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Ghost Dances: Proving Up on the Great Plains Hardcover – August 21, 2012
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Ghost Dances is beautifully open-spirited. Its ambition never steps on its sense of humor. Garrett-Davis reads his own life as an extension of a landscape that both nurtured and tried to stunt it. What I liked best was how he let the edges mingle: you weren't always sure if the book was about him or about the Plains, and neither was he. Here is a writer whose mind can intrigue us, and a first book that makes it fun to imagine what he might do.―John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead
"A meditation on home and homelessness, Ghost Dances combines memoir, history, and vision into an evocative chronicle in the ocean of grass where Josh Garrett-Davis came of age amid loss, love, and the rituals of hope. A unique and moving book."―Brenda Wineapple, author of White Heat
"Alienation and authenticity commingle in this memoiristic meditation on American's lonesome midsection....Garrett-Davis writes evocatively of "the latent fury in this monotonous [Plains] landscape" and finds some juicy tufts of lore to graze on."―Publishers Weekly
"Josh Garrett-Davis has given us a tremendous memoir-as much a narrative about himself as the cradle of the Plains where he was born. He shows us that "proving up" often means letting go, and we meet all the noble, flawed, and resilient actors of the Plains here, including bison, punk rockers, Cather, Indians, Anglo homesteaders, and home wreckers, too. A wonderful read."―David Treuer, author of Rez Life
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
This is not a book about the Plains, or at least, it is only tangentially. It's a memoir, but it's a memoir by a young man who hasn't done anything worth writing (or reading) a memoir about yet. He tries to tie themes in his own unsettled life and broken home to a larger American pioneering motif, but does not succeed. Even in places where he communicates interesting factoids about the Great Plains, he does so in a manner which leads the reader to believe that he has read them in a book himself, rather than feeling or living them. (There are even footnotes.) He does not succeed in making a coherent connection between his unsettled childhood and the settling of the American high prairie. His data about the Ghost Dance movement is sparse and superficial. It's a bait and switch - I hoped for an American saga and what I got was a young man with no particular claim to fame, writing about his rough childhood and trying in vain to make a link to one of my favorite themes in American history solely due to the fact that he grew up in South Dakota.
John B. is correct in pointing out that William Least-Heat Moon's PrairyErth is a much better book. So is anything by Wallace Stegner, or Bernard DeVoto. Or any of the fiction of Ivan Doig - oh, reader, lose yourself in the Scotch Heaven books of Doig for a feel of the aching beauty and heartbreak of the West. But don't bother with this book. Wait until the author has at least accomplished something worth writing about besides growing up as one more young Millennial with divorced parents and adolescent social problems. And if you want to learn about the West, the bison, the Lakota, or the Ghost Dance, there are far better books out there than this one.
By the end of Part One, you'll be sated yet wanting more. And as one reviewer here suggests, you'll be wondering if and how the author ever finds his center. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't, but then his story isn't over.
I'd recommend this and PrairyErth in the same breath. Probably not to read in tandem, though.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Full disclosure: I used to be in a band that played/shared a drummer with Josh's band (although, I had no idea he was an Ivy-Leager, so shame on me), but that's not why I'm... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Joshua A. Chaplinsky
This book covers so much history that it leaves my mind swirling. Not many issues that the author did not touch on. Read morePublished on August 20, 2013 by Hat finder
I was lucky enough to grow up in South Dakota in the 50s. Garrett-Davis gives us a look into his childhood there during the 70s. Special accounts of George McGovern... Read morePublished on February 5, 2013 by nsprng rn msn
It's about the Great Plains, but there's much more than just that. It's about being a child of divorce; being a child of a gay mother; keeping family secrets and the resulting... Read morePublished on December 4, 2012 by Nancy Cayford