Welcome to the Seventh Annual Conference of the Society for Protection and Reclamation of Indian Images. Expect to find, amid all the refined cultural observations, academic posturing, and political maneuvering, an Indian who defies anyone to protect, let alone reclaim, her image. This is Shirley Mounter, a Tuscarora woman and the chief storyteller among the acerbic, eloquent, and often hilarious speakers who overflow the pages of this latest novel by the noted Onondaga writer Eric Gansworth. A lecture on Indian stereotypes by Shirley's daughter, art historian Annie Boans, calls forth Shirley's recollections, whose outpourings deposit us in the turbulent yet restorative waters of modern Iroquoian reservation life, always flowing and eddying around kin. Indeed, Shirley's house and land are now, after a long and bitter fight, forever lost to her in the construction of a water reservoir that feeds the governments hydroelectric plant. The story of this battle is the story of Shirley's generation and the faltering generation that followsof violent love and losses, of children turning away only to find themselves forever negotiating the nuances of identity, of popular culture in jarring juxtaposition with the sometimes even more incredible realities of Native life. Weaving a complex narrative illustrated with his own paintings, Gansworth creates a rich, wry, and multifaceted tapestry of the intricate twists and turns of coincidence, memories, and stories that bind Native families together.
Winner, PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for Fiction, 2006
"A wonderful idiosyncratic novel full of wisdom and hope, humor and dance, and transcendent in its beauty. Since the appearance of his first book Indian Summers, the novelist, short story writer, painter, and poet Eric Gansworth has been an indefatigable chronicler of the infinite lives of Upstate New York's Indian communities but with Mending Skins he has produced a small masterpiece, a rich and varied spectacle that illuminates the deepest quadrants of the human heart."
--Junot Díaz, author of Drown
"What distinguishes this short novel from others is its sharp wit and particular tribal locale, the Tuscarora, in upstate New York. . . . Gansworth's own illustrations preface each section and foreshadow plot events. The characters are so engaging and events intertwined that a longer novel would have been welcome."
--P. Jane Hafen, Multicultural Review
"Eric Gansworth is unquestionably one of the rising stars on the Western New York literary scene."
--R. D. Pohl, Buffalo Spree Magazine