Remnants of the First Earth

Ray A. Young Bear, Author
Ray A. Young Bear, Author Grove/Atlantic $23 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1581-2
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Narrated by the poetic and perceptive Edgar Principal Bear, alter ego of author Young Bear, this impressive first novel relates the struggles of the Native Americans living in the Black Eagle Child Settlement in Iowa. The author thus continues a story begun in his fictionalized autobiography Black Eagle Child: The Facepaint Narratives. Life in the Black Eagle Child Settlement is so permeated with ancient myths and traditions it seems timeless; for example, a rape and murder that occurred over a century ago still has a powerful impact on the community. The ""first Earth"" of the title refers to the epoch of the ""Supernaturals,"" which existed before the current era. Continuation of this ""second Earth"" depends upon the Natives remaining faithful to the tenets of the Principal Religion, and upon their performing its ceremonies. Now, however, the people are growing lax, seduced by the ""`income-generating architecture'"" of casino gambling. The world is slipping out of balance and its very survival is at stake. The key may rest with Edgar, the keeper of the sacred Journals of the Six Grandfathers, 22 tattered notebooks of tribal history, lore and prophecy. Young Bear's prose pulses with lyrical ferocity, blending narrative, verse and tribal myth in a seamless web. He writes as one deeply familiar with Native tribal existence and committed to its survival, but he is unafraid to assault readers' senses and preconceptions. Young Bear, an acclaimed poet, here emerges as a major Native novelist. (Jan.)
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