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On the Rez

Frazier, Ian

ISBN 10: 0374226385 / ISBN 13: 9780374226381
Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, NY, U.S.A., 2000
Condition: Fine Hardcover
From Kennedy Books (Jamestown, ND, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

Fine unread copy protected by Archival Brodart cover. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 000115

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Bibliographic Details

Title: On the Rez

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, NY, U.S.A.

Publication Date: 2000

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Signed: Signed by Author

Edition: First Edition.

About this title

Synopsis:

A great writer's journey of exploration in an American place that is both strange and deeply familiar.

In Ian Frazier's bestselling Great Plains, he described meeting a man in New York City named Le War Lance, "an Oglala Sioux Indian from Oglala, South Dakota." In On the Rez, Frazier returns to the plains and focuses on a place at their center-the Pine Ridge Reservation in the prairie and badlands of South Dakota, home of the Oglala Sioux. Frazier drives around "the rez" with Le War Lance and other Oglalas as they tell stories, visit relatives, go to powwows and rodeos and package stores, and try to find parts to fix one or another of their on-the-verge-of-working cars.

On the Rez considers Indian ideas of freedom and community and equality that are basic to how we view ourselves. Most of all, he examines the Indian idea of heroism-its suffering and its pulse-quickening, public-spirited glory. On the Rez portrays the survival, through toughness and humor, of a great people whose culture has shaped our American identity.

Review:

Given that the Great Plains long functioned as a stomping ground for the Oglala Sioux, it was inevitable that Ian Frazier would cross paths with them when he wrote his 1989 chronicle of that sublime flatland. But the encounter between the self-confessed "chintzy middle-class white guy" and his Native American counterparts went so swimmingly that Crazy Horse assumed a starring role in the book. Now Frazier continues his cross-cultural romance in On the Rez. This account of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is as touching, funny, and maniacally digressive as anything he's written. What's more, he manages to avoid most of the politically correct potholes along the way, producing a vivid, ambivalent (i.e., honest) portrait of a community where the very "landscape is dense with stories."

Much of On the Rez revolves around Le War Lance, whom Frazier first met in Great Plains. This yarn-spinning, beer-swilling figure serves the author as a kind of Native American Virgil, introducing him to the hard facts of reservation life. In fact, their friendship, with its accents of deep affection and dependency, anchors the entire narrative and elicits some typically top-drawer prose:

Le's eyes can be merry and flat as a smile button, or deep and glittering with malice or slyness or something he knows and I never will. He is fifty-seven years old. I have seen his hair, which is black streaked with gray, when it was over two feet long and held with beaded ponytail holders a foot or so apart, and I have seen it much shorter, after he had shaved his head in mourning for a friend who had died.
On the Rez delivers a history of the Oglala nation that spotlights our paleface population in some of its most shameful, backstabbing moments, as well as a quick tour through Indian America. The latter, to be honest, seems a little too conscientiously cooked up from primary sources and news clippings. But elsewhere Frazier is in superb form, reporting everything he sees and hears with enviable clarity and promptly pulling the rug out from under himself whenever he seems too omniscient. Few accounts of reservation life have been this comical; even fewer have moved beyond the poverty and pandemic drunk driving to discern actual, theological wickedness on the premises: "At such moments a sense of compound evil--the evil of the human heart, in league with the original darkness of this wild continent--curls around me like shoots of a fast-growing vine." In the hands of many a writer, the previous sentence might resemble a rhetorical firecracker. In Frazier's, it comes off as a statement of fact--which is only one of the reasons why every American, Native or not, should take a look at this sad, splendid, and surprisingly hopeful book. --James Marcus

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