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The Heirs of Columbus

Overview

"If you must read a book on Columbus," declared the Los Angeles Times in its review of The Heirs of Columbus, "this is the one." Gerald Vizenor's novel reclaims the story of Chrisopher Columbus on behalf of Native Americans by declaring the explorer himself to be a descendent of early Mayans and follows the adventures of his modern-day, mixedblood heirs as they create a fantastic tribal nation.

The genetic heirs of Christopher Columbus meet annually at the Stone Tavern at the headwaters of the Mississippi to ...

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The Heirs of Columbus

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Overview

"If you must read a book on Columbus," declared the Los Angeles Times in its review of The Heirs of Columbus, "this is the one." Gerald Vizenor's novel reclaims the story of Chrisopher Columbus on behalf of Native Americans by declaring the explorer himself to be a descendent of early Mayans and follows the adventures of his modern-day, mixedblood heirs as they create a fantastic tribal nation.

The genetic heirs of Christopher Columbus meet annually at the Stone Tavern at the headwaters of the Mississippi to remember their "stories in the blood" and plan their tribal nation. They are inspired by the late-night talk radio discourses of Stone Columbus, a trickster healer who became rich as the captain of the sovereign bingo barge Santa Maria Casino, anchored in the international waters of the Lake of the Woods. The heirs' plan to reclaim their heritage enrages the government and inspires the tribal nations in a comic tale of mythic proportions.

Vizenor is a mixedblood Chippewa who writes fiction in the trickster mode of Native American tradition, using humor to challenge received ideas and subvert the status quo. In The Heirs of Columbus he "reveals not only how Indians have staved off the tidal wave of assimilation," noted the San Francisco Chronicle, "but also how, through humor and persistence, they sometimes reverse the direction of cultural appropriation and, in the process, transform the alien values imposed on them."

"Vizenor understands the wilder, irrational, half-mad parts of the Discoverer's soul as few people ever have," noted Kirkpatrick Sale in the Nation; "Columbus is appropriated here in an entirely new way, made to be an Indian in service to his Indian descendents." And the Voice Literary Supplement said "Even more rousing than Vizenor's deconstruction of Columbus, though, is his alternative vision of an American identity."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Stone Columbus, the famous explorer's heir and namesake, is a Mississippi bingo tycoon and radio talk show host; he's part Mayan, as, he claims, was Christopher Columbus. In 1992 Stone and his listeners establish Point Assinika, a chunk of the Northwest, as a sovereign Native American nation. Their goal is to make available the Mayan ``healing genes,'' isolated by scientists, to save the world. But tribal robots, a kidnapping and a federal disinformation campaign imperil the new nation, in whose harbor stands a copper statue, the Trickster of Liberty. Writing with manic inventiveness, Vizenor ( Griever ) casts the story of Columbus's invasion of the New World as a lyrical trickster tale, full of twists, shamans and subversive humor. Although Vizenor, a mixed-blood Chippewa, punctures the Eurocentric worldview, much of the humor is strained, as in his caricature of Christopher Columbus as a romantic with an enormous, clubbed, twisted penis. (Aug.)
Library Journal
``Columbus arises in tribal stories that heal with humor the world he wounded,'' Vizenor says in the epilog of his latest novel. Native American writers are making sure their voices are heard in the quincentenary examination of Columbus's voyage. Hot on the heels of Michael Doris and Louise Erdrich's The Crown of Columbus ( LJ 3/15/91) comes this totally different treatment of the same territory. ``The Heirs of Columbus'' presented in Vizenor's intriguing novel are described by their critics as a ``ragtag group of rebellious, uneducated mixedbloods.'' The Heirs believe themselves to be the actual genetic heirs of * Christopher Columbus, whom they believe to be a crossblood himself, the result of Mayan exploration of Europe. As their part of the quincentenary celebrations, the Heirs create a sovereign tribal nation, honoring humor and common sense and dedicated to healing with genetic therapies. Vizenor tells the story with his unique blend of cuttingedge fiction and tribal myth, mixing the realistic and the fantastic. Recommended.-- Debbie Tucker, Cincinnati Technological Coll.
From the Publisher
"A mythopoeic space-age chronicle . . . a modern Indian epilogue to the Columbus myth as incredible as any traditional stories. If you must read a book on Columbus . . . this is the one." —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Vizenor understands the wilder, irrational, half-mad parts of the Discoverer’s soul as few people ever have…Columbus is appropriated here in an entirely new way, made to be an Indian in service to his Indian descendents.”—Kirkpatrick Sale, Nation

“Vizenor is unquestionably one of the most radical American literary voices on the subject of racial identity and an ironist extraordinaire as a witness to the aftermath of Manifest Destiny.”—Voice Literary Supplement

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819562494
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 8/23/1991
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 198
  • Sales rank: 471,195
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 8.17 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

GERALD VIZENOR teaches Native American Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Hotline Healers: An Almost Browne Novel, Landfill Medition: Crossblood Stories, Dead Voices: Natural Agonies in the New World, Interior Landscapes, The Trickster of Liberty, and numerous other books. Shadow Distance: A Gerald Vizenor Reader (1994) offers an overview of his work. Griever: An American Money King in China, his second novel, won the Fiction Collective Prize and the Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award.
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