In a Cree Indian story, Wolverine convinced the animals of the world to keep their eyes closed, so humans wouldn't see their "inner fire" and try to steal it. People, too, can close their eyes and protect their inner fires—even if it means those fires may burn them, observes Hogan (Mean Spirit), an award-winning Chickasaw novelist and poet. She herself was seared by such bottled-up fire throughout her girlhood. Raised by an alcoholic, army sergeant father and a pathologically silent mother, she turned first, at age 12, to a steady older lover, then to alcohol. Her adult life, too, has been a series of struggles—adopting two seriously disturbed children, enduring amnesia following a head injury and coping with her fibromyalgia—but she has learned from each experience to find beauty and grace even in darkness. Hogan's memories spill out in waves of layered associations: from fire to pain, from "phantom pain" to "phantom worlds," from glaciers to dreams. Into her personal history, she integrates stories from the American Indian past. In Hogan's writing, the smallest detail can evoke a whole history: that Chief Joseph's skull was sold to be used as an ashtray sums up the tragic mistreatment of American Indians at the hands of whites. Wiping out so much Native wisdom has left our world diminished, defoliated in "landscape and spirit," in Hogan's eyes. Still, Native culture is beginning to thrive again, reminding us that just as every "before" has an "after," "beginnings" have "returns." Life, Hogan concludes, "may never be easy but may be beautiful," even in this "broken world." This wise and compassionate offering deserves to be widely reviewed and read. Agent, Beth Vesel, Sanford J. Greenberger Associates. (June)
Forecast: Deep and full of grace, Hogan's writing is every bit as good as ever. Anyone who knows anything about Native American writing will rush to buy it.