The Halfbreed Chronicles and Other Poems

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In this poignant and raw collection of poems, author Wendy Rose explores her ancestry, her identity, and the land around her. She was born Bronwen Elizabeth Edwards in Oakland, California, and is of Hopi, Miwok, and European descent.

Available in paperback only.  The Halfbreed Chronicles and Other Poems, by Wendy Rose.  1992, 71 pages.

In this poignant and raw collection of poems, author Wendy Rose explores her ancestry, her identity, and the land around her. She was born Bronwen Elizabeth Edwards in Oakland, California, and is of Hopi, Miwok, and European descent. As the daughter of a Hopi father, Rose grew up feeling estranged both from Native American and white societies. Her personal identity struggle has inspired much of her work, and in this book, she considers “halfbreeds” all over the world.

In a poem called “Julia,” named after the 19th-cenutry Mexican circus singer and dancer Julia Pastrana, Rose seems to identify with this outcast. Pastrana had hypertrichosis and was sometimes billed “The Ugliest Woman in the World.” In the poem, Rose writes: “tell me, husband, how you love me / for my self one more time. / It scares me so / to be with child, / lioness / with cub.” She also writes about a child named Yuriko who was born severely disabled due to radiation exposure in her birthplace of Hiroshima and “Truganinny, the last of the Tasmanians.” In exploring the suffering of other women, Rose seems able to make peace with herself.

The book’s first section is entitled “Sipapu,” a Hopi place of emergence, in which Rose examines her geography: Richmond, Sacramento, Fresno, Coalinga Loo-Wit (Mt. St. Helens). It is a bleak and even bloody landscape, as if the author is personifying her pain through the mountain ranges she describes. This is evident in Rose’s poem Coalinga: “irrigation canals / have broken the bones / of foothill and valley, / have tied together / the old woman’s wrists.”

Part two is Haliksa’ii, a compilation of traditional knowledge, and a rumination on the Native and white ways of life. In the poem “Naayawva Taawi,” Hopi for “Fight Song,” Rose challenges the marginalization of her people. She writes: “See / we are strong, / we who are so small / we survive unseen; / hear / our beautiful songs / building from the hills / like thunderheads; / watch / the children we weave / from wire bales and string, / from bottles and bullets, / from steer guts and borders -- / See, Pahana, / how we nest / in your ruins.” Pahana means “Whiteman” in Hopi, and the author has made an editorial note on this poem. She explains,“’Whiteman’ refers to a way of life, a set of institutions, rather than to male human beings of European ancestry. It is my belief that all of us, including such men, are victims of the ‘whiteman.’”

Part three and four are self-evident in their titles “If I Am Too Brown or Too White for You” and “The Halfbreed Chronicles.”

Though Rose’s dark poetry considers the ashen and battle worn, her writing is also refreshingly honest with an expression of hope for the future.

Publisher: West End Press
Culture Group: Hopi