BLACK EAGLE CHILD by Ray A. Young Bear


The Facepaint Narratives
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 Fascinating and accomplished memoirs in which a Mesquakie poet blends myth, fact, and the unvarnished recollections of a young Native American. Edgar Bearchild, the author's alter-ego in this impressionistic account (also narrated by composites of characters Young Bear has known), grew up on the pseudonymous Black Eagle Child Settlement of central Iowa during the turbulent 60's and 70's--an era whose conflicts would help shape Bearchild's personal vision. His early years careen between the extremes of depressing, mission-supported Thanksgiving ceremonies and passionately religious ``star medicine'' rituals involving psilocybin-induced visions. Bearchild's adolescence includes alcohol-driven small-town adventures with which many American males can identify, as well as encounters with medicine women, spirits of the dead, and signs from nature. His consciousness filled with Doors lyrics, tribal histories and songs, and unidentified spiritual longings, Bearchild leaves for college in California, where, in a confused effort to dull the pain of homesickness, he succumbs to the temptations of synthetic forms of his tribe's hallucinatory drugs. A year later, Bearchild returns to the settlement, a college dropout with no discernible place in the tribe, a published poet originally inspired by his own people, though the English language in which he writes is inadequate to express the tribe's deepest concerns. Nevertheless, Bearchild devotes himself to writing poetry and recording the stories of his ancestors. One result is this tale of the artist as a young man, powerful in its earthy yet often ethereal style. A unique account and a milestone in Native American literature. (Photos--not seen.)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-87745-356-X
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Univ. of Iowa
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1992