ON THE REZ

Humorist and chronicler Frazier (Coyote v. Acme, 1996, etc.) returns to Indian country for an astute, personal, and disarmingly frank assessment of life and conflict among the Oglala Sioux on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation. Reintroducing a figure from Great Plains (1989)—Le War Lance, with whom the author has been friends for 20 years—Frazier explores his own affinity for the Sioux by relating the curious twists and turns of their friendship. A raconteur of the first rank as well as an alcoholic, Le has roamed from Hollywood to upper Manhattan, but is finally back home on the rez. Since Frazier’s own wanderlust has brought him and his family to Missoula, Montana, he often goes to visit Le. Over time, Le introduces his brother and sisters, uncle and aunt, even the graves of his parents and other brothers, endlessly spinning wild yarns that Frazier reproduces without judgment. Elements of tragedy (the girlfriend of Le’s brother is killed by a drunk driver) mingle with near-misses (a hose breaks at the distributor, enveloping the family in a cloud of propane gas), but all this is the normal state of affairs at Pine Ridge. As Frazier ponders the history of Indian bars locally and nationwide, or considers the treaty violation that allowed the US government to steal the Black Hills from the Sioux, he also finds resilience in the great-granddaughter of medicine man Black Elk, and hope in the remarkable story of SuAnne Big Crow, a teenage basketball hero who reunited her bitterly divided people by her example, and whose spirit still lives even after her death in a car crash in 1992. Frazier’s remarkably thorough and thoroughly eclectic study of one people in one place at a particular moment in time reveals as much about its author as its subject, and as much about “us” as “them.” (Photos, maps, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-374-22638-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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