Minnesota


Canoe and Minnesota wild rice
Photo of canoe and wild rice by egasor used under a Creative Commons license.

Jim Northrup, Walking the Rez Road (Voyageur Press, 1993).
A collection of forty short stories and poems revolving around Luke Warmwater, a Chippewa/Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) Indian living on the Fond du Lac reservation in northern Minnesota, not far from Duluth. Some deal with Warmwater’s tour of duty in and return from Vietnam; most concern life on the reservation, with healthy doses of hunting, fishing, ricing, drinking, and outwitting an unsympathetic tribal government. Northrup never fails to find quotidian humor, and the resilient spirits of Warmwater and other Chippewas transforms the travails of life in their sovereign corner of Minnesota into something universal.

Here is Northrup’s bio on Native Wiki. Christine Graef profiled him in Indian Country Today, with a focus on his fishing and collecting of wild rice rather than his writing. Kristin Nybrotts has a poem by Northrup (and several links which look promising but don’t seem to work anymore). Eberhard Wenzel posted another poem by Northrup, from the book. Northrup writes is an a columnist for Indian Country Today, and here are many of his columns. Here, Northrup explains how he got his car. The book won a Minnesota Book Award in 1994.

Buy it at Amazon.com.

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Storms, Osage County, Oklahoma
Photo of Osage County, Okla., by Wade From Oklahoma used under a Creative Commons license.

Richard Rhodes, The Inland Ground (University Press of Kansas, 1991).
A collection of essays generally grounded in Missouri and Kansas. There are pieces here, among others, about: Jesse Howard, the signpainter of Fulton, Mo.; riding a diesel freight train to Gridley, Kan.; Independence, Mo.; the Unity School of Practical Christianity in Lee’s Summit, Mo.; coyote hunting in Portis, Kan.; Kansas City (“Cupcake Land”); a 6,000-acre wheat farm in Beloit, Kan.; Dwight Eisenhower; the I-D Packing Company of Des Moines; the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.; the annual dances of the Osage Indians in Pawhuska, Grayhorse, and Hominy, Okla., with a detour to the Phillips collection in Woolaroc; and the Iowa Writers Workshop in Iowa City. Rhodes substantially revised this book for the 1991 edition, which is the one that I read, and probably the one that you’ll find.

Here is Wikipedia’s page on Rhodes. Here is Rhodes’ website. And here is more about Jesse Howard.

Buy it at Amazon.com.

Missouri River
Photo of the Missouri River by JoePhoto used under a Creative Commons license.

Leif Enger, Peace Like a River (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2002).
As part of the Columbia Spectator‘s 50 States of Literature series, Melanie Jones writes:

Few contemporary novels better capture the beauty and cruelty of the North Dakota Badlands than [this one]. Reuben Land was a still-born baby, brought back to life by his father, Jeremiah, in one of many “miracles” he performs throughout the novel. Now 11 and severely asthmatic, Reuben and his sister Swede live in a 1960s Minnesota town, both devoted to the Old West and stories of Sunny Sundown, a rugged adventurer. When their brother Davy is convicted of manslaughter, however, the siblings’ notions of guilt and justice are challenged-and when Davy escapes to the Badlands, the family decides to follow him. Enger lends great detail to the “great empty” barns, “paintless and built of square-hewn timbers,” as well as the “snow … hard and clean-shaven and the broken hills [rising] on top of it.” More than the civilization that has attempted to force itself upon the land, Enger captures the terrible beauty of that land untamed-generations ago, lightning had sliced a cottonwood whose roots led to lignite, and the result is a “garden of fire,” a maze of veined earth with “smoke and heat and sporadic flames” issuing from the cracks. Later, when Reuben sees the Dakota night for the first time: “Here was the whole dizzying sky above us. … We were inside the sky.” . . .

Google Book Search has an excerpt. Here is another excerpt. Here is one interview of Enger, and another. And another, with Jody Ewing. Here are reviews from Tom Isern of North Dakota State University, David Abrams (January), Katherine Dieckmann (The New York Times Book Review), Jenny Spadafora (12frogs), Jana Siciliano (Bookreporter.com), Renee, Matt Jones, and Bradley Mariska (Offenburger.com). Nicole Eckblad did this project based on the novel for her communications class. And Minnesota Public Radio, where Enger used to work, has this story about him with a brief interview and some additional links.

Buy it at Amazon.com.