The first work of fiction published in the MSU Press American Indian Studies Series, Indian Summers concerns issues of identity for Native Americans. Set against the backdrop of a contemporary reservation that has had its own losses to the dominant culture -- a third of its total land mass taken earlier in the century for a New York State water reservoir, its only religious structures Christian churches -- Indian Summers introduces these identity conflicts through the lives and circumstances of its major characters. This is a time when belonging to a tribe is difficult, when dominant societal forces encourage either the acts of abandoning a perceived anachronistic lifestyle or of embracing one of a number of simplistic, prescribed, false identities: warrior, environmentalist, crystal-carrying shaman. None of these options is real for the individuals who populate these pockets of different -- not alternative -- societies. The people who live these lives do not explore alternatives, nor do they necessarily have the desire to -- inextricably entwined as they are with their families, culture, history, and land.
Choice : In this first novel, Gansworth explores life on an Eastern reservation through the experiences of a couple of generations. Events take place during the summer months of 1992 and concern a dying Sy Jimison, his nephew, Floyd Page, and Page's cousin, Innis Natcha. Page sustains a serious head injury diving into a reservoir that has been carved into Indian land, and for most of the novel he struggles with memory--the loss of immediate recollection and the enduring presence of deeper, more enduring events. The novel explores the ways in which family, work, and friendship give meaning and coherence to existences blighted by neglect and financial despair. There is no self-pity here, but the hardships are palpable and the assertion of devotion heartening. General and undergraduate collections.
--D. W. Madden; California State University, Sacramento
Hilariously comical but often pinched with the tartness of wild ripe blackcaps, Eric Gansworth's characters and story catch your sleeve like the thorns of the berry bramble. Life and death in the last quarter of the 20th Century on an Eastern Indian Reservation, INDIAN SUMMERS, at first glance may seem topsy-turvey and funny but with a closer look, the novel turns from the comic to sad to bittersweet. Between the comedy and tragedy a love story develops out of the poverty of reservation life. The people Gansworth creates revolve around the reality of life and death, pleasure and pain . . . all the experiences any human would know whatever passions, ceremonies and/or fulfillment in either Russia or China or the United States. A Native American ghetto differs slightly from whatever ghetto wherever, but in the capable hands of this young author, this ghetto casts a different sheen, a different rhythm.
Having read INDIAN SUMMERS once or twice, you won't need to ask the silly question, what is it like living on an Indian reservation? You will know, and you will know each corner of the rez, each beer can along the side of the road and the positive affinity and respect these real people hold for life and each other though it may appear at times there is little respect. If nothing else Gansworth empowers his characters with a throbbing for life, a will of survival and, as his title suggests, they are in the "summer" of their lives not necessarily the winter of their discontent. . . suggesting closure. The famous American historian, Francis Parkman once said in the mid-1800's that the Eastern Indian had vanished as a "wild, natural man". Well, if you read this novel you will know how wrong an historian can be as the Native American may be more visible now than ever known in history.
This is a solid story, one readers can sink teeth into.
--American Book Award winner, Maurice Kenny