Daughters of Ishi-shinif

The Daughters of Ishi-shinif; Ancient Tales of the Americas by Barb Stevens-Newcomb. (audio-cassette, or CD). Eugene, OR: Black Cricket Press, 1996. ISBN 0965766721 (CD) $15; ISBN 0965766748 (cassette) Some available on Amazon used. 63 mins.

An intriguing selection of lesser known stories from the Americas. Included are stories from Zapotec (Mexico), Allancu (Peru), Yamana (Argentina), Ojibwa (Wisconsin) and Maklak (Oregon) cultures. With the exception of The Woman Who Outshone the Sun, which is available in picture book form from Children's Book Press, the stories are the teller's own adaptations. The title story was written by Stevens-Newcomb and is a re-creation of a Peruvian tale. The liner notes say that she gently removed story layers from the Inca culture and from Catholic missionaries to celebrate the Allancu people from which the story originally sprung. I found it surprising that the story contained the familiar tale type in which there is escape by use of a substituted object. In this case, alpaca fur, a comb and a lump of gold. I guess I associated that more with European tales. It worked well within the story, though.

All of the stories deal with transformation of some sort, and the teller uses a hushed, restrained voice in communicating them. Barb lived in Argentina and in Mexico, and uses a mix of Spanish and English in some of the stories.

There is a magical quality to this recording. Part is due to the ancient feel of the myths and legends, part to the quiet, very intimate telling of the tales, and no small part to the best use of music in a recording that I've heard in a long time. There is a fine line between music which supports the stories and the recording as a whole, and that which is intrusive. Daughters... uses well-chosen music (flute, cello, guitar, drums), and some sounds of nature, and places them judiciously so that they enhance the storytelling.

The artwork for both the CD and cassette was done by Stevens-Newcomb, herself, and it is very effective. The liner notes for the CD are much more complete than those for the cassette. Both give the usual permissions and credit the musicians, but the CD notes on the stories are far more complete and there is a photo and bio of the teller. Daughters of Ishi-shini is a winner of a 1997 Notable Recording Award from the American Library Association.

The Second Story Review, Vol 3, No. 1, March 1998

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