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A Red Woman Was Crying

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4.48  ·  Rating details ·  31 ratings  ·  13 reviews
Don Mitchell's new collection of short stories, set among tribal people on Bougainville Island in the late 1960s, demystifies ethnography by turning it on its head. The narrators are Nagovisi - South Pacific rainforest cultivators - and through their eyes the reader comes to know the young American anthropologist, himself struggling with his identity as a Vietnam-era Ameri ...more
Paperback, 308 pages
Published July 11th 2013 by Saddle Road Press
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4.48  · 
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Carol Flynn
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Don Mitchell has written a brilliantly original work of fiction. He calls "A Red Woman was Crying" “Stories from Nagovisi” -- stories told by men and women from the Bougainville village of Pomalate. The subtitle emphasizes the debt that the author owes to the people he celebrates in his lyrical prose. These stories are not “about” the Nagovisi, but come out of them and their interactions with colonizers who must still be resisted. Elliot Lyman, anthropologist, may have intended to study the Nag ...more
Lori
Read 9/3/14 - 9/11/14
3 Stars - Recommended to fans of interconnected stories / stories that take place in a foreign setting, told from a foreign perspective
Pages: 266
Publisher: Saddle Road Press
Released: 2013


An American eco-anthropologist relocates himself to the Bougainville Island in the 1960's with the intent of studying the group of native Nagovisi there. Instead, he finds himself becoming an active member of their tribe, viewed as student and fellow clan-member, and the subject of the Nagov
...more
Brandon Bachman
Oct 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Don Mitchell's "A Red Woman Was Crying" is a very different type of book for me. As a fan of mostly fantasy and scifi, I have very little experience with either anthropology or literary fiction. This book is a mix of the two, described in a blurb on the back as "ethnographic fiction". The book's format is simple: short-story length chapters about the Nagovisi are punctuated with flash-fiction length folk tales. The twist? The stories' narrators are Nagovisi themselves, describing their experienc ...more
Ruth Thompson
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful stories, fascinating, sometimes funny or horrific, often moving. The stories are all told by Nagovisi narrators (Nagovisi is on Bougainville in the Solomon Islands) and the characters return in various stories, including the American anthropologist, Elliot. But instead of the anthropologist telling us about the Nagovisi, they are telling us about him! And about themselves, and WWII (Allies vs Japanese on Bougsinville), Australian colonialism, the huge copper mine that is taking over, a ...more
Ginia Loo
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book combines some of my favorite things: unexpected characters, mind games, humor. Each story is told from a different character, most of whom are puzzling out how to get into the mind of "their white man." It's a bit like Victor/Victoria, but rather than a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman; it's a white man getting into the mind of a Nagovisi getting into the mind of a white man. The stories are layered and complex in themselves, and then they play off each other offer ...more
Lisa
Sep 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who enjoy learning about other cultures.
Recommended to Lisa by: Ruth Thompson
This book totally surprised me! At first I was unsure if I would enjoy it, but I kept reading. There was something that unsettled me about the voices of the characters I met. And then I realized that what was unsettling me was also bringing me into the world of the novel, a world so different from my own.

My favorite story of the whole collection was "My White Man," partly because it was told by the only woman narrator in the book, partly because that story revealed so much about Eliot, the White
...more
Linda
Dec 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I stumbled upon this collection of linked short stories at a bookstore in Hilo and was immediately absorbed in the Nagovisi way of life and the glimpses of human nature we share. Through the perspective of various narrators the author explores his experience as an anthropologist in the South Pacific Island of Bougainville during the Vietnam era. As such, these short stories form a fictional memoir. Don Mitchell writes with an anthropologist's eyes and ears, and a writer's heart. A Red Woman Was ...more
Sean Beaudoin
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic work of storytelling and ethnography from Don Mitchell, channeling his days in the early 70's amongst the Nagovisi people of the South Pacific. The narrative device is original and immersive. These interlinked tales form an incredibly complex and moving narrative capable of transporting us far from our everyday lives. The content ranges from gorgeous to disturbing to profound. Worth buying several copies and sharing with friends.
Sammy
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
"When you understand what the copper mine has done to you, there will be trouble".

I quite enjoyed these stories. It was just enough, not too much. Don Mitchell touches on all the key points without getting preachy or lecturing.

Sorcery, kinship, incest, head hunting, war, gardening, beetle nut.

Don's account of his friends violent internal resistance to America's war in Vietnam has a troubling micro-parallel in the war against the Panguna copper mine which developed in the years after he left Bo
...more
Bre Austin
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a different type of book than I'd typically read. I've never really known much about cultural anthropology, or been too interested in it for that matter. I was hesitant to pick up this book, because I wasn't sure if I'd like it. That being said, I'm so glad I did! It took me a while to get into it, so definitely keep reading. It has opened my eyes in so many ways about how important and necessary it is to understand other cultures and how they live. The book is about the Nagovisi descri ...more
Ruth
Aug 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Beautifully written, fascinating, sometimes funny or horrific, often moving. The stories are all told by Nagovisi narrators (Nagovisi is on Bougainville in the Solomon Islands) and the characters return in various stories, including the American anthropologist, Elliot. But instead of the anthropologist telling us about the Nagovisi, they are telling us about him! And about themselves, and WWII (Allies vs Japanese on Bougsinville), Australian colonialism, the huge copper mine that is taking over, ...more
Ronlyn
Feb 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
At the start of A RED WOMAN WAS CRYING, Don Mitchell mentions that in the early 1970s he lived among the Nagovisi people and what’s contained in the book is fiction. Good storytelling entertains. Great storytelling makes things real, and that’s what he does in the collection.

From the different narrators, a reader learns about the the Nagovisi’s culture—learning as one goes along, possibly much in the same way the anthropologist, Elliott, did as well. “I Don’t Kill People Anymore” is a well-paced
...more
S Mcgirr
Aug 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Speaking in several voices, Don Mitchell reveals another culture (as well as our own) with grace, thoughtfulness and wit. This gem of a collection is thought provoking, intelligent, and utterly accessible. His characters are insightful, complex and utterly real and quite identifiable. It's a joy to discover them and spend time with them through both their joy and pain. A Red Woman Was Crying is a true treasure on the shelf.
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I'm an ecological anthropologist, writer, and photographer who lived among the Nagovisi people of Bougainville for several years in the 1960s and 1970s, and returned in 2001 after Bougainville’s war of secession.

I grew up in Hilo, on the island of Hawai’i, and graduated from Hilo High. I studied anthropology and creative writing at Stanford and earned a PhD in anthropology from Harvard.

For many ye
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