Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life

Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life

4.5 4
by David Treuer
     
 

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Celebrated novelist David Treuer has gained a reputation for writing fiction that expands the horizons of Native American literature. In Rez Life, his first full-length work of nonfiction, Treuer brings a novelist’s storytelling skill and an eye for detail to a complex and subtle examination of Native American reservation life, past and…  See more details below

Overview


Celebrated novelist David Treuer has gained a reputation for writing fiction that expands the horizons of Native American literature. In Rez Life, his first full-length work of nonfiction, Treuer brings a novelist’s storytelling skill and an eye for detail to a complex and subtle examination of Native American reservation life, past and present.

With authoritative research and reportage, Treuer illuminates misunderstood contemporary issues of sovereignty, treaty rights, and natural-resource conservation. He traces the waves of public policy that have disenfranchised and exploited Native Americans, exposing the tension that has marked the historical relationship between the United States government and the Native American population. Through the eyes of students, teachers, government administrators, lawyers, and tribal court judges, he shows how casinos, tribal government, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have transformed the landscape of Native American life.

A member of the Ojibwe of northern Minnesota, Treuer grew up on Leech Lake Reservation, but was educated in mainstream America. Exploring crime and poverty, casinos and wealth, and the preservation of native language and culture, Rez Life is a strikingly original work of history and reportage, a must read for anyone interested in the Native American story.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Novelist Treuer (Little) offers an ambitious, impressionistic study of life on Native American reservations. His blending in of the history of his Ojibwe tribe and his own family results in a nuanced view of personal and tribal identity. It’s neither definitive nor a work of full personal disclosure, but it is “the story of the paradoxically least and most American place in the twenty-first century. Welcome to the Rez.” Whether he’s describing the central role of fishing walleye, the region’s signature fish; the Ojibwe’s treaty right fights; or the timeless method for harvesting wild rice, Treuer paints a picture of a vital if economically strained tribal life, deftly supplying historical context to explain how the Mille Lacs, Red Lake, and White Earth reservations came to be and survive. If the stand-alone chapters don’t always flow smoothly into one another, the vignettes—of treaty rights fishing activists; of how casinos have changed economic life on the rez; how his mother, a tribal judge, dispensed justice; how an Ojibwe language teacher ensured the viability of the tribal language for another generation; and most powerfully, how Treuer’s grandfather’s suicide left the family reeling—bring the world and personalities of the rez to vivid, heartrending life. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Treuer (The Translation of Dr. Apelles), a prize-winning writer of fiction and member of Minnesota's Ojibwe tribe, has fashioned a compelling work of nonfiction, knitting together his own personal narrative, the perspectives of friends and family, and the complex history of reservations and Native and non-Native relations. The result is at once sweeping in its historical and political scope and deeply personal and engaging. Treuer's prose can be both thoughtful and sardonic, occasionally at the same time, and his treatment of the history and policy that have shaped contemporary reservation life is never academic. Instead, he uses history to illustrate how decisions made decades, even centuries, ago still have an impact on the lives of individuals and families. He introduces individuals who defy the traditional stereotypes of Native people and is at his best when focusing on personal narratives. The book is affectionate, but unsparing, and exposes the beauty and devastation of reservation life while exploring those areas where the personal and the political converge—in treaty rights, hunting and fishing rights, law enforcement, tribal justice systems, among others. VERDICT A look into Native life from a Native perspective, this is recommended for anyone interested in how history has shaped Native people and the ways in which Native peoples are shaping their future.—Julie Edwards, Univ. of Montana Libs., Missoula
Kirkus Reviews
In a book that is part memoir, part journalistic exposé and part cultural history, novelist Treuer (The Translation of Dr. Apelles, 2008, etc.) offers a movingly plainspoken account of reservation life. The author intertwines stories of growing up on the shores of the Lake Leech Ojibwe reservation in Minnesota with those of the Ojibwe people and other Native American tribes. Treuer writes that "[m]ost often rez life is associated with tragedy"; at the same time, he notes that it is also shot through with pride and a profound love of tradition. Alternating between personal recollections of unforgettable "rez" personalities—e.g., tribal police officers, rice-gatherers and fishermen—and sharp-eyed historical analyses of events in Native American history, the author sheds light on aspects of Indian culture closed to most non-Natives. He speaks candidly about the "comforting trouble" he finds at the heart of his own mixed-race family and the perennial problems of alcoholism, poverty and crime facing reservation dwellers everywhere. Treuer also delves into the issues surrounding Native American sovereignty and treaty rights, examining the inhumane—and sometimes genocidal—government policies that have led to the systematic abuse, exploitation and disenfranchisement of Native Americans. The author soundly critiques tribal governments as well, focusing in particular on the corruption and cronyism that characterizes so many of them. For most of these entities, "there is no balance of power; on the contrary power is very much out of balance." That Treuer is one of a few Native Americans to have made it out of the "rez" only adds to the book's poignancy. He examines a culture that is in crisis, but persists, even thrives, with enduring grit and courage. Powerful, important reading.
From the Publisher
"Treuer's account reads like a novel, brimming with characters, living and dead, who bring his tribe's history to life." —Booklist

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802119711
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
02/07/2012
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Treuer's account reads like a novel, brimming with characters, living and dead, who bring his tribe's history to life." —-Booklist

Meet the Author

A veteran of stage and screen, Peter Berkrot held feature roles in Caddyshack and Showtime's Brotherhood. He has recorded over 170 audiobooks, over 100 for children; has been nominated for an Audie Award; and has received a number of AudioFile Earphones Awards and starred reviews.

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Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
JYKWA More than 1 year ago
I am one of the people who are sympathetic to the plight and history of Native Americans but have never seen a reservation. This book was most educational in illustrating the diversity of challenges and realities faced by people on various reservations and their resilient spirit as they still struggle against thoughtless prejudices and poverty. It was heartbreaking to read about the abject poverty in the midst of the 21st century American society. My hats off to these amazingly strong people, and I hope we can do more to help. I guess the first place to start might be for us non-Indians to acknowledge how little we know about the diverse tribal cultures and traditions and be more sensitive to unthinking racism ingrained in our daily lives. A really good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Chi Miigwetch