One of the benefits of being a Western Storyteller…a songwriter and author…is that I get to hang out and become friends with other writers. I get to learn from them and sometimes, I get to collaborate with them. One of my good friends is the wonderful writer, Deanna Dickinson McCall. She writes poetry, prose and more recently has begun co-writing songs with me as well as several others of my songwriting friends.
One of the most important contributions women like Deanna and her contemporaries are making to Western storytelling is that they’re changing the narrative of how women have typically been portrayed. Western novels and the B movies of the 20th century tended to portray females as victims, “damsels in distress” who needed to be rescued by brave cowboys. Apparently, the writers of those tomes never met my friends. Western women, ranch women, are a strong breed. They can be tender or tough, depending on what the situation calls for. They rarely need “rescuing” and in fact, are often themselves the rescuers. By their example, they encourage us to re-think stereotypical male/female roles.
Deanna Dickinson McCall’s latest novel, The Okies’ Daughters, from White Bird Publications, traces the lives of five girls born in California to “Okie” transplants who migrated to the West Coast during and after the Dust Bowl. She depicts their lives from childhood to adulthood in a most authentic and engaging manner, describing the impact on their lives of all their triumphs and heartbreaks. My reactions to the book (and that of a number of my male friends who read it) were things like, “I didn’t know that,” “It never occurred to me that you felt that way” as well as, “I can relate to that” and “That’s what I think too.” In short, she engenders empathy and understanding where it might not have previously existed.
Once upon a time, Western literature was a male-dominated genre. This is much less the case today in the 21st century and we are better off as a result. Check out Deanna Dickinson McCall’s poetry and prose books and her Wrangler Award-winning Poetry CD at here website below. She’s got a mighty fine cookbook for sale too.
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Nice article Jim! And you are so right about Deanna! I have not read anything that she wrote that I don’t like! She just tells it like it is!
Nice blog post, Jim. As the current President of Women Writing the West, I represent approximately 340 authors, mainly women, who write about women and girls and their contributions to the American West. And while I’ve not read any of Deanna’s work, I’m an Okie transplant myself and am interested in reading The Okies’ Daughters now. Thanks for telling us about the book.