Y’all, I LOVE Indigenous spec-fic. I’m eating it up as fast as it can be recommended to me and as my other reading schedules allow. I’ve been (im)patiently awaiting the arrival of my copy of Stephen Graham Jones’ The Only Good Indians. I have a very fine line of what I can tolerate in the gore department, and this horror title about a wronged spirit seeking revenge does tilt a little further than I tend to handle well, but oh, WOW. This read is well worth it.
I’ve written a more extensive review on Goodreads, which you can read if you wish. Even though I’m Anishinaabe and not Blackfeet, I feel compelled to, well defend seems like a loaded word, but that’s sort of the feeling I am getting.
Jones’ book and writing voice remind me of being told stories by Elder Uncles (including my own, who has been a medicine man as long as I can remember). This type of storytelling may not be familiar to non-Indigenous readers. But you know what? That’s okay, and I think non-Indigenous readers (and authors!) have a duty to be comfortable with material not written specifically for them. Readers should be challenging their own perceptions of what is ‘standard’ in storytelling, and how different cultures will follow different patterns.
The Only Good Indians is written in a lot of colloquial language. Rez words. “Indian” words. There’s a smattering of language, too. Some of the cultural aspects are not explained to an unfamiliar reader. And, well… that should not be a hindrance. If you can immerse yourself into a high fantasy setting where not everything is explained in detail, you can learn to appreciate a story told from a real cultural perspective that is completely the norm for a Native author.
If you enjoy horror, this is a great psychological slasher that keeps tension building upon tension. Give it a chance, and may it be your gateway to Indigenous spec-fic!