This book offers an introduction to the works of a Cajun writer who finds optimism in his blue-collar tales. Margaret Donovan Bauer presents the first book-length study of the Louisiana storyteller, who injects a seldom heard Cajun voice into Southern literature and offers a rare optimistic vision among other contemporary writers of the hardscrabble American South. Bauer surveys Tim Gautreaux's three novels - The Next Step in the Dance , The Clearing, and The Missing - and two collections of short fiction - Same Place, Same Things and Welding with Children - to identify his major themes, character types, and structures. She views his chief contribution to Southern letters to be an authentic insider's view of Cajun culture, one resulting in a skillful, realistic, and sympathetic vision of historical and contemporary Acadiana in flux. Bauer addresses how Gautreaux's hopeful vision distinguishes him from other contemporary writers of the blue-collar South. She views Gautreaux's poor white protagonists as action-oriented characters who, while trapped by circumstances, still strive to affect positive change in their lives.