Maud’s Line (Pulitzer, Worth It)

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06/18/2016 Maud’s Line by Margaret Verble

This Pulitzer Prize finalist is based in Oklahoma in 1928, where whites and Native American Indians live side-by-side but in separate worlds. Maud, daughter of a drunk, chained to the crummy land afforded them by a government that reserves good land for whites, lives a life on the periphery of the periphery of the boom that is happening in the United States at this time.

Her world is survivalist; cows have to be slaughtered and it doesn’t matter that you are a woman, you need to know when to kill an animal too injured to go on and then you need to dress it and butcher it so you can eat it. Her life seems hopeless; it is astonishing how much cultural identity has already been lost by the American Indians at this point in history, and how intermarriage (and simple inter-reproduction) has broken down an entire people as they are also subjected to the corrosive power of poverty.

Yet, Maud is also still a young woman, and interestingly, very much in charge of her own sexuality. Her freedom to have sex with whom she wants, when she wants, is a fascinating reminder that not all women have ever, in history or now, accepted repression of the body. Everything about this book hinges on the decision Maud is rocketing toward, to stay on her land or leave and go to the city. The timing of what she decides left me nearly breathless—historical context being everything. Four stars.

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