Yes Is Better Than No

By Byrd Baylor

Place: Publisher & Year: Tucson, AZ: Silvercloud Books, c 1972, 2011

Genre: General fiction

ISBN: 9780984674404

Audience: Adult

Number of pages: 187

Setting: Tucson, AZ

Time period: Early 1970’s

Plot summary: Maria Vasquez is trying to eke out a life for herself and her children in Tucson.  It is difficult because the ways of Anglos are vastly different from those of Papagos.  Friends and neighbors can often be relied upon and one can always ask St. Jude for help – but this should only be done as a last resort.

Illustrations: A few ink drawings of characters and scenes are included at various points in the story.

Appeal factors:

Pacing: Moderate, steady pace.  The main characters’ refusals to be rushed carry over into the body of the story.

Characterization: The story is told in third person through a variety of perspectives.  The main perspective is Maria’s.  Others include Mrs. Domingo, The Ramada Builder, Lupe Serra, Gabriel Soto, & Jose Vasquez.

Frame: The title sets the frame from an idea introduced early in the story.  “If a yes or no answer is required, they try to say yes.  In most of their dealings with white people Indians find that it is easier and more polite to say yes than no.  This saves arguing and has, of course, nothing at all to do with one’s actions.  It simply puts off any ill feeling, makes the moment happier” (p. 8).

Story line: A quiet, humorous, and powerful story about culture clashes told from Tohono O’odham perspectives.

Subject headings:

From Pima County Public Library:

Tohono O’Odham Indians — Fiction.

Indians of North America — Fiction.

Cele Peterson Arizona Collection

Indians of North America — Arizona — Fiction

Tucson (Ariz.) — Fiction

Tohono O’Odham Indians — Arizona — Fiction

(Sort of) similar works:

The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols

Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie

Personal notes:

It took me a really long time to post about this book from the time I finished it.  Lots of life stuff has been slowing me down – in particular losing my good dog friend, Merlin.

I really enjoyed the subtle humor in this book.  All of the scenes involving the pool were excellent.  I also enjoyed how much of a period piece it is – from the term Papago to the Chicago Indians and “Red Power”.

Other: Diversity – Native Americans: Tohono O’odham & Chicago Indians, Anglos

Information about Byrd Baylor from San Diego County Library, Cinco Puntos Press, & Children’s Literature Network


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