Mixing prose and poetry, ancient traditions and modern sensibilities, this brilliant, profane, and poignant coming-of-age story is a masterpiece of Native American literature
At a Thanksgiving party held in a Bureau of Indian Affairs gymnasium, the elders of the Meskwaki Settlement in central Iowa sip coffee while the teenagers plot their escape. Edgar Bearchild and Ted Facepaint, too broke to join their friends for a night of drinking in a nearby farm town, decide to attend a ceremonial gathering of the Well-Off Man Church, a tribal sect with hallucinogenic practices. After partaking of the congregation’s sacred star medicine, Edgar receives a prophetic vision and comes to a newfound understanding of his people’s past and present that will ultimately reshape the course of his life.
Set against the backdrop of the tumultuous 1960s, Black Eagle Child is the story of Edgar’s passage from boyhood to manhood, from his youthful misadventures with Ted, to his year at prestigious liberal arts college in California, to his return to Iowa and success as a poet. Deftly crossing genre boundaries and weaving together a multitude of tones and images—from grief to humor, grape Jell-O to supernatural strobe lights—it is also an unforgettable portrait of what it means to be a Native American in the modern world.
Open Road Media; October 2015
- ISBN 9781504014168
- Read online, or download in secure EPUB format
- Title: Black Eagle Child
- Author: Ray Young Bear
Imprint: Open Road Media
In The Press
“A magnificent piece of literature.” —The New York Times
“Vastly complex and engaging . . . Sophisticated and cunning . . . Young Bear has a novelist’s eye for precise social and atmospheric detail.” —Los Angeles Times
“This book is a story with great liveliness. It reminds me of Huckleberry Finn but with real huckleberries this time. The complicated mysteries and zaniness of the Native American soul rise up in the story, and the ‘other world’ crosses this world in a way that is deeply satisfying.” —Robert Bly
“It is risky to be an Indian these days, as it has always been in the face of the colonial and imperial powers that crowd around us. That truth makes every sentence, story, and image of Ray Young Bear’s fictional and poetic works a decisive landmark for telling the modern world what it means to be a tribal man.” —Elizabeth Cook-Lynn
This wonderful volume of stories, told in both prose and poetry, floats between memoir and fiction, history and storytelling.” —Library Journal
“Fascinating and accomplished . . . A unique account and a milestone in Native American literature.” —Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Ray Young Bear
“Ray Young Bear’s work is the gift of an anguished imagination marked with grief and humor. His writing alternately lashes and heals, but always instructs from a deep vision of the world.” —Louise Erdrich
“[Young Bear] speaks from a kind of timeless experience; his voice is the voice of the coyote or singer of Beowulf or the inventor of words.” —N. Scott Momaday
“Ray Young Bear is the best poet in Indian Country. Sacred and profane, profound and irreverent, his poetry pushes you into a corner, roughs you up a bit, maybe takes your wallet, and then gives you a long kiss goodbye.” —Sherman Alexie
“Ray Young Bear is generally acknowledged as the nation’s foremost contemporary Native American poet. . . . [He] is destined for even wider and more fulsome recognition as a national treasure.” —The Bloomsbury Review
About The Author
Ray Young Bear is a lifetime resident of the Meskwaki Settlement in central Iowa. His poems have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Virginia Quarterly Review, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, the Iowa Review, the American Poetry Review, and the Best American Poetry, and have been collected into three books: Winter of the Salamander (1980), The Invisible Musician (1990), and The Rock Island Hiking Club (2001). He also wrote Black Eagle Child: The Facepaint Narratives (1995), a novel combining prose and poetry that was heralded by the New York Times as “magnificent.” Its sequel, Remnants of the First Earth (1998), won the Ruth Suckow Award as an outstanding work of fiction about Iowa.
The recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Ray Young Bear has taught creative writing and Native American literature at numerous schools across the United States, including the University of Iowa and the Institute of American Indian Arts. A singer as well as an author, Young Bear is a cofounder of the Woodland Singers & Dancers, which performs contemporary and traditional tribal dances throughout the country.