Thursday, December 11, 2014

CRAZY HORSE'S GIRLFRIEND, by Erika Wurth

The setting for Erika Wurth's Crazy Horse's Girlfriend is Idaho Springs, Colorado. The characters in her story all feel real. Their stories, their lives? Real. Something seemingly simple, like this line, for example, is like an echo:
He came in for some coffee and asked me what tribe I was and we got to talking.
By echo, I mean that reading Wurth's writing sounds like listening to a Native person. The main character of Crazy Horse's Girlfriend is a 16 year old girl named Margaritte. As the story opens, Margaritte and her cousin, Jake, are at a party. Two guys laugh when Jake says he and Margaritte are cousins. Jake asks them what they're laughing at (p. 9):
...but he knew. We both knew. My family is Apache, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and white, but my auntie and her husband adopted Jake when he was a baby. He's Nez Perce, Arapahoe, Cheyenne, and black.
That moment leads to a fight. And a visit to a hospital. Wurth opens the story with grit and gripping characters that fly in the face of mainstream expectations. These aren't mystical Indians. With the range of her character's identities, she gives readers a look at who we are: mixed and not, experiencing good and bad of life lived in cities, towns, and reservations, with Native life affirmed, celebrated, and denigrated, too.  

As Wurth's story unfolds, Margaritte meets a guy named Mike who, like her, is a reader. His parents are white. He is adopted, and is from an Indigenous tribe in Columbia. Their relationship is a roller coaster of hope and pain. There's a gay character in here, too, from Pine Ridge. His name is Will. Reading about Will, there are times when I want to cheer, but the way he's treated breaks my heart.

It is easy to see why it garnered praise from leading writers like Sandra Cisneros, who said:
"I found myself wanting to cover my eyes and shout, 'Girl, don't go there' while reading."
And Susan Power said:
"Wurth made me care for everyone in these pages, singing a powerful honor song on behalf of our young people who are fighting their way through difficult times in order to survive."
In many places, Crazy Horse's Girlfriend is unsettling, but the story Wurth tells is ultimately about the perseverance of Native people in the face of great obstacles. Published by Curbside Splendor in 2014, I highly recommend it.

1 comment:

Bobby said...

Congratulations to Erika Wurth and Curbstone Splendor! It's a great read and a great insight into life as lived by this young woman, Margaritte. The book deserves more and more attention. --Bobby Byrd, Cinco Puntos Press