The Paris Review: Staff Picks Subduction

Kristen Millares Young’s debut novel Subduction takes as its subject a subtle clash of culture in the Pacific Northwest. The novel’s protagonist, Claudia, is an anthropologist fleeing the remains of her marriage by reengaging with her most recent research project, the songs and traditional culture of the Makah people in Neah Bay, Washington. Claudia, a Latina, is mostly blind to her own privilege within the context of the reservation and balks when she is referred to by the Makah people as “white.” Even while she blurs the boundaries between the personal and professional, the Native peoples of this novel are Claudia’s subjects, and Young is a skilled enough writer to explore the various problems inherent in that point of view. The title of the book refers to the geological phenomenon of one tectonic plate sinking under the influence of another, during which both subsumed and overriding plates are wracked by distortion and disruption. In Young’s novel, the answer to which is which is left beautifully unclear. —Christian Kiefer