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Narrating North American Borderlands

Thomas King, Howard F. Mosher and Jim Lynch


Evelyn P. Mayer

The study centers on the presentation of the North American borderlands in the works of Canadian Native writer Thomas King’s Truth & Bright Water (1999), American writer Howard Frank Mosher’s On Kingdom Mountain (2007), and American writer Jim Lynch’s Border Songs (2009). The three authors describe the peoples and places in the northeastern, middle and northwestern border regions of the USA and Canada. The novels address important border-oriented aspects such as indigeneity, the borderlands as historic territory and as utopian space, border crossing and transcendence, post-9/11 security issues, social interaction along the border, and gender specifics. The interpretation also examines the meaning of border imaginaries, border conceptualizations, and the theme of resistance and subversion.
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5 Jim Lynch’s Border Songs (2009): Power, Permeability, and Mobility


British Columbia-Washington State Borderlands. (Focus and emphasis added). Border Songs critically explores the struggle for power at and control of the United States border with Canada by featuring a most unusual Border Patrol agent. Protagonist Brandon Vanderkool’s striking physique, “six-eight” and “232 pounds of meat and bone stacked vertically beneath a lopsided smile” (4) sig- nals that he literally embodies U.S. author Jim Lynch’s humorous and subver- sive approach to power relations and recent changes along the Line. Brandon personifies the complexity and paradox of the forty-ninth parallel as being invis- ible and simultaneously enforcing control: “The physical and social awkward- ness of Vanderkool is an apt metaphor for the arbitrary and uneven application of American power: usually well-intentioned, often hapless, and always conse- quential” (Barta). The dyslexic agent recognizes things other people do not see, 158 epitomized in his obsessive love for and extraordinary skill at birding. While birding on the job, the rookie agent Brandon makes numerous busts of “buds and bodies” (63) alike and thus quickly turns into a “shit magnet” (65) in the eyes of the other less successful and unmotivated senior agents, also known as “roadies,” “Retired On Active Duty (25). Lynch highlights and critiques the cur- rent transformations in the Canada-U.S. borderlands regarding power, ensuing im/permeability, and im/mobility. His novel corresponds to “[b]y turns a post 9–11 elegy […] and a lampooning of the popular will and political pressures that have made it otherwise” (Barta). Lynch fictionalizes the “rebordering” (Rodney 384) and the...

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