The Sacred White Turkey

Overview


There is nothing particularly noteworthy about an Easter turkey. But when the turkey is stark white and appears on Easter Sunday on the doorstep of a Lakota medicine woman and her teenage granddaughter, it is clearly out of the ordinary. Taking turns, Stella and her grandmother, Hazel Latour, tell the story of what follows as the mysterious turkey stirs up discord on the reservation, where some greet it as wakan, holy and sacred because of its coloring and timing, and others dismiss it as inexplicable but ...
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The Sacred White Turkey

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Overview


There is nothing particularly noteworthy about an Easter turkey. But when the turkey is stark white and appears on Easter Sunday on the doorstep of a Lakota medicine woman and her teenage granddaughter, it is clearly out of the ordinary. Taking turns, Stella and her grandmother, Hazel Latour, tell the story of what follows as the mysterious turkey stirs up discord on the reservation, where some greet it as wakan, holy and sacred because of its coloring and timing, and others dismiss it as inexplicable but unimportant, while a less reputable local healer views it as a clear challenge to his standing.
 
A tour de force of storytelling, The Sacred White Turkey is at once remarkably entertaining, rich with suspense and humor, and deeply philosophical, exploring questions of spirituality and power, abuse and trickery, all within a framework that embraces both Native and Catholic traditions. As the Latours find themselves the target of escalating violence, embroiled in a BIA leasing scandal, and witnesses to a turkey crucifixion, readers will find themselves thoroughly engaged in the unfolding mystery and meaning of the sacred white turkey.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A lively, heartfelt novel by Washburn, a professor of Indian studies at the University of Arizona, pursues a near-supernatural encounter between a rare white turkey and a Lakota medicine woman and her granddaughter. Hazel Latour and 12-year-old Stella live on a small farm, on a reservation run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Their daily lives are disrupted when, one Easter Sunday, a glorious white turkey makes her home in their chicken coop. Stella sees this as a good omen, believing the turkey to be holy, but Hazel insists it's just a dumb bird and is unafraid of arousing the ire of the head of the tribal leasing office, George Wanbli, a medicine man who she sees as a rival. Clients flock to Hazel, the bird bringing prosperity, but word gets out about the turkey, provoking Wanbli's jealousy. He attempts to crucify the bird and slaughter her chicks, but they miraculously return to life. Washburn doesn't belabor the Christian metaphor, instead alternating between the points of view of Stella and Hazel to weave a charming, plainspoken tale of two people who have only each other until a bird gives them the courage to battle the forces of corruption and evil. (Sept.)
Booklist

"Washburn’s novel examines contemporary and traditional life on the Pine Ridge Reservation and finds spirituality, chicanery, humor, and wisdom. . . . The Sacred White Turkey brings voice to a community and reveals its characters beautifully. Captivating."—Heather Paulson, Booklist

— Heather Paulson

Southwestern American Literature

"This book has a Barbara Kingsolver feel to it. I like how Washburn skillfully weaves Catholic, Lakota, and pragmatic notions about belief together into a pastiche that seems real to me. I highly recommend this book."—Herb Thompson, Southwestern American Literature

— Herb Thompson

Booklist - Heather Paulson

"Washburn's novel examines contemporary and traditional life on the Pine Ridge Reservation and finds spirituality, chicanery, humor, and wisdom. . . . The Sacred White Turkey brings voice to a community and reveals its characters beautifully. Captivating."—Heather Paulson, Booklist
Southwestern American Literature - Herb Thompson

"This book has a Barbara Kingsolver feel to it. I like how Washburn skillfully weaves Catholic, Lakota, and pragmatic notions about belief together into a pastiche that seems real to me. I highly recommend this book."—Herb Thompson, Southwestern American Literature
Peter Grandbois - Rain Taxi

"While granting readers the pleasure of a good old-fashioned mystery, the real delight in Frances Washburn's The Sacred White Turkey is how it immerses us in a world without the binaries and categorization so common in literature dealing with race."—Peter Grandbois, Rain Taxi
Kirkus Reviews

The unexplained advent of a white turkey marks a turning point in the lives of a Lakota medicine woman and her granddaughter, in the latest from Washburn (American Indian Studies and English/Univ. of Arizona; Elsie's Business, 2006).

It's 1963, and Hazel Latour's granddaughter Stella, whom she took in after her mother died, is about to turn 13. On Easter Sunday, Hazel and Stella find a white turkey scratching at their door. Their farm, on the Lakota reservation in South Dakota, is so remote that the turkey's provenance is a mystery. The fowl's appearance lends even more cachet to Hazel's practice as a medicine woman. Her clients, who come to her for spiritual as well as medicinal healing, leave gifts in the form of staples, which supplement the meager income Hazel earns from selling eggs, cream and vegetables and from leasing out much of her acreage to a white farmer. As the annual midsummer Sun Dance approaches, Hazel's schedule of consultations is packed as she prepares her clients to participate in the grueling three-day dance, during which some dancers are connected to a pole by rods piercing their chests. When Stella catches tribal official George Wanbli, Hazel's rival shaman, skulking around the house, she suspects he's after the white turkey, consideredwakan—sacred—by the community. After the Sun Dance, Hazel and Stella return to the farm to find that someone has massacred their chickens. The white turkey has been crucified on the front door, but, miraculously, she survives. Hazel suspects George, and will later learn that her small family is in even more danger after she stumbles on evidence that George and other tribal leaders are skimming thousands off the top of farm leases, like Hazel's, that they administer. Would George resort to kidnapping to protect his embezzlement scheme? If not, why did Stella's best friend Avril, wearing her orange cap, disappear during her birthday picnic? Hazel's pluck and resourcefulness, and Stella's brashness and fierce loyalties, are lovingly portrayed against a backdrop of appreciation for the land and its bounties.

A small gem.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803228467
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2010
  • Series: Flyover Fiction
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,186,920
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Frances Washburn is an assistant professor of American Indian studies and English at the University of Arizona. She is the author of Elsie’s Business, available in a Bison Books edition.
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