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Black Eagle Child: The Facepaint Narratives Paperback – December 6, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This wonderful volume of stories, told in both prose and poetry, floats between memoir and fiction, history and storytelling. To tell his story, Young Bear creates a fictional counterpart to Iowa's Mesquakie Settlement, where he is an enrolled, lifelong resident, and the fictional persona of Edgar Bearchild. Bearchild's account of childhood to young manhood, from the Fifties through the Seventies, mixes the common history of drugs, Vietnam, and The Doors with the racism and injustice of Native American experience. Interwoven through this personal story are tales told by other speakers, sometimes elegiac, often comic. Effectively the book is as much an autobiography of a community as it is the history of a singular life. This is recommended for most collections.
- Brian Kenney, St. John's Univ. Lib., Jamaica, N.Y.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Fascinating and accomplished memoirs in which a Mesquakie poet blends myth, fact, and the unvarnished recollections of a young Native American. Edgar Bearchild, the author's alter-ego in this impressionistic account (also narrated by composites of characters Young Bear has known), grew up on the pseudonymous Black Eagle Child Settlement of central Iowa during the turbulent 60's and 70's--an era whose conflicts would help shape Bearchild's personal vision. His early years careen between the extremes of depressing, mission-supported Thanksgiving ceremonies and passionately religious ``star medicine'' rituals involving psilocybin-induced visions. Bearchild's adolescence includes alcohol-driven small-town adventures with which many American males can identify, as well as encounters with medicine women, spirits of the dead, and signs from nature. His consciousness filled with Doors lyrics, tribal histories and songs, and unidentified spiritual longings, Bearchild leaves for college in California, where, in a confused effort to dull the pain of homesickness, he succumbs to the temptations of synthetic forms of his tribe's hallucinatory drugs. A year later, Bearchild returns to the settlement, a college dropout with no discernible place in the tribe, a published poet originally inspired by his own people, though the English language in which he writes is inadequate to express the tribe's deepest concerns. Nevertheless, Bearchild devotes himself to writing poetry and recording the stories of his ancestors. One result is this tale of the artist as a young man, powerful in its earthy yet often ethereal style. A unique account and a milestone in Native American literature. (Photos--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 261 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; 1st Grove Press edition (December 6, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802134289
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802134288
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #427,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Zane Ivy on February 26, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great read! Ray A. Young Bear's book is not as difficult to penetrate as some of Gerald Vizenor's stuff, but is just as smart. It isn't quite the way Louise Erdrich weaves her stories together, but his use of language and his ability to tell a story is just as good. He's poetic, magical, honest, and can paint pictures with words you won't forget.
What is it about? Well, it's about life. It is about the lives of a group of people from the heartland of America.
If you like Native American literature, get it. If you like poetry, get it. If you enjoy staying up and night and laughing with the characters in the books you read, and feeling their pain, I think you won't be disappointed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mig Jants on April 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This was assigned reading in a Native American Literature class I was enrolled in a few years ago. I have come back to the book twice since then, finding great enjoyment. The character Edgar Bearchild is an enchanting protagonist with the best of intentions and a terribly misguided soul. The opening of the book reveals this--during his first experience with tribal psychedelics intended for serious use, but approached by Ted and Edgar with less-than-pure interest. The book gives its readers a good idea of what reservation life has been like throughout the middle of the 20th century, how institutions have failed the dwindling and seemingly suicidal societies they are meant to serve.

While this book it technically autobiographical (or so a few libraries I've visited have said), there's obviously something to be learned. However, you will not be left hungry for entertainment. "Black Eagle Child" is a journey wrought with comical run-ins and slip-ups, heavy alcohol consumption, drug consumption and rock-and-roll. Since the characters are teenagers, these elements should be expected. And while they come up often, they do not surface without the rightful ponderings that should result from contact with such items in a teenager's life.

Lessons are learned, laughs are had, and ultimately there are truths revealed in this book. I am stunned that this is only the 2nd review posted here on Amazon for this wonderful book. It's truly an enjoyable read.
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