I picked up Stephen Graham Jones‘ 2003 novel The Bird is Gone: A Manifesto after attending this year’s Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) annual conference where everybody was talking about Jones and his rapidly growing body of work. Several people spoke highly of this novel in particular as an unusual text that is strongly aligned with my own personal and professional interests. And was it worth it? Oh yes!
I’m not yet entirely sure what to make of Jones’ book — it’s so rich and unconventional that I’m going to have to read it another couple of times before I can really make up my mind about it. What I do know is that I’m a fan. A big fan. This novel is witty, complex, interesting, smart, and very refreshing. I mean, what novel that uses the line “Pink eye was all the rage” to open several chapters can really be dull? And when that particular strain of pink eye is manufactured from the same strain of smallpox that thrived in a notorious bundle of blankets and serves as an identifier for Indian-ness and is sought after by whites and … well, you get the idea.
This is a book you have to read for yourself in order to understand. I’ll be reading (and adding posts about) a few more of his books in the coming weeks, so maybe a more complete picture will begin to form. Until then, you could really stand to head out to your nearest indie bookseller and pick up any of SGJ’s many works.