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368 pages, 9.1 x 6, $26.00; February 2012
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Celebrated novelist David Treuer has gained a reputation for writing fiction that expands the horizons of Native American literature. In Rez Life, his first full-length work of nonfiction, Treuer brings a novelistís storytelling skill and an eye for detail to a complex and subtle examination of Native American reservation life, past and present.
With authoritative research and reportage, Treuer illuminates misunderstood contemporary issues of sovereignty, treaty rights, and natural-resource conservation. He traces the waves of public policy that have disenfranchised and exploited Native Americans, exposing the tension that has marked the historical relationship between the United States government and the Native American population. Through the eyes of students, teachers, government administrators, lawyers, and tribal court judges, he shows how casinos, tribal government, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have transformed the landscape of Native American life.
A member of the Ojibwe of northern Minnesota, Treuer grew up on Leech Lake Reservation, but was educated in mainstream America. Exploring crime and poverty, casinos and wealth, and the preservation of native language and culture, Rez Life is a strikingly original work of history and reportage, a must read for anyone interested in the Native American story.
“In a book that is part memoir, part journalistic exposé and part cultural history, novelist Treuer offers a movingly plainspoken account of reservation life &hellip Powerful, important reading.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“In this, his first foray into non-fiction, novelist David Treuer has given us a gritty, raw, and thoroughly authentic look at reservation life—as experienced from the inside out. Here is modern America glimpsed through a different membrane, narrated in a fresh new voice. In this searching, at times heartbreaking, but often triumphant melange of history, journalism, and memoir, Treuer loudly proclaims that all reports of the American Indian's demise have been greatly exaggerated.”
— Hampton Sides, bestselling author of Blood and Thunder
“An invaluable study and vivid account of problematic life on our reservations by a writer—a very good writer!—raised 'on the rez' who knows what he's talking about only too well and also knows how to tell a story, lots of stories, that document and effectively banish a number of misconceptions still held by white society. Highly recommended.”
“Rez Life is a powerful, poignant, and beautifully written history/memoir that weaves together strands of joy and tragedy, empathy and greed, hope and despair, and tradition and wrenching change. It is an important and insightful book that should be read by anyone interested in the fascinating role of reservations in Americaís past, present, and future.”
—Eric Jay Dolin, author of Fur, Fortune and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America
“Free of academic jargon, overflowing with terrific storytelling, David Treuer has given us the best book I have ever read on contemporary reservation life. A courageously intimate memoir of family life and community survival in his Great Lakes Indian homeland, it deftly sashays between gritty everyday realities and their well-researched historical contexts and cultural resonances through the magically readable kind of non-fiction that perhaps only a novelist could pull off. Alive with memorable personalities and harrowing dips into reservation hell, wonderfully observed road trips through Indian country and inspiring examples of traditional subsistence and linguistic renewal, this introduction to Native America is destined to be a classic.”
—Peter Nabokov, Professor of American Indian Studies, UCLA, and author of Where the Lightning Strikes: The Lives of American Indian Sacred Places
“One of the most provocative voices in American Indian literary writing and criticism, David Treuer turns his piercing eye to the intertwined experiences of Native resurgence and crisis. Rez Life is for those who really want to understand Indian casinos, fishing rights, poverty, alcohol, spirituality, family, crime, war, law, sovereignty, violence, love, dedication, endurance... and most everything else. Treuer's powerful story erupts out of family history and the Native past, wraps itself around the veil of modernity, and looks with proud worry toward Indian—and American—futures.”
— Philip J. Deloria, author of Indians in Unexpected Places and Playing Indian
“Rez Life is a compelling and unvarnished look at the unique experience of life on an Indian reservation. With a novelistís eye for detail and a journalistic grasp of history, David Treuer reveals that this countryís crimes against its original inhabitants were not limited to the 18th and 19th centuries. This is a must-read for anyone who cares about the ongoing plight of our Native Americans.”
— Brian Hicks, author of Toward the Setting Sun: John Ross, the Cherokees and the Trail of Tears
“Out of the people and places of Native America David Treuer has crafted a story of vital interest to all Americans.”
— Vice President Walter Mondale
“Rez Life isnít a voyeuristic march through Indian countryís wrenching ills. While Treuer doesnít shy from the miserable side of Indian life, he unveils a world—grounded in Minnesotaís Leech Lake Reservation, where he grew up—that is complex and rich. ... Treuer manages to write a book about Indian life that is often fun and occasionally hilarious.”
— Lisa Jones, Outside
“A compelling account of life on native American reservations.”
— The Christian Science Monitor