|December's Child: A Book of Chumash Oral Narratives
Thomas C. Blackburn, Editor
To me, the greatest value of this book is that it contains stories that germinated on California soil. In
California we have the pleasure of exposure to narrative elements and personalities known to the
peoples of distant lands, who are familiar to us today in a variety of contexts by way of the European
diaspora: Morpheus, Nike, Olympus, Hercules, Calypso, the Sirens, Mercury, Nemesis, Pan, and hemlock
to name a few. The narrative elements and personalities of tales from before the Spanish arrival ought to
be familiar as well, since they are, in fact, from this country: Momoy, Kaqunup’mawa, the Elyewun,
Iwihinmu, Cholchol, Shimilaqsha, the nunashish, the ksen, Slo’w, Qaq, Humqaq, Shnilemun, and ayip,
among many others, and works such as December’s Child help to address this problem.
December’s Child contains a collection of tales from what are currently Santa Barbara and Ventura
counties. As all such collections do, they reflect views and ideas that shed light on the perspectives of
those who produced and told them, and have the power to influence our own perspectives and ideas
about life going forward today.
Some of the stories are quite short. Others are long and complicated, require careful consideration, and
are hard to read through in an ordinary sitting.
Blackburn provides background and photos of those who provided the source material, including John
Harrington, Fernando Librado, María Solares, and others. He also discusses Chumashan family life,
gender roles, political life, and cultures and languages generally, with reference to the particular stories
he includes in this collection. He discusses Chumashan cosmology, and to some degree Pomo
cosmology as well, since the two correspond in important ways and have certain details in common.
Blackburn also includes interesting tables of items of material culture and social roles culled from the
stories themselves, which give a better idea of the culture of the people who originated the stories.
Blackburn also provides his thoughts about the underlying meaning of the stories, which I found very
interesting and helpful as a reader.
- Glenn Anaiscourt
I'd love to hear your thoughts.
|by Glenn Anaiscourt