Beth Piatote, associate professor of Native American studies at the University of California, Berkeley, discusses her luminous debut collection, The Beadworkers: Stories.
Told with humor, subtlety, and spareness, the mixed-genre works of Beth Piatote's first collection find unifying themes in the strength of kinship, the pulse of longing, and the language of return.
A woman teaches her niece to make a pair of beaded earrings while ruminating on a fractured relationship. An eleven-year-old girl narrates the unfolding of the Fish Wars in the 1960s as her family is propelled to its front lines. In 1890, as tensions escalate at Wounded Knee, two young men at college--one French and the other Lakota--each contemplate a death in the family. In the final, haunting piece, a Nez Perce-Cayuse family is torn apart as they debate the fate of ancestral remains in a moving revision of the Greek tragedy Antigone.
Formally inventive and filled with vibrant characters, The Beadworkers draws on Indigenous aesthetics and forms to offer a powerful, sustaining vision of Native life.