Cheyenne Madonna

By Eddie Chuculate
Black Sparrow Books, 2010

In seven interconnected stories Chuculate pursues the painful self-discovery of a half-Cherokee youth trying to distance himself from his family’s chronic drinking, impoverishment, and racism. In “YoYo,” Jordon, the dreamy protagonist of most of the stories, finds his myopic world abruptly pried open by the appearance of an older, and dazzlingly fast, black girl. In “A Famous Indian Artist,” Jordon describes the disintegration of his admiration for his uncle, the only relative he has who has lived a creative life. In “Dear Shorty,” Jordon depicts his alcoholic father in shockingly unsparing and unsentimental terms; after first following disastrously in his footsteps, Jordon achieves stature as an artist, yet continues to try to connect with his father, even after it’s too late. Chuculate writes forthright prose in a somber key, examining without judgment the lives of Native American characters like Old Bull, a Cheyenne who, in “Galveston Bay, 1826,” the collection’s one stand-alone story, ventures out to see the ocean for the first time, only to get savaged by a hurricane. Memory and will converge here to powerful effect. (Publishers Weekly)

Eddie Chuculate won a PEN/O. Henry prize in 2007 and held a Wallace Stegner creative writing fellowship at Stanford University. A Creek and Cherokee Indian from Muskogee, Oklahoma, he has a degree in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts and was accepted into the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.