Motorcycles & Sweetgrass

May 15th, 2013 | By | Category: 24-4: Language Revitalization, Media Reviews

Vintage (2010)
348 pages

Review by Ryan Winn

What if the great Ojibway trickster Nanabush returned to a First Nations reserve to say goodbye to a lost love who chose Jesus over him? What if that lover asked a favor of him on her deathbed? What if he agreed to grant her request? Drew Hayden Taylor is a master of the humorous use of the literary question, “what if?” His first novel for adults speculates upon the aforementioned as Nanabush returns to the reserve as a white man who rides a 1953 Indian Chief motorcycle, speaks fluent Anishinabemowin, dates the reserve’s chief, faces the wrath of a band of raccoons, and must deal with the chief ’s inquisitive son who quickly realizes that the stranger is not who he appears to be.

Like all of Taylor’s writing, the novel is filled with humor and poignant questions concerning contemporary indigenous identity and worldview. The novel was a finalist for Canada’s prestigious Governor General’s Literary Award, and it reminds its readers of the potency and necessity of trickster characters in Native stories and culture.

Ryan Winn is the humanities department chair at College of Menominee Nation in Keshena and Green Bay, WI.

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