4/17/20

Book Review: Nadine Antoinette Maestas on Kristen Millares Young's Debut Novel



Kristen Millares Young’s debut novel, Subduction, focuses on the journey of Claudia, a Mexican-American anthropologist running from her life in Seattle where her husband left her for her sister. Claudia’s need to escape and her anthropological research take her back to the Makah Reservation at Neah Bay on the Olympic Peninsula where she reconnects with Maggie and meets Maggie’s son, Peter, who has returned to care for his mother. As an anthropologist, Claudia sees her role as someone whose job it is to record as much information and as many stories from the Makah culture as she can, but she is acutely and consistently aware of her outsider status and the inherent flaws in her field of research. She is an outsider, an interloper, who is not to be fully trusted, but she is also a catalyst for the telling of stories and more importantly for the convergence of stories that emerge from Peter’s family, community and culture. 

The book’s title is an apt place from which to begin thinking about the intertwining narratives of all of the characters in all of their complexities. The story takes place along the Cascadian Subduction Zone, where there is a convergence of tectonic plates. These active, moving plates cause earthquakes and facilitate volcanic activity. This is relevant because in the background of the novel there is a reoccurring, yet somewhat murky retelling of an earthquake and tsunami that unleashed their destructive forces on the indigenous coastal communities hundreds of years ago. So much of the novel is about the recovery of memories, of stories, and of culture, and much like the tectonic plates, when Claudia and Peter meet, there is a seismic rupture in the social and cultural fabric of the community. Things shake loose, and difficult stories emerge and converge where violence and beauty simultaneously occur.

While reading the novel I kept going back to what Mary Louis Pratt likes to call “contact zones.” In her essay “Arts of the Contact Zone” she uses this term “to refer to social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, or their eventual aftermaths as they are lived out in many parts of the world today.”

Pratt notes “autoethnography, transculturation, critique, collaboration, bilingualism, mediation, parody, denunciation, imaginary dialogue, and vernacular expression” as some of the “literate arts of the contact zone.” And she suggests that “miscomprehension, incomprehension, dead letters, unread masterpieces, absolute heterogeneity of meaning” are some of the “perils of writing in the contact zone.”

I would argue that Young’s novel is a space for readers to see the clashing and grappling of cultures and narratives in all of its messiness and uncomfortableness. In this sense the lack of resolution and completeness in the characters in the novel feels right and offers us a sense of human authenticity. In this way, Young is able to produce a character like Claudia, who is able to critically reflect back on her profession and her role in Peter and Maggie’s world.  

Young’s prose feels effortless. It propels and brings into contact the complex stories of Claudia, Peter, Maggie and the Makah. Her attention to the landscape of human emotion and thought holds up a mirror to the power relationships between cultures, genders, and family. And yet I can’t help but ask myself, does Young cross the line in writing this novel, in telling these stories and the stories within the stories? I would venture to say that yes, in a sense she does cross lines, but that is the point reflected in the internalized criticism that the character Claudia carries in herself, and it is the point of Pratt’s contact zone, as it is the point of Young’s subduction zone.

Book page here: Subduction

2 comments:

zam said...

I was a HIV-AIDS patient and I got it from cheating on my wife. It was sort of a payback but a week later I was told by a friend that the person who I cheated with had the HIV-AIDS virus and did not tell me. I was so stupid by not using a condom I thought since he was an old school friend he was trustworthy. But I was wrong. I cried and cried. Two days later, I got a phone call from my friend and he told me about a person who is known by another friend, who can help me. I could not let my wife know what I was going through. I finally got his email address: oseremenspelltemple@gmail.com and I emailed this man my story and he replied me immediately saying i should be calm and told me that everything will be OK. I could not come to terms with what I was hearing but then I concluded it did not matter because I was so broken I just needed help. I was going out of my mind literally. I was confused with what he was telling me, but I listened. He told me about some materials i need to buy that he needed to cast the spell and I said OK. I bought the materials to him, I sent down my picture to him and my positive result sheet and he replied me that i am going to be negative under 3days. I message Him every 2hours for 2day and I knew he thought that I was crazy but I did care I needed a shoulder. Behold, the third day he messaged me i should go for a test that i will be negative. My marriage could be broken because of a stupid mistake and my life was on the line. I remembered when I was going to get the results of my re-test I called him up again and told him that I was going to get my results today and his reply was “so" and that everything will be as he explained. I knew then that he was getting tired of me calling him, maybe I was wrong. Well I got my results and the first person I called was him - again. As he said hello I started to cry and cry. I could not believe it. I was given a second chance in life.This man is a great spiritual HIV/AIDS healer, his healing spell on aids healing is very powerful .please brothers and sister, contact Dr Ose oseremenspelltemple@gmail.com
whatsapp +2348136482342

NoveltyDMVExperts said...


I am so delighted I found your weblog, I really found you by accident,
while I was researching on Bing for something else, Regardless I am here now and would just like to say thank you for a fantastic post and a all round entertaining blog (I also love the theme/design), HOW TO GET A FAKE DRIVERS LICENSE THAT WORKS I don't have time to go through it all at the minute but I have bookmarked it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the excellent job