Pushing The Bear

Pushing The Bear

by Diane Glancy

View All Available Formats & Editions

In a novel that “retains the complexity, immediacy, and indirection of a poem,” Glancy brings to life the Cherokees’ 900-mile forced removal to Oklahoma in 1838 and gives us “a powerful witness to one of the most shameful episodes in american history” (Los Angeles Times).
See more details below


In a novel that “retains the complexity, immediacy, and indirection of a poem,” Glancy brings to life the Cherokees’ 900-mile forced removal to Oklahoma in 1838 and gives us “a powerful witness to one of the most shameful episodes in american history” (Los Angeles Times).

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Poet, dramatist, short-story writer and essayist Glancy (winner of an American Book Award for Claiming Breath) turns her talents to the novel, recreating in this bone-true tale the sorrow, struggle and betrayal suffered by the Cherokee along the Trail of Tears. In the winter of 1838-39, 13,000 Cherokee were forced to walk the Trail of Tears from North Carolina toward the "new territory" of present-day Oklahoma. Following the Native American belief that many voices are needed to tell a story, Glancy employs a multitude of narrators. There are the voices of Cherokee of all ages and clans, of white soldiers and preachers, and snatches from actual historical records. The central narrator, Maritole, emerges to tell her personal story of "pushing the bear," a dark heavy burden of anger, impending madness, physical distress and, above all, doubt in herself and her heritage as she perseveres in the grueling walk. Maritole's shaky relationship with her husband, and the deaths of her baby and parents, push her into a relationship with a white soldier, Sergeant Williams. Ultimately, however, he can't fathom the Cherokees' mystic, symbiotic relationships with the land and with each other. At times, the novel proceeds as slowly as the march itself, but it rewards the reader with a visceral, honest presentation of the Cherokee conception of story as the indestructible chain linking people, earth and ancestrya link that becomes, if not unmitigated salvation, then certainly a salve to the spirit. (Aug.)
Library Journal
First novelist Glancy (Claiming Breath, LJ 3/92) prefaces her stunning narrative with a stark statement of fact: "From November 1838 to March 1839 some 11,000 to 13,000 Cherokee walked 900 miles in bitter cold from the southeast to Indian Territory. One fourth died or disappeared along the way." Drawing on these statistics and other surviving documentation, the author imaginatively re-creates a nearly unimaginable experience: the forced removal of the Cherokee peoples from their homes in four Southern states. The story is told in many voices, principally those of the uprootedNative men and women, conjurers, Christians, politicians, leaders, and rebelsbut also heard are the white soldiers, settlers, evangelists, sympathizers, oppressors, and opportunists who witnessed their passage to what is now Oklahoma. The fictional testimony creates a graphic and compelling mosaic of human tragedy. Highly recommended.Starr E. Smith, Marymount Univ. Lib., Arlington, Va.
Kirkus Reviews
A powerful mosaic of voices combine, in poet and storywriter (Trigger Dance, 1990, etc.) Glancy's first novel, to create a haunting portrait of the Trail of Tears.

In 1838, some 13,000 Cherokee Indians were driven at bayonet point from their fertile lands (coveted by white settlers) in several southern states, and compelled to march almost a thousand miles to the Oklahoma Territory, "toward darkness, toward death," forced to leave everything behind. Perhaps a quarter of the tribe (principally the elderly, women, and children) died along the way. Glancy, interweaving first-person narratives by a number of figures, most of them Cherokees, captures the horror of the forced march, much of it made during winter, and the mingled bafflement, anger, despair, and resignation of the Cherokee (who had swiftly adopted farming and European dress, had developed their own written language, and in many cases embraced Christianity). Two voices stand out from the chorus: that of Maritole, a young woman who loses most of her family, including an infant, along the march, and who gradually discovers a stubborn determination within herself to survive; and that of her proud, distant husband Knobowtee, struggling to retain some sense of self. The Cherokee, forced to depart with only the clothes on their backs, suffered horribly in the cold. Those attempting to escape were shackled or shot by the troops guarding them. And while curious whites gathered along the route to watch the tribe pass, few offered food, or blankets, or shelter. "They called us savages," Maritole says of those who watch. "Then it was all right to drive us from our land. Then it was all right to sit along the road and watch the spectacle of our march." Those who reached Oklahoma were abandoned without shelter or supplies.

The voices that comprise the narrative are vigorous, and the period details convincing but not obtrusive. A distinctly original and haunting work of historical fiction.

Read More

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Harvest Book Series
Edition description:
Second Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.58(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >