Drowning in Fire by Craig Womack
Review by Sarah Feldbruegge, Spring 2012
Craig Womack provides a rich literary work that challenges his readers to read between the lines while simultaneously educating them on culture and history of the Muskogee Creek Nation.
Drowning in Fire is a novel that is situated in one character’s life but allows the reader to explore the history of many of the Muskogee creek Nation. It is a coming of age story that examines homophobia, racisms, classism, and religious oppression faced by this nation. The main character, Josh Henneha, is struggling to find his voice in the community that he lives. He is uncomfortable with his same sex feelings, the racism and discrimination that he faces at school, and yearns to have a connection to his cultural roots because of the acculturation that has occurred among his people. Early in the book it is clear that Josh has an enjoyment of storytelling provided by his Aunt Lucille. Through this storytelling, Josh is able to escape his feelings, connect to his cultural roots, and combat some of the homophobia in his community. Josh acquires the gift of storytelling with age and the reader is given the opportunity to explore the past and present of the Muskogee Creek Nation. Through story, Josh is able to reconcile his feelings of isolation and alienation and to transform these feelings into self-acceptance. Immersed in flash backs, different voices, strong symbolism, and mysticism, the reader is beckoned to value the importance of storytelling in a culture that has undergone assimilation, to disentangle fantasy from reality, and ultimately, the reader is asked to read between the lines by thoroughly examining symbols as they relate to this nation.
I really enjoyed reading this novel and found the story to be very engaging. Reading the story gave me insight into some of the culture of the Muskogee Creek Nation and demonstrated how devastating assimilation can be on a group of people’s culture. Additionally, the book serves as a challenge for any reader who enjoys reading between the lines.