Discussion Guide

Suggestions for Teaching and Discussion of the “Poetics and Politics” Reading and Works

by Frances Washburn

  • Many Native American authors have found it useful to adapt their work from the oral tradition into book form.  What do you feel the pros and cons are of this act?
  • How does Frances Washburn challenge ideas, notions, and assumptions about Native stereotypes?
  • The issue of identity is a main theme that runs through Elsie’s Business.  How does the character of Elsie epitomize this conflict of identity?
  • Washburn’s characters sometimes speak in Lakota and the author does not directly translate these words into English for her readers.  Also, the Wiping the Tears ceremony is only thinly translated for a western audience.  Why do you think Washburn did not translate these words/events in explicit fashion?
  • In the beginning of Elsie’s Business, Washburn relates the story of the Double-Faced Woman.  How is this idea carried throughout the novel?  Think of all the ways that different characters in the story operated with a double-face.