West was once.  Your idea is almost explosively brilliant.

Prairie Mary
Mary Scriver
Valier, MT