Grand Avenue

Greg Sarris, Author Hyperion Books $21.45 (229p) ISBN 978-0-7868-6017-3
In his fiction debut, Sarris (Keeping Slug Woman Alive) offers 10 affecting stories that weave the history of five generations of Pomo Indians in Santa Rosa, Calif., with that of the other ethnic residents of Grand Avenue, ``two rows of army barracks separated by a potholed dirt road littered with junk and dirty children.'' In ``How I Got to Be Queen,'' the author, who teaches English at UCLA and is an elected chief of the Miwok tribe, tells of an Indian girl who defends her sister's relationship with a black man. In ``Joy Ride,'' he imagines a Portuguese man recalling a boyhood affair with an Indian girl. Though Sarris's use of flashbacks are sometimes awkward, the past beautifully complements the present in ``The Indian Maid,'' wherein an opal ring stolen years earlier by the title character now serves as a catalyst for her daughter's education. Indian mysticism, folklore and superstition inform many of the tales. In ``Sam Toms's Last Song,'' a 100-year-old man connives to move in with an elderly basket-weaver who talks to spirits and cures illnesses through songs, only to find himself outwitted by the old woman. Because most of the stories are told in the first person in a nearly unvarying narrative style, it's often difficult to discern one character from another; ironically, however, what emerges from this sameness is an even richer sense of community, albeit a community in which family relationships are strained. As one character observes, ``After what all's happened to us, it's a wonder what we do to ourselves.'' Film rights to HBO; author tour. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/29/1994
Release date: 09/01/1994
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-14-025038-1
Ebook - 1 pages - 978-0-8061-4948-6
Paperback - 248 pages - 978-0-8061-4834-2
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