Black Elk: Book summary and reviews of Black Elk by Joe Jackson

Black Elk

The Life of an American Visionary

by Joe Jackson

Black Elk by Joe Jackson
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2016
    624 pages
    Genre: Biographies/Memoirs

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Book Summary

The epic life story of the Native American holy man who has inspired millions around the world.

Black Elk, the Native American holy man, is known to millions of readers around the world from his 1932 testimonial, Black Elk Speaks. Adapted by the poet John Neihardt from a series of interviews, it is one of the most widely read and admired works of American Indian literature. Cryptic and deeply personal, it has been read as a spiritual guide, a philosophical manifesto, and a text to be deconstructed - while the historical Black Elk has faded from view.

In this sweeping book, Joe Jackson provides the definitive biographical account of a figure whose dramatic life converged with some of the most momentous events in the history of the American West. Born in an era of rising violence, Black Elk killed his first man at Little Big Horn, witnessed the death of his second cousin Crazy Horse, and traveled to Europe with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. Upon his return, he was swept up in the traditionalist Ghost Dance movement and shaken by the massacre at Wounded Knee. But Black Elk was not a warrior and instead choose the path of a healer and holy man, motivated by a powerful prophetic vision that haunted and inspired him, even after he converted to Catholicism in his later years.

In Black Elk, Jackson has crafted a true American epic, restoring to Black Elk the richness of his times and gorgeously portraying a life of heroism and tragedy, adaptation and endurance, in an era of permanent crisis on the Great Plains.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Of much literary and historical merit and a fine addition to the shelves of anyone interested in this part of America's unhappy past." - Kirkus

"This fascinating biography should be read alongside Black Elk Speaks as it contextualizes and reframes that earlier work." - Library Journal

"Jackson digs into Native American culture and what it meant for Black Elk to be a holy man, especially in light of his1904 conversion to Catholicism. He has produced a major contribution to Native American history. Maps & illus." - Publishers Weekly

"Joe Jackson has penned an extraordinary history of Lakota warfare with the United States wrapped around a thorough biography of the legendary Black Elk. Outstanding." - Robert M. Utley, author of The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull

"This extraordinary book will transform the way readers think about the history of the United States and its indigenous peoples." - Ari Kelman, author of A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek, winner of the Bancroft Prize

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Joe Jackson is the author of six works of nonfiction and one novel, including Atlantic Fever: Lindbergh, His Competitors, and the Race to Cross the Atlantic (FSG, 2012). His book The Thief at the End of the World: Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empire was named one of Time magazine's top ten nonfiction books of 2008.

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