The Rez. An American Love Story
“The Rez: An American Love Story, written by G. Michael Madison, takes place in the 1960s and ’70s, in the Puget Sound area of Washington State. The author says he is Native American and a veteran of the Vietnam War. The story focuses on Jonny, a poor Native American boy, and Nikki-D, an Asian American girl, who lives in the wealthy area. Other characters include their mothers, fathers, siblings, and friends. The author, Madison, has a sensitivity to how preteens, teens, and young adults feel and behave. Madison writes with care and love, none of the characters are one dimensional, there is no mean-spiritedness. He addresses alcoholism and shame with attentiveness. The timeframe of the 60’s, with all of the chaos of the Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations, and the Vietnam War, is a good setting. Short, simple sentences are the writing style of this novel, which lends an authenticity to some of the characters and situations, but at times is too blunt of an instrument. The friendships and relationships are sweet and realistic. One highlight of the plot was the meeting between Jonny and Nikki-D’s mothers. This occurs after a couple of dramatic events, including a birthday party gone wrong, (at least for Jonny).
I’ve read a few books in recent years that focus on the Native American community. They’ve included the YA novel An Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and recently, the fiction novel There There by Tommy Orange. This one has some of the authenticity of those novels; the reader gets the feeling, language, and customs of a Native American family in the 1960s but is lacking in other areas. The particular references by a thirteen-year-old character to JFK and Martin Luther King Jr. don’t seem true and sometimes feel like a checklist of historical happenings. Madison tells his reader in factual sentences (“Nikki’D’s world was expanding”) about changes in his characters as they grow up instead of showing us with character development. There are some inconsistencies in characters and some confusing moments in the plot. It seems like the story and characters could be workshopped and improved greatly through some editing. It is a bit long, as well. However, having offered some criticisms, I can also say that the feeling of the novel is endearing. It offers some insight regarding the times and people it addresses and is a welcome addition to Native American literary offerings.”
|Author||G. Michael Madison|
|Page Count||365 pages|
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