The Book of Bearings puts the puzzle pieces of the New World together without a picture on the puzzle box. The characters struggle to situate themselves between what they were and what they are supposed to become. The poems include voices from the mid-nineteenth-century Cherokee Female Seminary in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and the mid-twentieth-century Eskimo experience in Alaska, as well as personal narratives. This book addresses the Native American process of assimilation from first contact through education in the civilized world. It is a view of that world from the eyes of those who were seen as the conquered.
The Book of Bearings seeks its bearing in a shifting world. Often it focuses on the effects of Christianity. The characters use the new language to frame their various experiences. They use language as a tool for understanding what cannot fully be understood, which, for the believer, is the transformation in Christ when he left the world charged with his light.