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A frank, powerful first novel by leading American Indian poet, about two brothers whose bond is tested by the realities of contemporary life on the "rez." Rudy Yellow Shirt is a full-blooded Oglala Sioux and a criminal investigator with the Pine Ridge Public Safety Department. When he falls and hits his head, a trickster spirit enters his life and has him dispensing swift justice.
Posted March 30, 2000
'Skins' opens with the protagonist, Rudy, as a boy, getting biten by a black widow spider when he visits the outhouse. In manhood, when he experiences impotence, he overcomes it by invoking the power of Iktomi, the spider-trickster of Lakota tradition. The closest thing to the trickster figure in the western tradition is the picaro, the striving, often foolish, usually vulnerable protagonist like Don Quixote. However, the trickster is a bit more self-indulgent and conniving, a bit more gullible when his self-interest is involved. The trickster perspective challenges the modish, pop-sociological presumptions with which Euro-culture might address this novel. Louis has Rudy Yellow Shirt consciously assuming the role of a trickster when he acts as an avenging warrior. He defecates on the RV floor of a wannabe Indian, but the act is more an upheaval of the bowels than of peurile vengeance. He engages in sexual intercourse with his estranged wife while she firmly says no while thrusting her hips. He helps his brother pull the old Halloween gag on the offending anthropologist by lighting a paper bag of dog dung and throwing the burning missile on his porch. These acts are all done as responses to conditions of reservation life that provides no cultural moorings for the people who live there. Louis uses the traditional trickster story approach to acknowledge the depressing facts of reservation life, and it pursuing that tradition, he transcends the pop-sociology inanities and cliches about why the Indian people live as they do. It may take some orientation into Native American literary traditions to get the gist of this story, but the effort will be rewarded by new dimensions of humor and deeper understandings of what has happened to our indigenous people.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 25, 2011
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