Louis immerses the reader in a compelling mix of Indian and white cultures and its resulting ambiguities, competing worldviews, and conflicted values. Rudy, the Indian cop, portrays these confusing conflicts beautifully, representing both the law in his tribal police uniform and vigilante justice in his blackface and pantyhose mask.
Revealing other dimensions of Rudy's confusion, Louis explores his relationship to the women in his life. Married and estranged from his wife, Rudy indulges his growing attraction to his cousin's wife, Stella, while he carries on with other men's wives as well.
|Tashun-Kakokipa, Pine Ridge, 1891|
Also at the center of the story is Rudy's relationship with his alcoholic older brother, Mogey. While casting an unblinking eye on the devastating impact of alcohol consumption on the reservation, Louis both condemns and forgives those who seek oblivion in the bottom of the bottle. In his hands, Mogey is a wonderful creation.
While there are vague allusions to the grim effect of two tours of duty in Vietnam, Louis doesn't excuse Mogey for choosing his path of self-destruction. Yet through his brother Rudy, the reader can begin to understand the deep love possible for someone unable to resist the pull of despair.
This book is not for everyone, but I like it for what it has to say about the Indian nations - in their own voices and without the moralizing or sentimentality of those who have never walked in their shoes. Also worth watching is the film Skins (2002, available on DVD), which is based on the book.
Picture credit: wikimedia.org
Coming up: Ryan Taylor, A Collection of Cowboy Logic