A Readers Guide to the Novels of Louise Erdrich (2006)

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Hogan beautifully describes the land as Angela discovers herself and her heritage The award-winning Chickasaw poet, essayist, and novelist chronicles the story of five generations of Native American women and their struggle to preserve their way of life. Boston, Little, Brown and Company, Wikipedia entry. Main Library PR Contained in the volume are short stories, poems, selections from novels and an excerpt from a play.

Some pieces--such as Peter Blue Cloud's and editor King's funny and ironic Coyote tales and Harry Robinson's lengthy poem about an Indian who becomes a circus hit in England-- are clearly designed to be read aloud, reflecting their continuity with oral tradition. Others, like Bruce King's eerie and ominous story of the Hookto, an evil entity that sucks the life out of its victims, seem more in the tradition of Stephen King than what most readers would think of as Native fiction.

Not all the pieces are set in Canada--locations range as far as Oklahoma and the Southwest, and city dwellers as well as reserve Natives are depicted. The unsentimental, uncompromisingly authentic work thus reflects the increasingly pan-tribal nature of much Native art and discourse.

Free of sentimentality and un compromisingly authentic, this volume will help give readers a picture of the diversity of Canada's one million Native people. Boston : Houghton Mifflin, The plot revolves around the escape from a mental hospital of four very old Indians called Ishmael, Hawkeye, Robinson Crusoe and the Lone Ranger. These, however, are no ordinary natives. They may be the last survivors of the Indians interned at Fort Marion in Florida in the 19th century. Or perhaps they are the first human beings, as described in tribal creation myths.

Their repeated breakouts to date--have coincided with disasters: the stock market crash, the eruption of Mt. Helens, etc. Their mission this time brings them into the lives of an eccentric Canadian Blackfoot family: Lionel Red Dog, who sells TV sets and has no ambition; his sister Latisha, who owns a restaurant that bilks thrill-seeking tourists by purporting to serve them dog meat; Uncle Eli Stands Alone, a former university professor who is determined to prevent the operation of a dam on Indian land; and Charlie Looking Bear, a smarmy lawyer who works for the company opposing Eli's cause.

Wavering emotionally between Lionel and Charlie is Alberta Frank, who dates both of them and wants a baby but knows that neither man is husband material. King, a professor of Native American studies at the University of Minnesota, skillfully interweaves Native American and EuroAmerican literatures, exploring the truths of each. He mixes satire, myth and magic into a complex story line that moves smartly from Canada to Wounded Knee to Hollywood, and to a place beyond time where God and the native trickster, Coyote, converse. With this clever, vastly entertaining novel, he establishes himself firmly as one of the first rank of contemporary Native American writers--and as a gifted storyteller of universal relevance.

Markham, Ont. Narrated by the town's only Native American photographer, the loosely woven episodes revolve around Harlen Bigbear, whose specialty is providing "general maintenance" to his friends and acquaintances. There is humor and warmth, whether Harlen is persuading Will--who is over to play on the all-Native basketball team or to court Louise Heavyhands, or whether he is arranging the lives of his neighbors and friends. Interwoven into the story are the narrator's bittersweet experiences of growing up with his brother, James; enduring the eccentricities of his Native American mother; and wondering about the white father he doesn't remember.

HarperPerennial, Adolescents who don't like to read will get caught up in these stories. Toronto : HarperCollins, c Tecumseh is a year-old who regularly crosses between the two with his dog, Soldier, and his cousin and almost constant companion, Lum. The novel is written in the first person, and the action takes place during a few short weeks in the summer.

Vagabond aunt Cassie has arrived for one of her brief visits, and "famous Indian artist" Monroe Swimmer has also returned home. One evening, the cousins watch as a woman conducts a strange ritual at "the Horns" twin stone pillars on the American side. She dances, sings, and throws something into the river and then jumps in after it. Later, Soldier retrieves a child-size human skull from the river, but there is no sign of the woman. Her story is just one of the mysteries Tecumseh hopes to solve this summer.

His quest to discover family secrets and find his place in the tribal society will take him through immense changes before "Indian Days" draw to an end. Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, And they are dangerous. From creation stories to personal experiences, historical anecdotes to social injustices, racist propaganda to works of contemporary Native literature, King probes Native culture's deep ties to storytelling.

With wry humor, King deftly weaves events from his own life as a child in California, an academic in Canada, and a Native North American with a wide-ranging discussion of stories told by and about Indians. So many stories have been told about Indians, King comments, that "there is no reason for the Indian to be real.

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The Indian simply has to exist in our imaginations. Scott Momaday, Leslie Marmon Silko, Louis Owens, Robert Alexie, and others - who provide alternative narratives of the Native experience that question, create a present, and imagine a future. King reminds the reader, Native and non-Native, that storytelling carries with it social and moral responsibilties. You've heard it now. Stillwater, MN, U.

LaDuke's characters are as vital and fully realized as any in a Louise Erdrich novel, but instead of dwelling on the quiet desperation of their lives, as Erdrich so often does, LaDuke finds ways for them to surmount their circumstances and offer support for one another. Following the lives of a series of women named Last Standing Woman, LaDuke's chronicle moves to the beat of the drums that symbolize Native culture and its survival despite the odds. Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press, [] c The story that unfolds captures the intense and varied conflict that already characterized reservation life in , when this remarkable novel was first published Educated at a federal Indian boarding school, Archilde is torn not only between white and Indian cultures but also between love for his Spanish father and his Indian mother, who in her old age is rejecting white culture and religion to return to the ways of her people.

Archilde's young contemporaries, meanwhile, are succumbing to the destructive influence of reservation life, growing increasingly uprooted, dissolute, and hopeless. Although Archilde plans to leave the reservation after a brief visit, his entanglements delay his departure until he faces destruction by the white man's law. Scott Momaday. New York : Perennial Classics, New York : St. Martin's Press, Momadays blend of biblical and Native American spirituality and language seems almost old-fashioned in light of the more separatist studies that have dominated since he first arrived on the scene back in the 60s.

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In fact, his traditional verse forms and expressive clarity will remind us of his tutelage under Yvor Winters, and Janet Lewis to whom this volume is dedicated. The longish, eight-part dialogue between Yahweh or Great Mystery and Urset the primal Bear covers issues of essence and nature, dreaming and storytelling, time and evolution. Momaday reshapes Christian and Kiowa myth into a witty and plain-spoken cosmic exchange, and provides a perfect gloss to the seemingly simple poems that follow.

Momadays clean and sharp measures enhance a number of well-made poems that date mostly from recent times, but include a stunning portrait of a bear first written in The Blind Astrologers captures the dual essence of Bear as mythic and mundane; To An Aged Bear encourages a bear to prepare for his spirit journey after death; The Print of the Paw understands the bears mark as a wondrous thing, the imprint suggesting a grand whole; and a few rhymed couplets and quatrains perfectly describe the bears grandeur in life and art.

The bold brushstrokes of Momadays paintings echo the power and precision of his poetry and prose. The Way to Rainy Mountain [by] N. Illustrated by Al Momaday. It is a land of bitter cold, searing heat, summer drought, and "great green and yellow grasshoppers. The Way to Rainy Mountain is about the journey-in myth, in drawings by Momaday's father Al, in reminiscences, and in historical snippets. All reveal aspects of Kiowa culture, life, philosophy, outlook, spirituality, and sense of self-the beauty and the desolation, how the introduction of the horse revolutionized Kiowa life, the story of Tai-me, and the richness of the word and the past.

It is a literal journey as well; Momaday, in Yellowstone, writes, "The Kiowas reckoned their stature by the distance they could see, and they were bent and blind in the wilderness. This is a small gem of a book, beautifully written, illustrated, and designed. It has moments of insight, beauty, and sadness, as the ending of the Sun Dance, telling as the sun is at the heart of the Kiowa's soul-a soul that survives in every word and drawing of The Way to Rainy Mountain. Deloria, and essays by John N.

Low, Margaret Noori, and Kiara M. In , shorty after his death, Pokagon's novel Ogimawkwe Mitigwaki Queen of the Woods -- only the second ever published by an American Indian -- appeared. It was intended to be a testimonial to the traditions, stability, and continuity of the Potawatomi in a rapidly changing world. Read today, Queen of the Woods is evidence of the author's desire to mark the cultural, political, and social landscapes with a memorial to the past and a monument to a future that included the Pokagon Potawatomi as distinct and honored people.

This new edition offers a reprint of the original novel with the author's introduction to the language and culture of his people. In addition, new accompanying materials add context through a cultural biography, literary historical analysis, and linguistic considerations of the unusual text.

New York : Hyperion, c The most noticeable population on Grand Avenue is a clan of Native Americans, Pomo Indians who live in dilapidated army barracks at the end of the street. Drunkenness, family fights, welfare payments, and illegitimate children abound. Each of the stories is narrated by a different character, yet all the speakers sound the same. The message is that there are no individuals on Grand Avenue; everyone is related by blood and guilt.

A particularly good example is "Joy Ride," a tale of a good husband undone by a teenaged temptress. Many of the stories are narrated by middle-aged women, sisters or half-sisters.

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Surprisingly, timely doses of dark humor and human hope imbue this collection. A W38 : In the tradition of Louise Erdrich and Sherman Alexie, a multi-generational epic novel about the love and forgiveness that keep an American Indian family together.


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Told from the points of view of Johnny Severe, his grandmother, Elba, and his mother, Iris, Watermelon Nights reaches to the past and toward the future to uncover the secrets behind each of these characters' extraordinary powers of perception. When twenty-year-old Johnny contemplates leaving his grandmother's house for the big city, he discovers there's more than his floundering used-clothing store keeping him where he is. As the novel shifts perspectives, tracing the history of the tribe, we learn how the tragic events of Elba's childhood, as well as Iris's attempts to separate herself from her cultural roots, make Johnny's dilemma all the more difficult, and his choices more crucial.

Witches and shamans across the country are working to fulfill this prophecy, but the capitalist elite is mounting a dirty war of its own, with weapons such as heroin and cocaine. Occult conspiracies multiply at a dizzying pace, and eco-radicals actually do blow up the Glen Canyon Dam. Silko succeeds more as a storyteller than a novelist: the book is full of memorable vignettes, but the frame story of apocalyptic racial warfare is clumsy comic book fare.

New York, N. He is deeply scarred by his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese and further wounded by the rejection he encounters from his people. Only by immersing himself in the Indian past can he begin to regain the peace that was taken from him. Masterfully written, filled with the somber majesty of Pueblo myth, Ceremony is a work of enduring power. Indigo is one of the last Sand Lizard people, who for centuries have cultivated the desert dunes beyond the river.


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Young Indigo's story opens like a folk tale, outside place and time, but gradually circumstances become plain. It's the turn of the century, Arizona is on the verge of statehood and an aqueduct is being constructed to feed water from the Colorado River to Los Angeles. There the girls' mother has joined the encampment of women dancing to summon the Messiah, who, to Indigo's wonderment, appears with his Holy Mother and his 11 children.

Soldiers raid the celebration; soon Indigo and Sister Salt are captured and separated, and Indigo is sent to school in Riverside. She escapes and is found hiding in a garden by intellectual iconoclast Hattie, who adopts the child and takes her first to New York, then to Europe. The novel, expanding far beyond its initial setting and historical themes, is structured around intricate patterns of color and styles of gardening: the desert dunes are pale yellow and orange; in Italy, a black garden is formed from thousands of hybrid black gladioli.

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Significantly, there's also a parrot named RainbowAalong with a monkey named Linnaeus and a dog circus. Silko's integration of glorious details into her many vivid settings and intense characters is a triumph of the storyteller's art, which this gifted and magical novelist has never demonstrated more satisfyingly than she does here.

Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press, The altar boys refuse to be victims and stage various strategies of resistance, simultaneously ironic, tricky, and grisly, including the Fourteen Torments founded on the Stations of the Cross. Father Meme is justly sacrificed by the altar boys in a winter fish house on Wiindigoo Lake This modern fable of wicked priests, sin, sacrifice, and survivance is told to a visiting lawyer and cultural historian from France, a bygone association of the Fur Trade and the Anishinaabe, or Chippewa, Indians of the Great Lakes Father Meme is a singular, memorable novel that confronts clerical sexual abuse and denounces the reluctance of the Catholic Church to punish pedophile priests.