The Light People: A Novel

Front Cover
University of Oklahoma Press, 1995 - Fiction - 226 pages
Taking inspiration from traditional Anishinabe stories and drawing from his own family's storytelling tradition, Gordon Henry, Jr., has woven a tapestry of interlocking narratives in The Light People, a novel of surpassing emotional strength. His characters tell of their experiences, dreams, and visions in a multitude of literary styles and genres. Poetry, drama, legal testimony, letters, and essays combine with more conventional narrative techniques to create a multifaceted, deeply rooted, and vibrant portrait of the author's own tribal culture. Keenly aware of Eurocentric views of that culture, Henry offers a "corrective history" whose humor and wisdom transcend the merely political. In the contemporary Minnesota village of Four Bears, on the mythical Fineday Reservation, a young Chippewa boy named Oskinaway is trying to learn the whereabouts of his parents. His grandparents turn for help to a tribal elder, one of the light people, Jake Seed. Seed's assistant, a magician who performs at children's birthday parties, tells Oskinaway's family his story, which gives way to the stories of those he encounters. Narratives unfold into earlier narratives, spinning back in time and encompassing the intertwined lives of the Fineday Chippewas, eventually revealing the place of Oskinaway and his parents in a complex web of human relationships. Along the way we hear the story of Oshawanung, who fails to bury the amputated leg of Moses Four Bears. Years later, when his nephew sees the preserved leg on display in a museum, a legal battle over custody of the leg raises issues of cultural identity and the ownership and reburial of anthropological specimens. Issues of American Indian identity alsoinform the story of Elijah Cold Crow, who loses his voice after being punished at a boarding school where he is forbidden to speak his Native language, and the essays of Bombarto Rose, a mixed-blood whose attempts to understand his place between two cultures by means of coldly analytical European-style logic periodically erupt into traditional Ojibway poetic imagery. The blending of genres is a tradition of Native American literature; here Gordon Henry extends the technique into a virtuoso tour de force, mixing history with myth, essay with poetry, social science with fiction. His voice is original and engaging, and his stories are wise and moving parabIes.

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Other editions - View all

Bibliographic information