Synopses & Reviews
In this powerful debut novel by award-winning Nora Pierce, a young girl must discover the meaning of self and family as she struggles to find her place between two contrasting realities.
On the reservation, Alice lives in a run-down trailer. Both her parents are alcoholics. She seldom has enough food and she rarely attends school, but she is free to follow her imagination. She is connected to the life and ancestry of her people and the deep love she receives from her family and community.
When her mother succumbs to schizophrenia, Alice is removed from her home and placed with a white foster family in the suburbs. This new world is neat and tidy and wholesome, but it is also alien, and Alice is unmoored from everything she has ever known and everything that has defined her.
As she traces Alice's journey between two cultures, Pierce asks probing questions about identity and difference, and she articulates vital truths about the contemporary Native American experience. Utterly authentic and lyrically compelling, this novel establishes Pierce as an important voice in American literature.
"In Pierce's forceful debut, Alice is five when she and her homeless, mentally ill mother, Amalie (Mami, she calls her), arrive at Papi's trailer in an Arizona Indian reservation to live. Papi, a heavy-drinking itinerant laborer, may or may not be Alice's father, but he adores Amalie (who is of Kwytz'an descent) and has been waiting for her to return after years of medication and hospitalization-related absence. Afflicted with a skin ailment and subsisting largely on French fries, Alice briefly attends the local reservation school before her mother's visions and paranoia prompt them to hitchhike back to Amalie's father's home in California. Amalie's mental condition worsens, along with Grampa's untreated diabetes: one, then the other is hospitalized, leaving Alice in foster care. At 13, Alice wants to fit in with her white American foster family and at the school she attends; but while foster sister Anne takes ballet classes, Alice is encouraged to learn bead-making and Indian dances. Yet the pull of her heritage is strong, and Alice and other Quechen (or Native) characters Pierce introduces grapple to overcome difficult legacies in this unsentimental coming-of-age story." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Nora Pierce's debut novel, The Insufficiency of Maps, explores the textures and mysteries of the fundamental human experiences — love, dependence, marginality, madness — in a poetic style which does not seek to simply explicate those textures and mysteries, but embodies them." Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander
"Nora Pierce will write many great books that will sell increasing numbers of copies. Trust me on this. She's gonna be a Wonder Woman." Sherman Alexie, author of The Toughest Indian in the World
"The Insufficiency of Maps is an engaging, profound, and illuminating story. Enormous accomplishments." John L'Heureux, former editor of The Atlantic Monthly, author of sixteen books of poetry and fiction
In this powerful debut novel by an award-winning author, a young Native American girl must discover the meaning of self and family as she struggles to find her place between two realities.
About the Author
Nora Pierce teaches creative writing at Stanford University, where she was also a Wallace Stegner fellow. An award-winning writer, she was a Rosenthal Fellow in the PEN Center Emerging Voices program. She lives with her husband and child in California.