Sisters of Grass and The Fictional World of Archives

Original Novel Title: Sisters of Grass
Author: Theresa Kishkan
Publisher: Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions, May 2000 (paperback, ISBN 0864922884)

A British Columbia poet and resident of the Sunshine Coast, this summary of Kishkan's first novel was submitted by Ruth Muldrew (Goose Lane Editions).

Anna is preparing an exhibit of textiles reflecting life in central British Columbia a century ago. In a forgotten corner of a museum, she discovers a dusty cardboard box containing the century old personal effects of a Nicola valley woman. Fascinated by the artifacts, she reconstructs the story of their owner, Margaret Stuart.

Margaret is the daughter of a Native mother and a Scottish-American father. As she comes of age, she examines her place her community and culture by examining the nature of her own family. Her love of the land, with its plants, animals, and evidence of ancient ancestors, root her in her Nicola Valley home. A trip to see a concert by the famous opera singer Madame Albani and an encounter with famous train robber Bill Miner pique her interest in the outside world.

Margaret is torn even as she embraces the culture of both sides of her family. Her grandmother teaches her the womanly traditions of her people. A master basket weaver, she passes on the gentle power to shape and shield. Pulling in the opposite direction, Margaret’s American aunt and grandmother send lovely gifts from America; when they visit, they bring urban fashion and manners. A visiting Columbia University anthropology student draws Margaret into a third world. Skilled in the new art of photography, he teaches her to take and develop photos and encourages her to study in New York. As Margaret and her family help him gather the information he needs for his research, he and Margaret fall in love.

As Anna pieces together Margaret’s story, their lives entwine into a single whole. The textiles she gathers in preparation for her exhibition immerse her in the domestic ways of Margaret’s lifetime, and the horses and the fields of the Nicola Valley tie the women together with an intense physicality.

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CONTENTS: The Fictional World of Archives

Submitted by Ruth Muldrew (Goose Lane Editions), 2000.10.26. Updated 2000.11.04.