“The combination of authenticity, poetic musings, and gritty realism in the author’s voice makes this book extraordinary.” –Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing19.95
“I haven’t read anything this real and raw and necessary in a long time. . . . It’s a book that’ll lodge in you. There’s moments and lines and images in here that cut through all the lies, right into the heart of childhood, right into the beating heart of Indian country.” –Stephen Graham Jones
“It is fashionable in book reviews to praise an author’s prose as ‘luminous’ or ‘lyrical’ or ‘riveting,’ but the language in Van Alst’s text goes beyond such descriptors. It generates heat and light. It is electric, forceful, magnetic—though often coolly understated. Like city neon or the third rail of the elevated train . . . the prose spits sparks that weld the read to the page.” –David L. Moore, Studies in American Indian Literatures (SAIL)
“Sacred Smokes knocked me out with its hyperreal voice of an Indian gang member trying to survive the streets of Chicago. He sings his people’s blues in fast-river poetry that shakes your mind and defies stereotypes. A necessary read!” –Susan Power, author of The Grass Dancer
Growing up in a gang in the city can be dark. Growing up Native American in a gang in Chicago is a whole different story. This book takes a trip through that unexplored part of Indian Country, an intense journey that is full of surprises, shining a light on the interior lives of people whose intellectual and emotional concerns are often overlooked. This dark, compelling, occasionally inappropriate, and often hilarious linked story collection introduces a character who defies all stereotypes about urban life and Indians. He will be in readers’ heads for a long time to come.
Theodore C. Van Alst Jr. is Associate Professor and Director of Indigenous Nations Studies at Portland State University and the former assistant dean and director of the Native American Cultural Center at Yale University. He is creative editor for Transmotion, an online journal of postmodern Indigenous studies. He is a chapter contributor in the work Seeing Red—Hollywood’s Pixeled Skins: American Indians and Film and editor of The Faster Redder Road: The Best UnAmerican Stories of Stephen Graham Jones. His fiction and photography have been published in The Rumpus, Entropy, The Raven Chronicles, Electric Literature, High Desert Journal, Yellow Medicine Review, Unnerving Magazine, Indian Country Today, and others.