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Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today

Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today

by Lori Marie Carlson

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The ten stories that make up this collection are raw, original, and fresh. Although they are all about American Indians, they are as different from one another as they are from anything you've read before.

A supermarket checkout line, a rowboat on a freezing lake at dawn, a drunken dance in the gym, an ice hockey game on public-access TV. These are some of the


The ten stories that make up this collection are raw, original, and fresh. Although they are all about American Indians, they are as different from one another as they are from anything you've read before.

A supermarket checkout line, a rowboat on a freezing lake at dawn, a drunken dance in the gym, an ice hockey game on public-access TV. These are some of the backgrounds against which ten outstanding authors have created their memorable characters. Their work — both poignant and funny, sarcastic and serious — reminds us that the American Indian story is far from over — it's being written every day.

Editorial Reviews

A note by Carlson, editor of Cool Salsa (Henry Holt, 1995/VOYA February 1995), and an introduction by Helen Maynor Scheirbeck, author of several books on American Indian education, begin this collection of ten stories about contemporary Native American experiences. Scheirbeck writes of a renaissance-an ever-increasing access to American Indian film, visual arts, dance, and literature such as these stories by notable writers like Sherman Alexie, Joseph Bruchac, and Louise Erdrich. Themes of coming-of-age, finding oneself, and making sense of familial relationships are essential to most of the selections. Particularly thought-provoking tales that reminded this reader of how history, experience, and tradition interlock with the present include Joseph Bruchac's Ice, Greg Sarris's The Magic Pony, and Lee Francis's Summer Wind. Many stories include language that reads more like poetry than prose as in Alexie's story about a young man holding on to memories of a father he so desperately needs. Other lighthearted and heavily ironic stories include Cynthia Leitich Smith's A Real-Live Blond Cherokee and His Equally Annoyed Soul Mate and Richard Van Camp's The Last Snow of the Virgin Mary. The length of the stories makes them great for sustained silent reading opportunities. Fans of the aforementioned authors as well as Joy Harjo, Linda Hogan, and Susan Power will enjoy this collection. A short biography that includes select titles by each author and his or her tribal affiliation concludes the book, although information about the writing of the stories would have been a bonus. This collection is highly recommended, but mature language and situations might make it more appropriate for high schools.VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, HarperCollins, 176p., and PLB Ages 15 to 18.
—KaaVonia Hinton-Johnson
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-The young people's experiences in these 10 short stories will resonate with Native readers and inform and affect non-Natives as well. Joy Harjo writes about a boarding-school experience. Sherman Alexie talks about the slow painful separation and divorce of parents, and the needs of a boy to be seen/heard/taught by his father. Cynthia Leitich Smith shows an example of the everyday struggles Native people have with stereotypes, and the pain it causes on all sides. Richard Van Camp offers a glimpse into a life of addiction, loss, and the struggle to overcome poverty. Linda Hogan demonstrates the pride, generosity, and determination of an elder living on the reservation selling eggs and grain to make ends meet. Lee Francis shares a story of self-realization, oral tradition, and ways things are passed from one generation to the next. This distinguished anthology offers powerful, beautifully written stories that are thoughtful and important for teens to hear.-Marlette Grant-Jackson, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"What a wonderful time to be an American Indian!" begins the introduction to this collection of ten excellent stories that encompass a diversity of experience. There's humor in Cynthia Leitich Smith's "A Real-Live Blond Cherokee and His Equally Annoyed Soul Mate" and Joseph Bruchac's "Ice" (in which desperate officials turn to Chief Thomas Fox to do something about the lack of ice on Lake George, a week before the profitable Winter Carnival). And there's friendship-in-dire-circumstances in Joy Harjo's "How to Get to the Planet Venus" and Greg Sarris's "The Magic Pony." Some of these stories have been previously published, but Carlson has brought together selections that stand apart as wonderful stories, and together as an introduction to contemporary American-Indian literature and experience. (A quibble: For a collection intended to deconstruct stereotypes, why put at its front two stories with both alcoholism and dysfunctional families as major themes? The issues would have stood out less if placed later in the collection.) Carlson addresses her outsider perspective in a note, and it is to the non-Native mainstream that this collection seems pitched. As such, it will make for engaging and dynamic use in the English or Social Studies classroom-as well as for rich individual reading. (editor's note, introduction, author bios) (Fiction. 12+)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.69(d)
850L (what's this?)
Age Range:
13 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Moccasin Thunder

American Indian Stories for Today
By Lori Carlson

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Lori Carlson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0066239591

Chapter One

How to Get to the Planet Venus

Joy Harjo

I used to fly to the moon. I never had to think about it; it just happened. This was before I went to school and learned that I needed a degree in aerodynamics to understand how to get from here to there.

One night the moon was full, bright with an aura of ice as earth headed toward winter. My father hadn't come home again, and my mother waited in front of the television, the blue flickering glow turning her back and forth between light and dark. It had become more difficult to leave for the moon because I never knew what would happen, what he would do to her.

The luminescent road to the moon was strong and familiar as I made my way to the old man who was my guardian there. We did not need words to talk. That night he took me to a quarry of stones, and we walked down to the edge, where the scrap pieces were piled together. Below it we could see the world I had come from. Across town my father was coming out of Cain's Ballroom with a blonde woman on his arm. They were kissing and laughing. We could see my mother doze as the television screen blurred, and then the baby awakened and she went to him, changed his diaper, and held him close to her neck as she turned the light on in the kitchen to make his bottle.

This was the first time we had come here to this place together. I knew then that this would be the last time for a very long time I would see the old man, and I felt sad. We watched the story as it unwound through time and space, unraveling like my mother's spools of threads when I accidentally dropped them. But I would not recall any of it for years.

I returned at dawn, and my father showed up with smeared lipstick on his white shirt and the terrible anger of a trapped cat. Not too long after, my father left us for a dancer, and my mother immediately married a white man who didn't want children. I was sent away to Indian school.

The moon was a slender knife in the dark winter sky. We huddled in the ditch behind the boys' dorm, passing around a bottle of sticky sweet cherry vodka. It kept away the cold and the ghosts of sadness, and after a few sips I was free. Next to me was the new student, Lupita Bear. I had to keep from staring at her. She was beautiful. Her perfect skin was cafe au lait, and her black eyes were elegant like a sacred cat's. She announced she had checked out the male population of the school when she arrived earlier in the week and was giving a report.

". . . And what's the name of that Sioux guy with the geometric painting designs? With the nice smile and perfect back, always running touchdowns between classes?"

"John Her Many Horses," we chimed. We'd all noticed him.

"That one over there." She motioned to Herbie Nez. He was Navajo and slim as a girl. "He's much too pretty. I could eat him up in one bite!"

Herbie's hearing was like radar and tuned in to everything, even the songs and cries of spirits who hung around the school. In the past, children had been dragged there against their will. He looked over at us and batted his eyelashes. We all laughed as we downed the next round. Then suddenly our party was over. The dorm patrol surprised us in the nearly moonless night, and we scattered into the dark to save ourselves from detention, restriction, and being sent away.

I ran until I couldn't run anymore. By the time I made it back, my roommate had already been caught, judged, and tried, and was packing her bags for home. She was the first that semester to be kicked out of the dorm for drinking. She was to be the object lesson for all of us.

Her family came after breakfast the next morning, just as a light rain blew in over the mountains. We all watched apprehensively from the dorm living room as her father stiffly lifted her suitcases into their truck to take her back to Dulce. When she climbed in next to her mother and brothers and sisters, she turned and waved a heavy good-bye.

That night Georgette Romero woke up the whole dorm. First I heard her screams and then running as she fled down the hall toward my room, which was in the farthest wing. Lupita saw everything, she told me later, because she was up writing a letter to her mother at four a.m. When Georgette ran by, she was being chased by a ghost the color of sick green. Her roommates refused to let her back into their room and burned cedar to dispel the evil. No one wanted the girl with the ghost, but since I had the only extra bed it was decided she move to my room. That night and for many nights after, I stayed alert in the dark and didn't sleep, anticipating the return of the ghost.

Now Georgette's books were all over the floor, and her plastic beauty case spilled over with makeup and polishes, flooding the counter we were supposed to share. For hours she scraped and rubbed off chipped polish on her nails, then reapplied numerous thick coats, smelling up the room with polish and acetone. She left used dabs of cotton and underwear scattered on the floor. At first I was amused at this alien creature, told myself that she had made herself her own canvas, but she was getting on my nerves. I spent more and more time in the painting studio or sat on the fire escape listening to music.


Excerpted from Moccasin Thunder by Lori Carlson Copyright © 2005 by Lori Carlson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Lori Marie Carlson was born in Jamestown, New York. She holds an M.A. in Hispanic Literature from Indiana University and has taught at several universities. Carlson is also the author of seven books for young adults, including the acclaimed Cool Salsa. The Sunday Tertulia is her first novel. She lives in New York City.

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