Day 4: An ambitious, impressionistic study of life on American Indian reservations

Each day leading up to the April 13 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today we feature 2013 General Nonfiction Finalist:

Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life by David Treuer Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life by David Treuer
Published by Atlantic Monthly Press/Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Category Sponsor: Minnesota AFL-CIO

Celebrated novelist David Treuer has gained a reputation for writing fiction that expands the horizons of Native American literature. In Rez Life, his first full-length work of nonfiction, Treuer brings a novelist’s storytelling skill and an eye for detail to a complex and subtle examination of Native American reservation life, past and present.

Excerpt from Rez Life:

When Ojibwe first came to Red Lake in the 1600s—encouraged by the fur trade to expand and control new trapping grounds, and engaged in wars to the east, north, and west—the lake was a paradise. There were certain requirements that a place needed to meet in order to be suitable for settlement, and Red Lake met them all. It had abundant wild rice beds, diverse forests (a mixture of pine and hardwood excellent for building), easily navigable water, and a recurring and stable source of protein: the walleye.

David Treuer photo by Jean-Luc BertiniDavid Treuer is Ojibwe from Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota where he grew up. He is the author of three novels—Little, The Hiawatha, and The Translation of Dr. Appeles—and Native American Fiction: A User’s Manual, a book of essays. He divides his time between Los Angeles and Leech Lake Reservation. Visit him online.


“A gritty, raw, and thoroughly authentic look at reservation life—as experienced from the inside out. Here is modern America glimpsed through a different membrane, narrated in a fresh new voice. In this searching, at times heartbreaking, but often triumphant mélange of history, journalism, and memoir, Treuer loudly proclaims that all reports of the American Indian’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.” — Hampton Sides, best-selling author of Blood and Thunder

“An invaluable study and vivid account of problematic life on our reservations by a writer — a very good writer! — raised ‘on the rez’ who knows what he’s talking about only too well and also knows how to tell a story, lots of stories, that document and effectively banish a number of misconceptions still held by white society. Highly recommended.” — Peter Matthiessen

“Treuer effortlessly mixes journalism, memoir and history to paint a realistic picture of reservation life today.  This enjoyable book covers the good, the bad, and the surprising.  An important book for everyone who walks this land.” — MN Book Awards Judge


Listen as David Treuer talks with MPR’s Kerri Miller on Midmorning, February 20, 2012.

Award winners will be announced at the 25th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 13, 2013 at the Hilton Minneapolis. An author meet-and-greet and book signing reception precedes the awards ceremony, and the Epilogue after-party, sponsored by Tech Logic, includes complimentary champagne, desserts, and live music. Tickets on sale now. Click here for more information.

Have you read Rez Life? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!

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Posted in General Nonfiction

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