Summary and book reviews of On The Rez by Ian Frazier

On The Rez

by Ian Frazier

On The Rez
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  • First Published:
    Dec 1999, 311 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2001, 320 pages

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Book Summary

Frazier brings us into the private world of the reservation and the great people whose culture has shaped American identity.

On the Rez, by Ian Frazier, is about modern-day American Indians, especially the storied Oglala Siouz, who live now on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the plans and badlands of the American West. Crazy Horse, perhaps the greatest Indian war leader of the nineteenth century, and Black Elk, the holy man whose teachings became known around the world, were Oglala; Frazier visits their descendants on Pine Ridge Reservation -- "the rez" -- now one of American's poorest places. With his longtime friend Le War Lance (whom he first wrote about in his 1989 best-seller Great Plains) and other Oglala, Frazier drives around the rez as they visit friends and relatives, go to powwows and rodeos and package stores, and tinker with various falling-apart cars. In the career of SuAnne Big Crow, the most admired Oglala basketball player of all time, who died in a car accident in 1992, Frazier finds a modern reemergence of the Sious hero who saves her people; and he learns about the ancient and enduring Sious concept of the hero, in its pulse-quickening, death-defying, public-spirited glory.

Most of all, with compassion and imagination, Frazier brings up into the private world of the reservation. He portrays the survival, through toughness and humor, of a great people whose culture has shaped American identity.

This book is about Indians, particularly the Oglala Sioux who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota, in the plains and badlands in the middle of the United States. People want to know what a book is about right up front, I have found. They feel this way even if the book does not yet exist, if it is only planned. When I describe the subject to non-Indians, they often reply that it sounds bleak. "Bleak" is the word attached in many people's minds to the idea of certain Indian reservations, of which the Oglala's reservation is perhaps the best example. Oddly, it is a word I have never heard used by Indians themselves. Many thousands of people-not just Americans, but German and French and English people, and more - visit the reservations every year, and the prevailing opinion among the Indians is not that they come for the bleakness. The Indians understand that the visitors are there out of curiosity and out of an admiration which sometimes even reaches ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

The New York Times - Tracy Kidder

Readers who expect straightforward storytelling might call ''On the Rez'' disjointed, but most of the joints are in fact well made. It is only that the book is scattered in time. My experience of reading it went on occasion from wondering, ''What does this have to do with Pine Ridge?'' to thinking, ''All right, it's still interesting'' and finally to feeling, ''Oh, I see.'' I can't imagine another way in which Frazier could have written this book. It has a quality of necessary expression.

Publishers Weekly

Probably no book since Evan S. Connell's Son of the Morning Star has so imaginatively evoked the spirit of the American Indian in American life; like Connell's tours of the Little Bighorn battlefield, Frazier's visits to Pine Ridge and Wounded Knee, and to the descendants of Red Cloud and Black Elk, frame a broad meditation on American history, myth and misconception. Funny and sad, but never bleak, his meandering narrative is, in fact, the composite of many voices and many kinds of history.

Library Journal

His narrative tips at times between writing about his Pine Ridge friends and some Universal Indian, but the story always veers nicely back to specifics on the rez, a landscape "dense with stories." It's the seemingly casual artistry of his descriptions--of evocative prairie junk, a highway snow squall, a summer powwow in a field full of hoppers, the pure experience of roaming--from which Frazier's book gains its resonant strength. Highly recommended for all collections.

Author Blurb Evan S. Connell
Frazier's account of Pine Ridge and of his uncommon friendship with Le War Lance is engaging, resonant, and funny.

Author Blurb Martin Cruz Smith
A wonderful, painful guidebook to a bitter, beautiful land. It all rang true to me.

Author Blurb Tony Hillerman
No citizen interested in reservation life - of in human kindness and human troubles - should fail to read Ian Frazier's gripping story.

Reader Reviews

Nina

Frazier means very well in this book, but not everybody is as charmed by him as he is by himself. Sherman Alexie pointed out , and I think he's got a point, that Frazier seems to think that he is "a white man who is magically unlike all other ...   Read More

Julie

The method of addressing readers is very old-fashioned, along with his need for a hero in SuAnne Big Crow.

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