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First Horses:
Stories of the New West

Stories about “the West” are often associated with cattle drives, cowboy and Indian standoffs, bad men in black hats, and rugged pioneers. First Horses: Stories of the New West is an original collection of fourteen stories in which Robert F. Gish describes a multiethnic, contemporary West that encourages the reader to see beyond the stereotypes of the Old West. All of the stories depict the emotional and psychological costs of the prejudices and injustices of the Old West that have carried over into the twentieth-century New West.

Gish’s vivid storytelling technique utilizes compelling voices and gritty characters: the regulars at a small-town café; the local rodeo with its manly contests; the staged fiesta with its attempt to recreate traditions; a young stripper at a honky-tonk tavern; the classrooms and playgrounds of public schools with their mix of Anglo, Mexican-American, and American Indian youths; and the fields where taboos of interracial romance evaporate into the cloudless blue sky and the churning, muddy irrigation waters of the Rio Grande.

The unifying theme of these short stories is a subtle plea for harmony and mutual respect among the inhabitants and the landscape. Violence, racism, sexism, and environmental pollution prove to be the remnants of earlier insensibilities, residues in need of recognition and disavowal. Many of these stories, told in varying voices of male and female, Anglo and Hispanic, young and old, trace this recognition along the turbulent paths of initiation as one generation learns about its own special concerns in the shared heritage of others.

All fourteen stories in First Horses are set in the sometimes magical, sometimes brutal Southwest. Cutting through class and ethnicity, each story illustrates how a land and a history determine a people and are determined by them.