Editor’s note: This review was submitted by a library patron during the 2012 Adult Summer Reading program. We will periodically share the best of these reviews throughout the year. Many thanks to all of those who participated!
In “Trip of the Tongue: Cross Country Travels in Search of America’s Languages,” Elizabeth Little explores several minority languages and their speaker communities across the United States: a few Native American languages (e.g., Crow and Navajo), a few European languages (e.g., Basque, Norwegian and Spanish), and a few creole languages unique to this hemisphere (e.g., Haitian, Gullah and French Creole). The book reads like a series of magazine articles. Each one is interesting. But the fact that there’s no unifying idea tying them together into a single arc eventually gets wearing.
She runs out of gas right about the time she turns to the language community of her own ancestors: the Norwegians of North Dakota. Or maybe it just felt wearing because this was the only chapter in which she treated the minority language group with derision rather than respect. She trots out all the tired clichés that are already familiar to anybody who’s lived in the upper Midwest (or anybody who’s listened to Garrison Keillor). Maybe this chapter feels fresh to her friends in New York and Los Angeles (where she lived and lives), but not to me. Taken in small doses, though, on a chapter-by-chapter basis, her examination of the history and current state of the languages she covers is interesting.
Three words or phrases that describe this book: interesting, quirky, travel writing
You might want to pick this book up if: You have an interest in languages and cultures.
- Elizabeth K.