Photo by adam used under a Creative Commons license.
James Welch, Winter in the Blood (Penguin, 1986).
First published in 1974, this novel’s protagonist is an unnamed 32-year-old Blackfeet Indian in hard times. He lives with his mother on the reservation, but spends much of his time in an alcoholic haze in the bars of Havre and Malta, Montana, a condition in which more trouble often ensues. He has knee trouble that multiple operations have not fixed, a physical condition mirroring spiritual injury, including survivor’s guilt. Yet there is also the prospect of salvation. Readers unfamiliar with Blackfeet traditions will miss some of what Welch does with this novel, but that is no reasons to pass up the chance to read it.
Here is an appreciation of Welch’s work. Indian Country Today ran this story about his death. Here is The Missoulian‘s obituary and here is the one from The New York Times. Joy Harjo remembered him. So did Jerry Reynolds. Time reviewed Winter in the Blood. J. Robert Lennon appreciates the novel’s dialogue. William Bevis interviewed Welch in 1995. Prairie Mary details Welch’s Blackfeet geneology. This paper by Lorelei Cederstrom discusses (among other things) Welch’s use of myth in the novel. Don Lee profiled Welch in Ploughshares. Here is Google Book Search’s page for James Welch: A Critical Companion, by Mary Jane Lupton. And Tumbleweed met some friendly Germans while reading it.