The Insufficiency of Maps

The Insufficiency of Maps

by Nora Pierce
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The Insufficiency of Maps by Nora Pierce

In this powerful debut novel by award-winning Nora Pierce, a young girl must discover the meaning of self and family as she struggles to find her place between two contrasting realities.

On the reservation, Alice lives in a run-down trailer. Both her parents are alcoholics. She seldom has enough food and she rarely attends school, but she is free to follow her imagination. She is connected to the life and ancestry of her people and the deep love she receives from her family and community.

When her mother succumbs to schizophrenia, Alice is removed from her home and placed with a white foster family in the suburbs. This new world is neat and tidy and wholesome, but it is also alien, and Alice is unmoored from everything she has ever known and everything that has defined her.

As she traces Alice's journey between two cultures, Pierce asks probing questions about identity and difference, and she articulates vital truths about the contemporary Native American experience. Utterly authentic and lyrically compelling, this novel establishes Pierce as an important voice in American literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743292085
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication date: 04/01/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Nora Pierce teaches creative writing at Stanford University, where she was also a Wallace Stegner fellow. An award-winning writer, she was a Rosenthal Fellow in the PEN Center Emerging Voices program. She lives with her husband and child in California.

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Insufficiency of Maps 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Narrated in first person, this is the story of a 5 or 6 year old Native American girl who is living with her mentally unstable mother as they bounce around between relatives and friends. Because of her mother's state of mind, it seems that whenever the child begins to put down roots and feel somewhat comfortable, her mother picks up again and flees with her to somewhere new. Eventually, the child is taken into state custody and is placed in a foster home with a white middle class family. While they are well-meaning and do their best to provide her with a sense of stability, they also decide that she needs to keep some exposure to her Native American roots, which in this particular case, might not have been the best choice. (I kept asking myself why the foster parents didn't treat both girls the same and enroll their foster child in the same activities as their natural child.) The story follows the girl's life into her teen years, where her conflicted feelings and sense of not really belonging anywhere begin to impact her behaviors. At least half of the story is supposedly narrated when the child is five, but the language used, though spare, suggests someone much older. However, I felt the story did a good job overall of showing the difficulties for children trying to assimilate into a different culture, and the difficulties well-meaning adults have in trying to do what's best for them. I think the story's ending was written with an intention to be hopeful, with the girl reaching some closure with regard to her mother who she learns has died. However, I couldn't help but feel she would remain a lost and troubled child.