Books by Jr. Henry

THE LIGHT PEOPLE by Jr. Henry
Released: March 1, 1994

Cleverly nesting stories within stories and commingling literary forms, literature professor Henry (Michigan's Ferris State) offers a complex, multifaceted view of contemporary Chippewa life through the device of a boy searching for his parents: a lyrical, if somewhat overwrought, debut. Young Oskinaway, living on the reservation in Minnesota with his grandparents, one day asked them to find his mother, who ran off with a trader years before. The elders contact Jake Seed, tribal medicine man, who sends his helper Boozhoo, whose story as he introduces himself triggers a chain of marginally related tales involving a painter, a painted stone, the amputated leg of Four Bears that was lost but found again, an incarcerated Indian who spoke and wrote only in haiku, and a youth who hopped on a horse and skidded into a wintry marsh with the horse dead on top of him, there to be joined by a woman trapped in her car by her massive, dead brother. Of these stories, the one about the leg gains particular prominence; the leg is discovered years after its loss, wrapped in dry ice and hanging in a Minneapolis museum. A lawsuit, pitting the outraged family against white representatives of property and science, ensues before the limb can be returned to the reservation for proper burial. After a few more spins of the storyteller's wheel, however, the focus returns to Oskinaway, who learns much about his heritage when Seed finally takes to the vision path to answer his questions. A determinedly nonlinear narrative—a mix of drama and academic discourse—in which the kaleidoscopic effects appeal even in moments when the artifice is especially noticeable. Ultimately, however, the parts prove more substantial than the whole. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: April 30, 1991

All but forgotten today, Alfred Lawson (1869-1954)-master of hype, economic reformer, founder of the quasi-religious School of Lawsonomy, ``Magic Man of Baseball,'' ``Columbus of the Air''-was renowned during the first half of the century. This entertaining biography by Henry (Political Science/Mount Mercy College), despite lack of access to Lawson's papers, is a revealing portrait of ``a uniquely American,'' self-created man. Henry divides Lawson's life into three stages. First come his years as a relatively successful minor league pitcher and manager, 1888-1908 (he later worked as a promoter and organizer of a number of teams and leagues). Lawson's second career, in aviation (1908-1929), grew out of his love of and belief in flying as a cure for mankind's ills. His magazines, Fly and Aircraft (a term he claimed to have coined), were, as Henry notes, a popular mix of pseudoscience, real know-how, and Babbitt-style ``boosterism.'' Generally credited with conceiving the idea of commercial airliners, the Lawson Aircraft Corporation built a 16-passenger plane that Lawson flew on a 2,000-mile, perilous promotional tour in 1919. Though his plans-as usual- ended in financial disaster, Lawson actually had contracts with the US military and the postal service. The third stage began in the 1930's following the publication of his first reform treatises, with the development of the Direct Credits Society, a crusade to oust the financiers from capitalist society through a kind of socialistic-egalitarianism. His quest to perfect human nature, Lawsonomy, grew out of this half-baked utopianism. k Part ``new physics,'' part religion, Lawsonomy would lead to a ``new species'' watched over and led by ``one cosmic mastermind,'' ``God's eternal gift to man,'' Alfred Lawson. His controversial Des Moines University of Lawsonomy (later resurrected and still existing in Racine, Wisconsin) closed after his death; fewer than 300 followers survive today. The aptness of Henry's admonition ``to reject [Lawson's] claims of greatness,'' but not to ignore his remarkable life is borne out by this engrossing, pleasing slice of Americana. (Thirty-three b&w photographs and nine drawings.) Read full book review >