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Ruth Fielding in the Saddle: 07/18/13

cover art

Ruth Fielding in the Saddle by Alice B. Emerson is the twelfth in the Ruth Fielding series. It's one of five books I purchased years ago at Cliff's Books in Pasadena.

Ruth Fielding is one of those early to mid twentieth century book series for teenagers, written under a pseudonym. Think of it as an early example of YA. In this case, Ruth has been attending an all girls school and is now attending college.

In a previous book, Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures, she sold a silent movie script and now on spring break has a chance to sell another one. There's just one catch, she and her classmates (one of them is a budding actress) must make their way to rural Arizona. Although the area mentioned is completely fictionally, it's approximately at the western edge of the Navajo Nation.

I bring that up because it's a big part of the problem with the book. In the other Ruth Fielding book I read (and since I've only now read two, I can't if it's normal or not for the series as a whole), Ruth was a plucky, level headed, young woman who was willing and able to make friends with anyone, while helping those in need with their problems. Here, though, in the outer reaches of Arizona, there's a tone of racism and sexism that just wasn't in the Moving Pictures book.

Ruth and company need to hire a guide to take them to the shooting location. They end up meeting the man's daughter, who by her description is probably the daughter of a prospector and either a Navajo, Hopi or Zuni — though by her attire, I'd say Navajo. Rather than taking this fact in stride (as the daughter initially seems to), Ruth and company are horrified, frightened and completely put off by the circumstances of their guide's existence.

So much of the book is spent not on the mystery of the gold mine (really, a gold mine?) or on the movie shoot, but on the sad state of the guide and her "tragic" back story. Here she is living a self sufficient life and at the appearance of a few out of towner college girls, she goes completely to pieces, wishing for dresses and girlie things. Ugh.

Three stars

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