Chair of Tears

Univ. of Nebraska. Mar. 2012. c.152p. ISBN 9780803238404. pap. $16.95. F
Vizenor (Father Meme) is a much-accomplished author also prominent in Native American studies, but this new novel shows it wouldn't do to take any of that too seriously. On the surface, this is a family story: 16-year-old Quiver married a man 50 years her senior and bore five children, most of whom had more children; among Quiver's grandchildren are the narrator and his cousin Captain Shammer. But this is also a send-up of Native studies departments that drops the name of nearly every Native author of note. The Department of Native American Indian Studies at a university near the headwaters of the Mississippi has suffered mightily under its last six directors, and the self-educated Shammer is hired to turn it around. He shows up for his first day dressed as Custer. Soon, private offices have been banned, and grandma Quiver is beating the pants off scholars and federal agents alike in her high-stakes poker games.
VERDICT Not the book with which to begin one's exploration of Native American fiction, but if you've read widely enough in the genre to get the inside jokes, there are lots of rewards here.

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