By Robert Pack, Jay Parini

Greater than 3 dozen voices supply assorted expressions of the dynamic interplay among culture and the yankee realization, and plenty of solutions to the query of the way to "construct a 'self' from the fabrics of lifestyles in our contentious and infrequently incoherent culture."

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For my fourteenth birthday, I was given a set of expensive oil paints, fine brushes, an easel, and enough canvas for Guernica. I set up shop down in the basement, and within a week had completed my first work, a gaudy web of blotted shapes, the paint squeezed on so thick it refused to dryand in the center, a white square. What this enigmatic composition represented I wasn't sure; but it was rushed off to the framers and hung in the front hall. I soon tired of painting and put away my tubes and brushes among old board games and athletic equipment in a downstairs closet.

I didn't start until I was twenty-nine. I figure most people who write start a lot younger than that. " Not infrequently, the writers in this anthology begin a troubled meditation on identity by focusing on one or more forebears, a parent or grandparents, as in "Ningyo," a poem by Lee Ann Roripaugh: She took me everywhere in my crocheted lace dresses, embroidered initials. It pleased her I could say hippopotamus so I said it in the supermarket.  See? Tako-chan, the octopus has left his ink. Similarly, Garrett Hongo in his memoir, "Kubota," writes about his Japanese-American grandparents, who were caught in their own specific racial/national identities at the wrong place and time: "On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, my grandfather barricaded himself with his familymy grandmother, my teenage mother, her two sisters and two brothersinside of his home in La'ie, a sugar plantation village on Oahu's North Shore.

Come on, Mom. " She dipped down to straighten my knife and spoon. " My elbows! I was quoting T. S. Eliotand in a foreign language, yet! "Just guess, Mom. It has to be modern, right? I'll give you a hint," I nagged. "It's twentieth-century. " "I told you, dear," she said, a hint of impatience in her voice. " My father knew. He gave me a sly smile. "It's Eliot, Mom," I announced. " " 'I grow old, I grow old,' " my father said in a sonorous voice. ' " I was puzzled. " "It's from Prufrock. ' " In his late forties then, my father adored this poem of old age; it evoked a time in life that I think he looked forward to, a time when he could walk along the beach himself and not have to think about getting old because he would be old.

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