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Native American Fiction: A User's Manual Paperback – August 22, 2006

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Native American Fiction: A User's Manual + The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative (Indigenous Americas) + Fools Crow (Penguin Classics)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (August 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155597452X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555974527
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,267,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A noted Ojibwa author and professor of creative writing, Treuer makes the case for critiquing Native American fiction purely as literature, ignoring the author's identity, and thus the cultural context in which it is written. In assessing Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine, Treuer delves into the function of symbol and symbolic language in the novel, marveling at Erdrich's ability to work in two modes, naturalistic and symbolic, thus bridging the physical and metaphysical worlds. In the same vein, he claims that James Welch's Fools Crow should be appreciated as a "delicate web being spun for us, not with the strands of culture but with the silk of language." And Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony succeeds not because of the author's "authenticity" but because of her exceptional ability to juxtapose myth and metaphor. Treuer asks that novels by Native Americans be afforded their status as literature, not cultural artifacts, an argument bound to impact Native American literature programs. (See p.29 for a review of Treuer's new novel, The Translation of Dr Apelles.) Deborah Donovan
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“[David Treuer] is mounting a challenge to the whole idea of Indian identity as depicted by both Native and white writers.”—The New York Times
"Treuer. . . executes a searing examination of such beloved authors as Louise Erdrich and Sherman Alexie. His conclusion: 'Native American Fiction does not exist.' "—The Washington Post Book World
“Treuer asks that novels by Native Americans be afforded their status as literature, not cultural artifacts, an argument bound to impact Native American literature programs.”—Library Journal
“His challenge to his readers is to judge Native American writers by the literary quality of their effort, their originality, and the power of their language, not by their origins or by any attempt to discover authenticity.”—Magill’s Literary Annual

More About the Author

David Treuer is Ojibwe from the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. He grew up on Leech Lake and left to attend Princeton University where he worked with Paul Muldoon, Joanna Scott, and Toni Morrison. He published his first novel, LITTLE, when he was twenty-four. Treuer is the recipient of the Pushcart Prize, and his work has been named an editor's pick by the Washington Post, Time Out, and City Pages. His essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Esquire,, and The Washington Post.

He also earned his PhD in anthropology and teaches literature and creative writing at The University of Southern California. He divides his time between LA and The Leech Lake Reservation.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By L. Smith on September 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
David Treuer, Ojibway academic and literary critic, offers a truly thought-provoking and edgy foundation of work in this book that challenges the critical reader of Native American fiction to closer inquiry and new understandings. Treuer provides commentary that is fresh, engaging, sophisticated, deeply intellectual, and at times laugh out loud hilarious in the true spirit of Indian humor. Treuer examines the work and popular interpretations of Sherman Alexie, Louise Erdrich, Leslie Marmon Silko, and James Welch in a way that sometimes makes the reader do a double take, reflect, process, and then return to Treuer's criticism armed with new insight.

With the rush of college and high school educators to strip bookstore shelves of the most recent Sherman Alexie novel, this book emerges on the horizon of Native American literary criticism at a very crucial time. Although Alexie is loved by all, both Native and non-Native readers, there is a growing concern amongst Native intellectuals regarding the near cultish fascination with Alexie's work, work that is often thematized around poverty, alcoholism, violence, and despair; common themes perpetuating the more widely believed stereotype. Treuer asserts that when it comes to reading Native American fiction, there is no "suspension of belief." Everything that Americans have come to know about Indians is shaped from birth by the media and literature. As a result, we are pre-equipped to interpret what we read through the dominant narrative and its prescribed imagery. Thus, the interpretive emphasis unintentially fixates on the word "Native" rather than "fiction," and when it comes to American Indians, fiction sustains the American reality: the stereotype remains unchanged.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By bmhull on April 11, 2013
Format: Paperback
Native American Fiction: A Users Manual is a critical text written by David Treuer where he discusses the use of rhetorical sovereignty and validity of the category of Native American literature. Treuer's purpose is to guide his audience into the maps of their own mind. He directs us to read novels as manifestations of culture and history, as if they are in relation to the present not the past. He asks the reader to take a look inward and identify how it is we read fiction, to identify what our biases and predispositions. But, more particularly, to read Native American literature not with the bias of the "same footprint of automatic thought", rather with a mind and heart that has no preconception to what the author has meant through his/her text.
Treuer investigates a selection of some of the most influential Native American authors such as Sherman Alexie, Forrest Carter, James Fenimore Cooper, Louise Erdrich, Leslie Marmon Silko, and James Welch. He uses both an influence of fictional and scholarly investigation, examines the reader's process of understanding these texts, and also the intentions of the author for the text. For example, he states In the conclusion of his analysis about Love Medicine he states, "Culture, as represented by Ojubwe words, is what the characters want...those words don't communicate anything, rather they dignify something..." (Treuer 65). The simulation of Natives use of language in their text is given the "automatic thought" to be spiritual. Though, Treuer suggests that there is much more occurring here than the past.
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