Book Cover: Red Earth
Review Notation: Cutting Edge

a Viet Nam warrior's journey
fiction by Philip H. Red Eagle

Published by Holy Cow! Press

Raymond came to the circle when he thought he was going to crack, to break into the pieces he saw the other men break into. When they broke, their life was no more. Those who have seen a man broken knows what it means. This country will take a man's life, his soul, the moment he steps into it. From then on he is screwed. He is dead until he can find his soul again and that might be never.

Most of the men who came here killed themselves off at some point; not a real death. A spiritual death, and act of kindness to oneself, and act of survival. A man was required to die here, to stop thinking and feeling. It was the only way to beat the fear, the frustration and the insanity of this crazy war.

Raymond found another way. He found the secret in the circle.

--from Red Earth

Philip Red Eagle has written a deeply wounded, and wounding, account of the Viet Nam war. Even as a seasoned editor and reader with a deep commitment to works exploring the issues of trauma and recovery, this book was an extremely difficult read, only a page or two easily comprehended at a time.

This is not a story enriched with "Indian humor," although there is surely wit and laughter in its pages. Comprised of two interrelated novellas, Red Eagle has scripted the first account of the Viet Nam war from a Native American (specifically, Dakota Sioux) perspective. The work, overall, is truly astonishing.

There are no easy truths, no fanciful resolutions, and a significant absence of drumming and dancing to a mythical happy ending. Which means this is not a book about the myth and legend of Native peoples, but rather the day-to-day common realities Joseph Marshall calls for, in his essays on indigenous cultural representation reviewed here. What Red Eagle has given us is an account of brutality, the longing for faith, and the slim hope of renewal.

Voices of pain and struggle urge these narratives forward. There is nothing "stylized" about this account; in fact, Red Eagle's prose is at times somewhat clumsy, and the book itself, in its first edition, is poorly edited by the folks at Holy Cow! Press. Still, amazingly, the truths here ascend above all, like all truths, and what remains is a sharply-honed view of survival and letting go.

Red Earth is a book to be treasured. One reading will not be easy, nor will it be enough. We recommend this work heartily, for the classroom and the home, and look forward to further efforts by Philip Red Eagle, a strong new voice in U.S. letters.

Review by Canéla Analucinda Jaramillo

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