By Karen L. Kilcup
The Memoirs show a desirable and complicated 19th-century woman—an artist, song instructor, storyteller, accomplice slave proprietor, Washington socialite, spouse of a white railroad government, widow, and mom of the 1st local American U.S. Senator, Robert L. Owen, Jr. Her writings interpret the historical past of the tribe and describe the cultural upheaval of the Cherokees relocating west. They additionally provide a glimpse into antebellum, Civil battle, and Reconstruction American life.
This variation offers a wealth of heritage details together with a biographical preface, chronology of Owen's existence, family tree, and textual footnotes. additionally, an introductory essay locations the Memoirs within the context of Owen's predecessors and contemporaries, together with Cherokee cultural and literary culture, the bigger Indian historical/literary context, and women's writing of the overdue nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
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Additional resources for A Cherokee Woman's America: Memoirs of Narcissa Owen, 1831-1907
33 They suggest that “American Indian women’s autobiography defies definition while simultaneously demanding it; the complexity and variety challenge the boundaries of literary categories yet call attention to it as a separate entity in the history of literary expression” (3), and they identify several characteristics of the genre that connect to its tribal foundations, including an emphasis on event rather than emotion, attention to the sacredness of language, concern with the landscape, relation of everyday events, emphasis on right relationship or right kinship, and concern for communal well-being (3–4).
It is important that we begin with this genre because of the strong strand of orality within all or virtually all of the Cherokee literary production up to and including Owen. In traditional terms, oratory refers to “speeches addressed to Euroamericans in defense of Indian life, property, and liberty”;8 such speeches, which resist Anglo dominance, often combine the virtues of political intervention on behalf of the community with the aesthetic sophistication and beauty so prized in modernist-influenced Western literary tradition (although this distinction is again Western).
Reflecting her avowed purpose to retell her life story and Cherokee history for the sake of her family members—but in its scope and tone certainly aware of potential alternative audiences, present and future—her diction resonates with informal language that she might have used among friends while it identifies clearly the exploitative economic relationship between whites and Indians. In this context, we should observe another motivation for telling her story: to counteract and correct white falsehood and misconception.