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August 04, 1996|CHARLES SOLOMON

ALL MY SINS ARE RELATIVES by W.S. Penn (Bison Books: $12, 257 pp., illustrated). Describing himself as a "mixblood," Penn recounts how the storytelling of his Nez Perce relatives led him to become a writer. As he recalls his efforts to accommodate his dual heritage, he damns the touchy-feely vision of Native American cultures popular with New Age devotees: "Romanticization is a way of not just burying the bodies but cementing the graveyard over, even building a shopping mall upon it, like people want to do in California." However, the chapters critiquing other Native American writers lack the warmth of his reminiscences and read like rough drafts of academic papers.

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