cover image From the Hilltop: Stories

From the Hilltop: Stories

Toni Jensen, . . Univ. of Nebraska, $19.95 (179pp) ISBN 978-0-8032-2634-0

The rich array of characters in Jensen’s sobering collection are often Native Americans with one foot in an unforgiving white world and the other in the vanishing Native culture. The young protagonist of “Butter,” admiring the butter sculptures at the Minnesota State Fair, is a Blackfoot girl from the Blood Reserve in Alberta later adopted by a white couple. When a melee breaks out, she finds comforting words for the distressed Dairy Queen that obliterate the ideas each of them has about the other. “At the Powwow Hotel” is an extraordinary, mystical tale: corn has begun reappearing in ancestral cornfields, attracting a migration of Indians and allowing a recent widower and his son to find new purpose in running their West Texas hotel. The title story, chronicling an accident involving a group of drinking kids that leaves one with a life-threatening injury, offers, via a clever use of repetition, a regretful litany of complaints endured as the cost of assimilation into white culture. These stories are as much about tradition as they are about the now; Jensen’s understated and powerful prose easily bridges that divide. (Mar.)