Dalva

Dalva

  • reading group guide
From her home on the California coast, Dalva hears the broad silence of the Nebraska prairie where she was born and longs for the son she gave up for adoption years before. Beautiful, fearless, tormented, at forty-five she has lived a life of lovers and adventures. Now, Dalva begins a journey that will take her back to the bosom of her family, to the half-Sioux lover of her youth, and to a pioneering great-grandfather whose journals recount the bloody annihilation of the Plains Indians. On the way, she discovers a story that stretches from East to West, from the Civil War to Wounded Knee and Vietnam -- and finds the balm to heal her wild and wounded soul.
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  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780671740672 | 
  • January 1991
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  1. Throughout her life, Dalva has been alternately haunted, charmed, and driven by a series of men: her half-brother Duane, a half-breed Sioux whose child she bore and gave up for adoption at sixteen; a heroic great-grandfather, who came to Nebraska as a missionary to Indians; a father who died when Dalva was very young; an uncle who comes to be her spiritual mentor; and an alcoholic, self-absorbed Stanford historian who seeks to win tenure by writing her family's history. Discuss Dalva's relationship with each of these men. How does each relationship evolve throughout the novel?
  2. With Dalva, Jim Harrison presents to readers an unflinching look at the United States' Indian policy over the last two centuries. Through John Wesley Northridge's journals, we are vividly reintroduced to our country's brutal history, and Professor Michael's sodden musings are sprinkled liberally with powerful associations between the genocide of American Indians and the Jewish Holocaust during World War II. Explain the politics and ideology from which Harrison's story emerges.
  3. Compare the voice of Dalva with the voice of Michael. How does the tone of the novel change when Harrison shifts from one narrator to the other? Discuss the novel's narrative structure.
  4. Early in the novel, Dalva says, "I'm not one to live or subsist on memory, treating it as most do, the past and future as
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