Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese's

Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese's

Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese's

Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese's


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Why is there no Native woman David Sedaris? Or Native Anne Lamott? Humor categories in publishing are packed with books by funny women and humorous sociocultural-political commentary—but no Native women. There are presumably more important concerns in Indian Country. More important than humor? Among the Diné/Navajo, a ceremony is held in honor of a baby’s first laugh. While the context is different, it nonetheless reminds us that laughter is precious, even sacred.

Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s is a powerful and compelling collection of Tiffany Midge’s musings on life, politics, and identity as a Native woman in America. Artfully blending sly humor, social commentary, and meditations on love and loss, Midge weaves short, stand-alone musings into a memoir that stares down colonialism while chastising hipsters for abusing pumpkin spice. She explains why she does not like pussy hats, mercilessly dismantles pretendians, and confesses her own struggles with white-bread privilege.  

Midge goes on to ponder Standing Rock, feminism, and a tweeting president, all while exploring her own complex identity and the loss of her mother. Employing humor as an act of resistance, these slices of life and matchless takes on urban-Indigenous identity disrupt the colonial narrative and provide commentary on popular culture, media, feminism, and the complications of identity, race, and politics.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781496218032
Publisher: UNP - Bison Books
Publication date: 10/01/2019
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 200
Sales rank: 992,909
File size: 681 KB

About the Author

Tiffany Midge is a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and was raised in the Pacific Northwest. She is a former columnist for Indian Country Today and taught writing and composition for Northwest Indian College. Her award-winning books are The Woman Who Married a Bear and Outlaws, Renegades, and Saints: Diary of a Mixed-Up Halfbreed. Her writing has appeared in McSweeney’s, Transmotion, the Offing, Waxwing, Moss, Okey-Pankey, Lit Hub, and World Literature Today. Midge resides in Moscow, Idaho, where she has served as the city’s poet laureate. She aspires to be the distinguished writer in residence at Seattle’s Space Needle. Geary Hobson is emeritus professor of English at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of numerous books, including The Last of the Ofos.

Read an Excerpt


Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese's

The day of my mother's funeral service, I separated myself from the rest of the grieving throng and hid out in the musician's belfry like tortured Quasimodo, my grief too hideous to expose.

I peered down upon the mourners below, watched my aunts struggling with folding a star quilt, trying to contain it within the casket. The lid wouldn't close. The white pastor believed my mother's quilt was some sort of ancient Lakota ritual. He announced it with gravity and a sense of suspicious distance.

Native flute music floated out from the speakers as my aunties struggled to close the lid, both furtively cramming the ends of the quilt into the casket, tucking my mother inside. One of them gestured exasperatingly to the other, and then they both started to laugh.

* * *

Months before her death, my mother made me promise that we'd bury her in her royal-blue pantsuit, her favorite color. She forced her jewelry on me — take this and this ... here, take this ...

It is both touching and morbid to accept a dying woman's most personal belongings: her favorite silver and turquoise earrings, the onyx bracelet, the Black Hills gold rings.

She even gave me her little silver buffalo pendant. I wore it to a grade school presentation, and one of the children raised her hand and asked, "Is that a pig?"

* * *

The crucial difference between having children versus having pets is that when your sister's cat gets run over by a car, you can say things like "She never was very bright."

* * *

"Wakes lasted for days," my mother says. "We'd get bored waiting around while the old people sat huddled over like crows. Sometimes we'd tell the younger kids that the hosts needed to use the outhouse for extra storage until it was time for the deceased to be buried. We'd tell the kids that it was a multiple fatality car accident, lots of parts that needed storing. Those kids refused to use the outhouse after that."

* * *

On the day my mother received her test results, we stopped off at a restaurant for lunch. The waitress complimented my mother on her earrings. My mother laughed. "You want them? I won't be needing them."

* * *

Grandma Iron Thunder's service was held on a scorching day in the middle of August on the Dakota plains. There was gold-colored grass and blinding sky for miles in every direction. Her casket was draped with a red quilt featuring the famous silhouette The End of the Trail stitched in black cloth. My mother clucked, "I hate that quilt — good thing they're burying it."

* * *

Following the fire and brimstone of my mother's memorial service, I wended my way down the spiral staircase from the musician's belfry, and a church lady I'd never met before congratulated me on my beautiful singing. "You have such a beautiful voice!" she cooed. I thanked her, taking the credit, even though I had not been singing at all.

* * *

On November 22, 1963, at the doctor's office, my mother and her husband received news that he had six months to live. Immediately following the short walk to their car, Frank switched on the radio, and they listened briefly to the story about the assassination of President Kennedy. Then they switched off the radio and started driving back home to spend time with their new baby daughter.

* * *

My Grandma Wing's funeral was held in the old church and cemetery at Fort Peck. She requested everyone wear white. She was ninety-eight. The service was dignified and affecting, replete with a mix of traditional and Christian songs. As the service was finishing up and people were paying their respects, a melee erupted outside. A dozen or more cousins jumped Rachel's baby daddy and beat him to a pulp. All those white shirts and all those white pants stained with blood and dirt. Someone said, "Clyde's Last Stand." The men all laughed.

* * *

During a trip to Mexico, my sister tattooed my mother's name, Alita Rose, surrounded by roses onto her ankle. A few years later, following the death of my father, I considered getting a tattoo in tribute to him also, but Herman Lloyd just didn't have the same cachet.

* * *

When my mother's respirator was finally removed and we watched the monitors slowly wind down ... and when I finally left the hospital, a three- year girl refused to let me pass her until I acknowledged her ecstatic announcement: We. Just. Had. A. Baby.

* * *

The Lakota unburdened themselves of hair, of fingers, cut into their flesh to temporarily escape the grief of a loved one's death. I saw this on A Man Called Horse and in Dances with Wolves. But as far as I knew, no one in my immediate family had ever done this. My mother was worth far more than a hank of hair. She was worth my spine. My eyes. My womb.

* * *

There are many versions of the scenes that take place inside my head — a dying mother instructs her daughter with her last wishes — but the one I remember the most is poached from a meme making the rounds online ...

"I want my remains spread at Disneyland," my mother says. "But I don't want to be cremated. Just leave my parts."

"Okay. I promise."

"You can bury my heart at Chuck E. Cheese's."

"Okay. You got it."

"Bury my heart at Sea World."

"I will, Mama."

"I will fight no more about putting the toothpaste cap on, forever."

We were two Indian women, laughing until our bellies ached, spitting death right in the eye.



I've been saving newspaper clippings, curious human interest stories to inspire my writing efforts. A cache of yellowed newsprint lies in a small pile:

Woman charged with death of overfed toddler

Man married twenty-nine times will have funeral

Mermaid girl to have legs split

One clipping is particularly compelling: Mother's coma ends after sixteen years. The woman resurrected from her coma is Standing Rock Sioux. She emerged from her sixteen-year sleep on Christmas Eve, and her nickname is Happy, which makes me think of The Seven Dwarfs, which makes me think of another Disney icon, Sleeping Beauty, a more apt attribution.

My headlines collection today is harvested mostly from Facebook newsfeeds:

The day my pastor claimed gay people are possessed by fart demons that can drive pigs to suicide

Charles Manson's wedding canceled — bride "just wanted his corpse" to make money

Idaho lawmaker wonders if women could have gyno exam by swallowing a little camera

Years ago I watched a TV movie starring Elizabeth Montgomery from Bewitched. The movie was about a woman who reemerged after being in a coma for over a decade. Her readjustment from having been a popular high school cheerleader to being poised on the edge of middle age met with harrowing challenges. A handsome high school basketball coach fell in love with her and aggressively pursued her, trying to break down the barriers of her "teenage" shyness, which culminated in the literal breaking down of her door yelling, "Love me!" She finally submitted. These days there'd be a twelve-step group for what the basketball coach was afflicted with, not to mention a restraining order.

Pastor claims women are penis homes and men's penises belong to God

My aunt Carlotta suffered a brain aneurysm and never woke up. She'd always been active and in good health. She and her husband had just adopted a little boy; she sent us pictures. And then abruptly — silence. For nearly two decades she slept, wasted away, slept, growing thinner and thinner, sleeping and sleeping, in a convalescent home outside Glasgow, Montana. Her husband remarried. Her little boy grew up and married. Relatives passed away. Presidents served out their terms, were reelected, served out those terms. More headlines: the Berlin wall fell. The United Nations declared war in the Middle East. Waco. O. J. Simpson. Oklahoma City terrorism. Cloned sheep. First black president. My aunt slept. And slept.

Practical help for the demon possessed: Vatican rolls out new exorcism course

Some thought my aunt was the victim of Indian witchery. A jealous enemy perhaps. An imagined trespass or a real trespass. I don't know that I believe in those things. I don't know if I even believe in ghosts. Believing might only allow such things to surface. Once I wished out loud for a woman to be dead, and the next year she died, her body blooming with tumors. She was my boyfriend's old lover, a kindled old flame, and was a catalyst for the breakup of his marriage, a wedge in his relationships that followed. Like with me. I was not the only woman in his life who seethed with jealousy.

Woman in sumo wrestler suit assaults ex-girlfriend in gay pub after she waved at man dressed as Snickers bar

My father had dated Aunt Carlotta before he met and married my mother. Carlotta was my mother's sister-in-law. It was less than a year after my mother's husband died that my mother married my father — her sister-in-law's ex-lover. I wish I knew why my dad and Carlotta broke up. I don't know if there was any animosity between my mother and Carlotta; they always seemed to be good friends. But you never know. It is easy to become confused about these things.

Students cook and serve grandparents

My mother's best friend in Havre, Montana, Twila, was stricken with a troubled marriage. Maybe stricken is the wrong word; it wasn't like getting the flu, but then again, maybe a troubled marriage is like getting the flu. If I can wish someone dead, certainly someone else could catch a bad marriage, that marital virus that's going around, maybe even a hex. Twila's husband stalked her whenever she went out. He thought she was running around on him. Mason stowed away in the trunk of her Riviera, and she caught him when she put groceries in the trunk. On another night my mother dropped by to visit, and as she was getting out of her car to walk up to the house, she discovered Mason perched twelve feet high in the branches of a tree, spying on his wife.

Man with nothing to declare has fifty-five tortoises in his pants

The Lakota word for horse is sunka wakan: wakan, which translates to "sacred" or "mystery" and sunka, meaning "dog." The Sioux are a horse culture, and the horse is highly revered, a spiritual being. This makes my childhood allergies to horsehair particularly ironic. It would have been hard for me if I lived in olden times. I was also allergic to rabbit fur as a child. This seems less of a problem, since as far as I know rabbits aren't especially revered. Not like horses, anyway. I suppose my father didn't take this into account — the fact that my mother was Lakota and raised on a reservation in eastern Montana — when he brought home what looked like a gift and presented it to my mother. It was a package wrapped in brown butcher paper and tied off with white string. Words were exchanged between my parents, voices raised, some alarm, and then my mother rushed from the kitchen in tears. My father calmly pulled out a fry pan, unwrapping the meat from its brown paper and cooking it like it was any other.

PETA suggests Washington Redskins keep controversial name, change logo to potato

I learned of death's paradoxes when I was six — how acts of violence are sometimes demonstrations of mercy, even love. Along a Pacific beach he found a wounded mallard and applied an ax to end its suffering. From flight and prey to a naturalist's specimen, the mallard submitted to an inexact science — one of air and wind, one of pressure and temperature, one of sand and ocean salt. Among the viscera and ruins my father indicated the transparent bubble — this is how it floats. A fretwork of shadow and light, the blood mirrored the portentous reading of clouds, a swirl of lines and curves from where a song begins.

Emotional support pig kicked off flight for being disruptive

The last time I ever saw Jeff alive, he gave me a gift — an hourglass. And it took over two decades later for the symbolism to finally dawn on me: an hourglass, gifted from a young man with one foot planted in the next world. His time was running out. Even the hourglass he gifted me appeared to have been stolen — I imagine from the desktop of one of the school classrooms he was hired to clean. Not borrowed time but stolen.

Old man, ninety-eight, wins lottery, dies next day

Agoraphobic grandma finally leaves home, immediately falls down manhole

"When were these photos taken?" I ask my mother. We are removing items from her dresser drawers, taking inventory to prepare for the day she will die. She has lung cancer. I hold up the black-and-white photos for her to see. I have never seen them before. There are three pictures, all taken in the same location, some isolated forest road. She looks gorgeous, disheveled, dreamy. They are from an earlier era, the seventies, taken when I was still very small, when I lived with both of my parents, my sister, and my grandfather. The photos were taken by her lover, a man my mother admits was a close friend of our family. I barely remember him. She hid the pictures away for years.

The Eagle has landed, two men walk on the moon

Chronicles of an affair with his secretary, found in an abandoned suitcase

Lana Turner's daughter fatally stabs her mother's lover


The Jimmy Report

Thursday, May 7, 2004, 11:00 a.m., Bellingham, WA

I pass by the front counter and spot him in the back climbing out from beneath a massive pile of textiles. He's wearing dark-blue polyester pants from a deceased World War II veteran's closet. The pants have multicolored dashes woven into the fabric that look like a moth infestation. They're obviously too big for him, and he belts them with an orange scarf.

Jimmy owns and operates Blue Moon Vintage Clothing, housed in a proverbial bulwark near the waterfront in the old-town section of Bellingham. I happen to catch him on a good day. His mood's up due to a windfall — the aforementioned massive pile of used clothes — from a guy he knows in the wholesale business, some kind of rag dealer. The clothes seem okay, usable, but looks can be deceiving.

I mentally list the pile's contents. A black bustier in a child's size 2M; a wispy blouse that appears at first glance to be leopard print but is actually owls; Ziggy Stardust shoes; acid-green poly-plaid golf pants (real beauts, Jimmy says, but too small for him) and a matching green Nebraska Tech College T-shirt; a purse with tags still attached; a red faux-leather trench coat à la Audrey Hepburn; tennis shirts from the Bruce Jenner Collection; assorted western-style shirts, the snappy kind.

Jimmy chirps about how he isn't selling his business after all, the pile of new clothes apparently the culprit for his optimism. Not to be a naysayer, but I'm not sure there is a thousand dollars' worth of merchandise in his pile, even with the fetching owl print blouse. Obviously, it makes him happy to think so, things looking up from his previous month's "donation" to the local Lummi tribe — aka the casino's craps table — so who am I to rain on his parade? While I'm relieved he isn't bailing out this week, next week could be different. Eventually, the property management is going to want its back rent, money that Jimmy professes not to have.

Jimmy relays that Paris Texas, the store next door, had been sniffing around his property the month before and that he's contemptuous of their hipster posturing and their empty brand of style. He thinks they pander to a faux counterculture, a type of trust fund street waif, which offends his sensibilities because Jimmy considers himself to be the genuine article. His clients don't pose as poverty-stricken, homeless addicts and alcoholics; they are poverty-stricken, homeless addicts and alcoholics. Many are Mission residents or railroad car buddies, apparently. I want to say mostly men who are down on their luck and who possess hearts of gold, but that'd be a cliché. A pair of Alaskan Natives appear on the sidewalk in front of the store, and Jimmy rushes out to greet them, slapping one guy on the back and mumbling something about stolen lands and Custer. The pair and others drop by the store frequently throughout the day because Jimmy gives them cigarettes, and all that's required in return is that they stand still long enough for Jimmy to tell them a funny story.

For me Jimmy's the quintessential everyman's man, champion of the underdog. I admire his contempt for capitalism and corporate sellouts. Part of what drives his decision not to sell his store is that his retail neighbor wants the space to expand, and he delights in denying them what they want, as if he's staying afloat simply out of spite. (As he once said, "If someone told me I couldn't be a Roman Catholic priest, I would be!") He posted a sign in the window of Blue Moon — written on the back of a poster for Beat Angel, an independent film he starred in — that conveyed his disdain and informed his patrons that the rumors weren't true: "Not Selling Out to Paris Texas!"


Excerpted from "Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese's"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska.
Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Geary Hobson,
Part I: My Origin Story Is a Cross between "Call Me Ishmael," a Few Too Many Whiskey Sours Packed in an Old Thermos at the Drive-In Double Feature, and That Little Voice That Says, "You Got This",
Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese's,
Part II: Instead of a "Raised by Wolves" T-Shirt, Mine Says "Raised by Functional Alcoholics with Intimacy Phobias & Low Self-Esteem",
The Jimmy Report,
My Name Is Moonbeam McSwine,
The Siam Sequences,
Part III: Micro (Aggression) Memoirs,
First World (Story) Problems: Brown Girl Multiple Choice Edition,
Tweets as Assigned Texts for aNative American Studies Course,
Ghoul, Interrupted,
Part IV: Garsh Durn It! You Say Patriarchy, I Say Patri-Malarkey, Dollars to Donuts Cuckoo Banana Pants, You Gals & Your Lady Power This 'n' That,
An Open Letter to White Women Concerning The Handmaid's Tale and America's Historical Amnesia,
Fertility Rites,
Wonder Woman Hits Theaters, Smashes Patriarchy,
Jame Gumb, Hero and Pioneer of the Fat-Positivity Movement,
Post-Election Message to the 53 Percent,
Committee of Barnyard Swine to Determine Fate for Women's Health,
Champion Our Native Sisters! (but Only Selectively and under Certain Conditions),
An Open Letter to White Girls Regarding Pumpkin Spice and Cultural Appropriation,
Part V: Me, Cutting in Front of All the People in All the Lines,
Forever: "It's Okay, I Literally Was Here First" #DecolonizedAF,
Thousands of Jingle Dress Dancers Magically Appear at Standing Rock Protector Site,
Satire Article Goes Viral on Day of 2016 Presidential Election Results,
Attack of the Fifty-Foot (Lakota) Woman,
Minnesota Art Gallery to Demolish "Indian Uprisings" Exhibit after Caucasian Community Protest,
Why I Don't Like "Pussy" Hats,
Li-Li-Li-Li-Land, Standing Rock, the Musical!,
Part VI: Merciless Indian Savages? Try Merciless Indian Fabulous!,
Redeeming the English Language (Acquisition) Series,
Fifty Shades of Buckskin,
Conversations with My Lakota Mom,
Feast Smudge Snag,
Eight Types of Native Moms,
Part VII: "Shill the Pretendian, Unfav the Genuine" Is the 2018 Remix of "Kill the Indian, Save the Man",
Red like Me: I Knew Rachel Dolezal Back When She Was Indigenous,
A List of Alternative Identities to Try for Fun and Profit,
I Have White Bread Privilege,
Things Pseudo-Native Authors Have Claimed to Be but Actually Are Not,
You Might Be a Pretendian,
Part VIII: I Watched Woman Walks Ahead and Frankly Was,
Offended by the Cookie-Cutter, Stereotypical Portrayal of the,
Menacing White Soldier,
Reel Indians Don't Eat Quiche: The Fight for Authentic Roles in Hollywood,
Are You There, Christmas? It's Me, Carol!,
Post-Election U.S. Open in Racist Tirades Competition,
West Wing World,
Part IX: The Native Americans Used EVERY Part of the Sacred Turkey,
Hey America, I'm Taking Back Thanksgiving,
Clown Costumes Banned, Racist Native American Halloween Costumes Still Okay,
Thanksgiving Shopping at Costco: I Just Can't Even,
Politically Correct Alternatives to Culturally Insensitive Halloween Costumes,
Part X: BREAKING NEWS — Your Neighbor Who Said, "Whoa, Dude, This Whole Trump Thing's, Like, So Fricken Surreal," Might Actually Be on to Something,
Step Right Up, Folks,
Trump Pardons Zombie Apocalypse,
There's Something about Andrew Jackson,
Trump Administration to Repeal Bison as First National Mammal,
President Trump Scheduled for Whirlwind Tour to Desecrate World's Treasures,
Part XI: The Trump Administration's Pop-Up, Coloring, Scratch 'n' Sniff, Edible, and Radioactive Activity Book,
You've Got Mail!,
Executive Order Requiring All Americans Take Up Cigarettes by End of 2017,
The Wild West (Wing) and Wild Bill Hiccup,
Give a Chump a Chance,
Ars Poetica by Donald J. Trump,

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