From Publishers Weekly
The title of this accomplished first novel by Native American poet Louis is short for "redskins," a common term reservation Indians use for themselves. Set on the Pine Ridge Reservation (S.D.) where the author makes his home, the book tells the story of Rudy Yellow Shirt. Rudy's job, as a tribal policeman, is to protect the Oglala that inhabit the "rez" from themselves, and he's reaching the end of his tether. His marriage has fallen apart, the medicine he takes for high blood pressure has ruined his sex life and his rowdy, alcoholic brother Mogie is constantly in trouble with the law. Rudy's fed up with the spousal beatings, the alcohol and the drugs he confronts in his daily routine ("all major crimes" are the province of the FBI). But everything changes when a knock on the noggin suffered while chasing a suspect causes unusual side effects for the weary cop. First, his sexual prowess returns with more vigor than he bargained for. It also brings out Rudy's alter ego, the "Avenging Warrior," a vigilante bent on dispensing rough justice beyond the bounds of the law. First, he knee-caps a couple of punks who brutally sodomized and murdered a young boy. Then he moves on to torching a liquor store on the reservation border. The question then becomes whether Rudy will be able to achieve the reintegration of self and the comity in personal relations that elude much of Indian society. Employing an incisive blend of satire, fantasy and grim realism, and aided by a good eye for detail and an ear for natural dialogue, Louis presents a picture of contemporary Native American life that is often as funny and warm as it is disturbing.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Although this novel addresses issues of unemployment, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol addiction as they pertain to American Indians, it is ultimately a tale of two brothers, Rudy and Mogie Yellow Shirt, whose love is the only constant through their tumultuous lives. The brothers carry the baggage of their family's alcoholism and abuse, but react differently. Rudy gains a college education and becomes a policeman on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation; Mogie lacks ambition and succumbs to the destructive cycle his parents and grandparents began. After tripping and hitting his head on a rock, Rudy releases a kind of alter ego, a vigilante "avenging warrior." Retribution and removal of negative temptations (namely, alcohol) are his means to save his people. Tremendously tragic and, unfortunately, highly realistic, this book could easily be another indictment of white people and a reminder of the human capacity to destroy and oppress. Yet, Louis somehow transcends simple blame by examining the many causes, including those self-induced and self-perpetuated, of the serious hardships facing American Indians today. Janet St. John