Synopses & Reviews
Welcome to the Seventh Annual Conference of the Society for Protection and Reclamation of Indian Images. Expect to find, amid all the refined cultural observations, academic posturing, and political maneuvering, an Indian who defies anyone to protect, let alone reclaim, her image. This is Shirley Mounter, a Tuscarora woman and the chief storyteller among the acerbic, eloquent, and often hilarious speakers who overflow the pages of this latest novel by the noted Onondaga writer Eric Gansworth. A lecture on Indian stereotypes by Shirleyand#8217;s daughter, art historian Annie Boans, calls forth Shirleyand#8217;s recollections, whose outpourings deposit us in the turbulent yet restorative waters of modern Iroquoian reservation life, always flowing and eddying around kin.and#160;Indeed, Shirleyand#8217;s house and land are now, after a long and bitter fight, forever lost to her in the construction of a water reservoir that feeds the governmentand#8217;s hydroelectric plant. The story of this battle is the story of Shirleyand#8217;s generation and the faltering generation that followsand#8212;of violent love and losses, of children turning away only to find themselves forever negotiating the nuances of identity, of popular culture in jarring juxtaposition with the sometimes even more incredible realities of Native life. Weaving a complex narrative illustrated with his own paintings, Gansworth creates a rich, wry, and multifaceted tapestry of the intricate twists and turns of coincidence, memories, and stories that bind Native families together.
"Gansworth's third novel (after Smoke Dancing) begins rather ponderously with a partial transcript of a keynote address at a conference to protect and reclaim Indian images, but the primary narrator is soon revealed to be garrulous Shirley Mounter, whose daughter, Annie Boans, an art historian, is involved in the conference. Shirley and Annie are members of the Tuscarora tribe, which once dominated the land around Niagara Falls, and the tribulations of the tribe are the backdrop for Shirley's rambling storytelling, which mostly deals with her problematic relationship with her lazy husband, Harris. Annie's equally troubled marriage enters the picture in the second half of the book, but the novel's climax comes in a scene in which a group of reservation bad boys drive a car into the house of Annie's mother-in-law, Martha, who loses most of her possessions in the subsequent fire. Gansworth's decision to break up Shirley's narration with first-person passages from the perspective of other characters presents definite strengths and weaknesses; stylistically, it creates a folksy, appealing tone that makes the novel more accessible, but the choppy, uneven storytelling leads to a lack of focus. The play of voices can be engaging, but the narrative lacks the coherence to be truly effective." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
and#8220;A wonderful idiosyncratic novel full of wisdom and hope, humor and dance, and transcendent in its beauty. Since the appearance of his first book Indian Summers, the novelist, short story writer, painter, and poet Eric Gansworth has been an indefatigable chronicler of the infinite lives of Upstate New York's Indian communities but with Mending Skins he has produced a small masterpiece, a rich and varied spectacle that illuminates the deepest quadrants of the human heart.and#8221;and#8212;Junot Dand#237;az, author of Drown
and#8220;Eric Gainsworth is unquestionably one of the rising stars on the Western New York literary scene.and#8221;and#8212;R. D. Pohl, Buffalo Spree Magazine
and#8220;What distinguishes this short novel from others is its sharp wit and particular tribal locale, the Tuscarora, in upstate New York. . . . Gansworthand#8217;s own illustrations preface each section and foreshadow plot events. The characters are so engaging and events intertwined that a longer novel would have been welcome.and#8221;and#8212;P. Jane Hafen, Multicultural Review
This latest novel by a noted Onondaga writer is a rich, wry and multifaceted picture of modern Iroquoian reservation life.
About the Author
Eric Gansworth is an associate professor of English and Lowery Writer-in-Residence at Canisius College. He is the author of two other novels, Smoke Dancing and Indian Summers, as well as a book of poems and paintings, Nickel Eclipse: Iroquois Moon.