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Fools Crow (Penguin Classics)
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VINE VOICEon June 3, 2016
From the first page, this novel slides you into the life and world-view of the Blackfoot tribe. Welch uses words like blackhorns or wags-his-tail for wildlife, names such as the Seven Persons for constellations, and the Blackfoot names for places like the Big River or peoples such as the Parted Hair People. In less-capable hands, this would be confusing. However, Welch has a perfect sense for how to use this shift in language to bring modern American readers into the Blackfoot world.

Welch also treats the spirit world, visions, and medicine in a perfectly natural and believable way. Some “supernatural” events defy explanation for moderns, but others have naturalistic interpretations. The overall effect is most similar to magical realism in Latin American fiction, where the supernatural fits seamlessly into a realistic story.

The protagonist, Fools Crow, undergoes several transformations in the novel. These are both personal and “political,” and part of a crescendo of events for his Pikuni band. If you know Blackfoot history, you already know where these events are leading; if not, I will let Welch guide you. And yet the book ends on a hopeful note after these dark events, a clear sense of how Welch makes sense of his people’s history today.

It’s an extraordinary novel, highly recommended for all audiences.
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on July 21, 2016
I haven't finished it, but the writing is amazing. Takes you right inside the culture, daily life, and mindset of Native Americans just as their great cultures were being obliterated. There's a lot of violence, of course, and the episodes are suspenseful even though you know the arc of the story will tilt toward tragedy. There is also deep human feeling, strong characters and relationships, and a beautiful depiction of the natural surroundings.
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on July 21, 2017
This book came to me totally by accident. Before reading it I had never heard of James Welch. My loss.
For me Fools Crow was a famous Lakota medicine man who died a few years ago. I assumed this book was somehow connected to him. No indeed. We left the world of the Lakota and entered the world of the Blackfoot.
And what a world it was. James Welch wrote much of this book in a very lyrical fashion. The ebbs and flows of seasons, times, and spaces, all so essential to the Blackfoot culture, seamlessly move throughout the entire book. It left me with powerful feelings and an understanding of Native American culture far beyond what previously lived in me. Even better I found out about the name "Fools Crow". I had always thought that "Fools" was a noun and "Crow" was a bird. Wrong on both counts. Fools is a verb and Crow is a tribe. Fooling a Crow.
You will never be sorry that you read this book. It may last in your memory for a very long time. It has that kind of power.
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on May 5, 2016
A gem. One of those truer than non fiction books that draw you in so you feel the snort of the buffalo, the cold of the snow , and the relationship of Native Americans to the natural world. You enter their realm and their thoughts in a dialogue which is not romanticized. Not my usual style book but I can'r remember being drawn in so much since Lonesome Dove several years ago. Has the power of Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee but in a more subtle way and less single event focused but one sees the despair develop through the years and from many perspectives.
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on January 22, 2017
This book is amazing, I haven't enjoyed reading a book so much. I looked forward to reading it each night. James Welch is a gifted writer and captured the Native American spirit, tribal customs and hardship of living off the land like no other. The language is beautiful and written in the dialog that Native Americans used in that time period. I can't praise this novel enough for the suspenseful story, beauty in which it is written and its historic teachings of the Indian customs and the decline of their way of life from the European invasion.
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on April 19, 2013
My introduction to the epic begins with the Homeric tradition, especially the "Odyssey" and "Iliad" (in my order of reading, one who was slow to grasp the brilliance of the "Iliad"), a tradition that extends forward to Vergil's "Aeneid," Dante's "Commedia," and Ariosto's "Orlando Furioso," to name a few. "Gilgamesh" must also be included, though it's a rather late discovery (in the nineteenth century), and though its found fragments precede the Homeric by hundreds of years (Homer writing in about 800 BCE, Gilgamesh written in about 1900 BCE).

I have long thought America has no epic in this great tradition, but my belated discovery of "Fools Crow" (published 1986) is an eye-opener. Scholarly study may one day rank "Fools Crow" as perhaps the truest and greatest American epic. James Welch is from the Blackfoot tribe, born in Browning, Montana. I was raised about 120 miles distant, in Great Falls, amid well-meaning people who nonetheless conveyed subtle sneers against the Indian ne'er-do-wells on Hill 57. Mr. Welch, a writer deeply "burdened with the knowledge of his people," has managed to open my eyes, transforming his burden into a worthy telling of the Blackfoot way of life before the "seizers" came to take their land and their way of life.

My first partial awakening came in 1988 when Bill Moyers interviewed Joseph Campbell in "The Power of Myth," a PBS six-part series with followup book to capture their dialogue. I had long known of Campbell's interest in myths, but had never heard that his interest began with fascination in the Indian way of life. Yet, if Campbell was first to help me see spiritual brilliance beneath the brutish appearance, I needed another twenty-five years to discover and read "Fools Crow." Mr. Welch transports me from my boyhood ignorance into a higher realm of native American myth.

On finishing his imaginative rendering of his ancestors' way of life I was most eager to contact Mr. Welch, just to thank and congratulate him for his great work; to tell him the value of "Fools Crow" is far beyond a contribution to any Indian "renaissance," as some have praised it. "Fools Crow" deserves ranking among America's greatest literary works.

I was greatly saddened to learn that Mr. Welch died young -- in his early sixties -- and that I could not send him an email, or receive one in return, or someday chat, and sit by a tipi fireside, there to tell glad stories of the breadth and depth of Blackfoot kings.
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on February 18, 2017
"Fools Crow" is an uncommon perspective on the westward expansion of the US. Here we have a story of what it must have been like for native Americans see their way of life destroyed by the process of settlers moving into what had been their land. The same intolerance that today is focused on contemporary immigrants to the US seemed to have existed after the Civil War among the settlers of the American West when they were the newcomers.
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on March 22, 2014
This has easily become one of my favorite books. A fictional account of a Native American tribe, this work shows the daily life of a young Blackfoot warrior. He as well as his people are left to deal with the encroachment of white civilization and the effect that has on their lives. It also gives a bit of a look into Native American beliefs and religion (although this is a fictional account so I'm not sure how accurate these representations really are). Great read for students studying the American West, Native Americans, or any related topics. I would also recommend for any casual readers who take an interest in these topics. Absolutely, a book worth reading.
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on March 6, 2017
Very interesting read. Reveals way of life of the Lakota. I have better understanding and higher regard for them now.
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on December 16, 2016
The plot seemed to go off on a tangent at the end of the book with the last hunting trip. I would have loved to get rid of some of the dream sequence detail in favor of more information about the way of life of the tribe. Finally, the book really could have used a dictionary of some of the terms used - wood biter for beaver was easy but some of the others "real bear" still have me wondering what they meant.
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