Pine Ridge

Photo by Hamner_Fotos used under a Creative Commons license.

Vic Glover, Keeping Heart on Pine Ridge (Native Voices, 2004).
A Vietnam vet and former journalist, Glover wrote this series of short essays about life — his life — on the Pine Ridge reservation.  Pine Ridge is one of the poorest places in the country,  a hard place where car accidents, alcoholism and diabetes kill more than they should.  Glover is a survivor, and his essays glow with a dry humor and an understated spirituality, both keys to getting by.  I really liked this book, and I think it deserves a bigger audience.

Some of the essays were published first in Indian Country Today, including “Armageddon didn’t happen yet,” “Windy day sweat,” and “Ceremonies, hospitals, and cemetaries.” Timothy White (Shaman’s Drum) says it offers an honest portrait of contemporary Native beliefs and perspectives on the reservations. The Midwest Book Review says it reveals the challenges, history, bonds, and rich traditions that infuse and reflect the stark realities of life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Tom Rice sees despair on Pine Ridge. Glover blogs!

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Cross Row
Photo by hamner.jonathan used under a Creative Commons license.

Ian Frazier, On The Rez (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000).
Frazier met Le War Lance while he was writing a book about the Great Plains, named — bien sur — Great Plains, in which Lance had a minor part in an ensemble cast.   In that book, Frazier roamed all over the American West; here, he settles into the Oglala Sioux reservation, Pine Ridge, in southwestern South Dakota.  Frazier’s style is rambling and digressive.  Stick around until the end of the book to read about SuAnne Marie Big Crow, a Lakota basketball star, whose story could be a book in itself.

Wikipedia’s bio of Frazier is better than nothing. Try this introduction instead. Outside has links to other Frazier writing.  Google BookSearch offers a preview. Much (most?) of the book appeared as this article in The Atlantic.  The New York Times has Chapter One.  Hardy Green (Business Week) calls it a demanding and puzzling book, with a strange and unsatisfying conclusion.  Candace B. Moonshower (Pif) says it’s the best sort of storytelling.  Jody Keisner (Studies in the Humanities) criticizes Frazier for usurping Native American writers.  Diane L. Schirf calls it rambling and spontaneous, like reservation life. Charles Taylor (Salon) says Frazier gets at the texture of life in a way that a sociological analysis into the place of the Indian in contemporary America never would.  Christine Gray (Washington Monthly) thinks Frazier’s title is misleading. Richard Meyers (A Journal of Native American Studies) says Frazier flirts with enlightenment.  Tracy Kidder (The New York Times) says it’s propelled by small surprises, a sense of impending revelation, and the pleasure of keeping company with Frazier’s voice.  Michiko Kakutani (The New York Times) says the problem with it is that Frazier never comes to terms with the disparity between his romanticized dream of Indian life and the often discouraging facts of day-to-day life “on the rez.”  Sherman Alexie says Frazier marks himself as an outsider eager to portray himself as an insider.  Jason Roberts interviewed Frazier for The Believer.  Listen to this interview on NPR.  Read about SuAnne Big Crow here.  And here is an exchange of letters about the accuracy of part of Frazier’s account.

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