The Woman in the Woods and Other North American Stories

Iron Circus. Apr. 2022. 120p. ed. by ashwin Kate, Kel McDonald & Alina Pete, eds. pap. $15. ISBN 9781945820977.
Gr 5-7–In eight graphic stories or story fragments 11 writers and artists identifying as various combinations of cis, trans, or nonbinary with tribal affiliations ranging from Taíno and Cree to Métis, Chickasaw, Odawa, and Navajo highlight folkloric figures and universal values. In the titular tale, set in south Florida by Mercedes Acosta (Taíno), young Luisa and a mysterious forest neighbor with elaborate skin markings share food and music. In other stories, one child befriends a wolflike “Rougarou” who turns out to be scary but not hostile, another promises a shape-changing lynx spirit not to harm the waters it guards (“No, that’s the job of the pale faces.”), and a third, wearing a “Trans Pride” T-shirt, climbs into a storyteller’s lap to hear how the Creator, feminine and masculine (“Not in parts, but both at the same time.”) came to decide that life, “beautiful and messy and complicated,” should exist. Cree illustrator Alina Pete incorporates Northwest Coastal images and motifs into Jeffrey Veregge’s (Port Gamble S’Klallam) pourquoi tale of how bioluminescence came to the sea due to the Moon’s love for Octopus Woman, but in general the monochrome art is done in individual rather than traditional styles, with clothing and other details a mix of modern casual and culturally specific. The entries vary widely in narrative and visual finish, and there are no source notes for those that aren’t original. Still, each contributor gets an introductory paragraph at the end.
VERDICT Of interest more for the contributors than the content but a unique showcase for some new and up-and-coming Native American talents.

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