- The Good: Literary portraits of an indigenous family; breaking the cycle of generational trauma
- The Bad: On the depressing side, so prepare yourself
- The Literary: Blurs the lines between short stories and a novel; Kiowa, Cherokee, and Spanish words throughout
Ever Geimausaddle and his family make the best lives they can for themselves and their children, but a cycle of multigenerational trauma persists. After being beaten up by dishonest cops, Ever’s father develops sudden kidney failure, and his mother must struggle to provide for the family. Ever isn’t sure where the rage inside him comes from, but he’s often angry at everyone.
Set against the backdrop of rural Oklahoma, Calling for a Blanket Dance does a lot in such a short book. It’s an open and honest portrayal of poverty, drug use, and violence. In the way of literary fiction, it’s depressingly familiar. But the structure of the novel breaks up the story in such a way that you are pulled into each character’s point of view.
Let me explain. The book is almost a set of short stories, strung together chronologically, each from a different character’s perspective, though they all center around Ever. The voices are distinct and quite beautifully drawn, and as reader you are easily caught up in the drama and motivations of each character.
Ever’s Cherokee grandmother is worried about Ever since he witnessed the violence against his father as a baby, which means he’s likely cursed. She belittles her daughter’s decisions, especially her to move from Lawton to Tahlequah, a move she thinks will saves the family.
Ever’s grandfather, an absent drunk, stops drinking overnight when he’s given six months to live, and instead focuses on connecting with Ever though his heritage and traditional gourd dances. But neither Ever’s grandmother nor his grandfather are perfect people, and they slip into old habits, hold onto old grudges, and refuse to be honest with their own children.
What I mean to say is the characters are distinct portraits, tragically real. The prose is unadorned, laying the truth bare. Depending on the character’s heritage, Kiowa, Cherokee, or Mexican, the storyteller peppers their language with indigenous or Spanish words. And as a young man, Ever struggles with reconciling his three primary heritages.
It’s heartbreaking, but in their rawness the stories are also strangely uplifting. Highly recommend for fans of literary fiction that are interested in modern Indigenous stories!