Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Summer 1998


Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 18, No. 3, Summer 1998, pp. 271-72.


Copyright 1998 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Good writing transcends boundaries, says Robert Franklin Gish in this cross-cultural inquiry into Anglo, American Indian, and Chicano literature. Beyond Bounds grew out of Gish's willingness to risk "the disdain of advocating ... 'Buffalo Chip Lit'" to test the notion that "no one ethnicity, no one group ... offers the ultimate 'truth' of tourism, seen most metaphorically as the 'tourism' of mortality."

Part One, "Anglo Visitors," examines the early twentieth-century writings of Charles Lummis, Erna Ferguson, Harvey Ferguson, and Witter Bynner, visitors to New Mexico who were unabashed supporters of Anglo conquest. Yet they recognized they were newcomers to an ancient land and grew to respect the Indian and Hispano cultures. Gish finds in these Anglo writers a reverence for what D. H. Lawrence called "the spirit of the place," what Charles Lummis called "the land of poco tierripo."

Part Two, "Indian Voices," examines the novels of James Welch and the poetry of Ray A. Young Bear. Both provide insiders' views of their unique American Indian experiences. Both affirm their Indian roots by capturing their mythic pasts. Welch's first novels (Winter in the Blood and The Death of Jim Loney) reveal his characters' angst. In The Indian Lawyer he depicts an American Indian whose attempt to integrate himself into the contemporary cultural democracy of state politics ultimately leads him to find strength by seeking out the power of his cultural past. Poet Ray Young Bear asks us to listen to the cadence of his poetry as a means of remembering the ancient ways.

In Part Three, "Chicano Vistas," Gish returns to the then-and-now of his New Mexico roots. He examines the fiction of Rudolfo A. Anaya and the poetry of] immy Santiago Baca. With an "epiphany of landscape" in Bless Me, Ultima, Heart of Aztlan, and Tortuga, Anaya's characters are steeped in the ancient land of Aztlan in our time, drawing sustenance from the energy of the place. Among the cast of characters are La Llorona, La Curandera , and La Bruja, persona birthed in the indio-hispano synthesis of the Chicano experience, personifying a mythic heritage from which strength can be drawn. Gish draws inspiration for his work from poet Jimmy Santiago Baca who exemplifies that "writing, at its best, transcends all borders. It collapses the borders between people and becomes gift giving."