February 4, 2018
This part of the Prairie Fire book review featuring books by four women writers who wrote books on being women and writers is about my book entitled Dreams and Tricksters:
Volume VII, No. 3
New Directions: four books by Manitoba Women
by Margaret Clarke
…continued from last post:
A different kind of translation is being made by Tanya Lester in Dreams and Tricksters. Self-growth is connected to the experience of oneself through the life and personality of an “other”, one that would seem remarkably different from oneself. In this series of interconnected stories, a Metis single mother, Betsy, and a white writer, Tyeanne, with no children are thrown together in the same slum apartment building. Through their interdependence they discover other parts of themselves.
The stories are unapologetically feminist in tone and theme, but often humourously so, as in the tale “Josephine and the Pomegranate”. Here Lester goes a few steps beyond Aristophane’s Lysistrata which portrayed women conducting a sex strike to stop war. Lester portrays, by means of her fable, women holding out for a truly egalitarian society. In fact, men are excluded until they prove themselves in three tests, demonstrating their ability in cooking, sewing and child care! My evocation of the great Greek comic playwright in this context may seem hyperbolic but it is deliberate. Without making any aesthetic judgements on either the ancient writer or this comtemporary writer, both Lysistrata and Dreams and Tricksters share a common tone, a strange mixture of farce and gravity, of politics and poetry.
At one moment the predicaments of Tyeanne and Betsh seem impossibly grave: Betsy, in constrant fear of eviction, wrestles with the problems her kids create in their deprived environment, while Tyeanne doubts her ability to live up to her own high principles. “Most of my life I’ve had to fight to keep my babies,” Betsy confides. “Has anyone failed at being a feminist before?” is the thought Tyeanne cannot confide. But at the same moment, Betsy’s gritty street language and Tyeanne’s delight in going along with Betsy’s confrontation of authority figures — even to finding new twists to the old game of civil disobedience — gives us a series of enjoyable farcical plot developments. The two women’s antics reach their limits when they lead their fellow tenants in a peaceful invasion of their slum landlord’s offices, and end up being served sandwiches, playing pool and getting a drive home in his Cadillac.
Humour is not the only bond between reader and writer in the reader’s acceptance of the weighty thematic material. Lester’s ability to make her point in a variety of forms enriches the book. Lester’s ability to make her point in a variety of forms enriches the book. The collection of “stories for social change” also contains letters, plays, a fairy tale and a poem, and Lester often varies the viewpoint between third and first person. One hilarious piece presents itself as an answer on an adult education exam in grade ten English, painfully penned by the undereducated Bill Hapey, Betsy and Tyeanne’s building superintendent. His personal essay on the two women who are often the bane of his existence, offers the observation that Betsy and Tyeanne “act crased a lot” but “mak a man think”. His written work may not get him a pass in English composition, but certainly gets A in observation.
In some ways Bill’s lack of language skills is symbolic of her creator’s problems in this book. Lester has no lack of English expression, in fact she has a real ability, in dialogue particularly. But the book does miss the kind of artful finish that a good editor can help a writer to accomplish. Dreams and Tricksters is self-published and there are times its shows. The writer moves too awkwardly between the events of women’s lives, often ignoring motivation. We yearn to know more about Tyeanne’s suicidal urges or Betsy’s softer maternal side so often hidden behind the front she must present to the world. In fact, the psychology of the feminist, be she theorist like Tyeanne, or activist like Betsy, is largely ignored. We need to see more of these women’s inner lives. Most of all, it seems to me, the book wants to be more about the relationship between the two women. This would not have taken the sting out of its political message; it would have broadened it……review to be continued…..
Tanya Lester now has works for over two decades as a psychic who specializes in tea leaf reading, tarot and psychic channeling. She is also a Reiki master and a fulltime housesitter. For more about her services go to her web: teareading.wordpress.com and/or her pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google.
Tanya’s books are: Dreams and Tricksters, Women Rights/Writes, Friends I Never Knew, and Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader. The last two can be purchased from the author or from amazon.ca All of the books are available in some library systems.
To read more posts in this eclectic blog of writings by and about Tanya Lester, go to writingsmall.wordpress.com and tealeaf56.wordpress.com