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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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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