What makes Burning Silk a Reinhabitory Novel?

In case you wondered…
What makes Burning Silk a Reinhabitory Novel?

I had been waiting for someone to ask the question. David Simpson did.

What makes Burning Silk a reinhabitory novel and further, what makes the book ideal to introduce sitio/tiempo press? The first book should set a bar.

True, Burning Silk is fiction, while most of our writings have been poetry and nonfiction. And it features a female protagonist and a strong sensory coda. And yet Burning Silk, the first in the Textile Trilogy, is a reinhabitory novel through and through.

Adaptation to the watershed

In the voice of a member of the silkmakers’ family, the book quotes Zenuemon of Japan as their guide: “Quality of silkseed and filament can only be improved by gradually adapting a strain of moth to regional climactic and geographic conditions.” The story documents a rare instance in the history of raising silk, of moving a domesticated silkmoth to a different continent, to acclimate to a different and unique home watershed. The Duladiers, a French Huguenot silkmaking family, collaborate with their native American neighbors on the Delaware watershed to find a native silkmoth to mate successfully with their domesticated one, a risky venture that could accelerate acclimatization.

Assimilation and differing ways-of-life

This not-very-subtle metaphor is echoed between the native and European families, who also have a metis child incubating in the womb by the end of thebook. And in a syndrome that has historically plagued metis communities, problems arise between the cultures. In the second book in the Textile Trilogy, Linen Shroud, conflict also arises between the Iroquois warrior societies and Quaker pacifists regarding participation in the American Civil War. And there’s a third element: the women of the silk worship a female deity, The Black Madonna, who–cruel when necessary–abhors war.

All of these conflicts are strongly reinhabitory, as we witness the differences in ways-of-life tear apart this family who has intermarried…and witness the victory of the industrial revolution over the traditional guild way of life

The third novel, Oil and Water, set on the early oil fields in NY/PA, dramatizes the triumph of the Petroleum Age over arts-and-crafts sensibilities as oil becomes the prevailing definition of modernity.

Part of the historical analysis we are calling reinhabitory involves seeing how these conflicts and struggles have formed the legacy we have inherited.

Matrilineality: agricultural societies

The proximity of matrilineal native neighbors–where everything, clan, property, land, name, comes through the maternal Archives line —lead European women directly on the path to Seneca Falls seeking similar rights and status. This buried history is
a deep reinhabitory issue which has received no attention anywhere that I can find, a task to which reinabitory fiction is well suited.

Reinhabitory fiction

My idea of reinhabitory fiction draws heavily on Milan Kundera’s notion that the role of history in the novel is to reinhabit those critical crossroads in history where we buried certain values “in that vast cemetery of forgetting,” and walked on with others. This definition is still a rough draft but it moved Jerry Martien to say he had a novel which he also felt was reinhabitory fiction. He describes it as a land use story.

“It re-tells the events of the Lincoln County War, takes it back to Billy the Kid’s origins in the myth of Pan, the old nature god, and forward to the assassination of his killer and biographer Pat Garrett in 1908. The story is documented by an El Paso reporter who’s a recovering war correspondent wounded in the Philippines, our first foreign adventurer in empire. It’s all the same war, re-enacts the same question, whether the land belongs to us or we belong to the land.”

We hope to raise $50,000 in the next six months, so that we can publish The Authentic Life in the manner it describes and move forward with other books waiting in the pipeline.

The Future

We plan to publish other creative reinhabitory works, such as plays that have been produced over the last three decades to enthusiastic audiences, and both children’s and young adult books.

We have extensive group experience in letterpress printing, access to print studio, and some extraordinary poets who would love to have limited edition printing of their work.

Art, music, architecture: it’s time to expand the range of bioregional thinking and practice. If the First Wave was defining bioregionalism, and the Second Wave was tying together the groups who grasped the concept immediately and imported it to their home watershed, may the Third Wave be marked by the imprint of sitio/tiempo press.