Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Murder on the Red River by Marcie R. Rendon


First Line: Sun-drenched wheat fields.
 
Sheriff Wheaton has kept an eye on Cash Blackbear since he pulled her from her mother's wrecked car at the age of three. Now nineteen, Cash has had her own apartment for two years. She's been working as a farm laborer since the age of eleven and supplements her income by playing pool most nights at the local bars.
 
The sheriff can see how smart Cash is and how much potential she has, but he also knows she has a special gift: she can meditate and have out-of-body experiences that give her uncanny insight. That's why she's standing next to him in a field looking at the body of a dead man.
 
Soon Cash dreams of the dead man's house on the Red Lake Reservation and the wife and children who are waiting for his return. She knows she must go there in order to find out who killed him. What she doesn't know is how dangerous that journey of discovery is going to be.
 
~
 
Author, playwright, and poet Marcie R. Rendon's Murder on the Red River left me speechless at its power. This book should be required reading in our schools because of its authentic portrayal of Native American life. As hurt, as enraged, as I was while reading certain scenes, my emotions could in no way hold a candle to those of Native Americans who have actually lived through what is depicted in this book.

While important, the death of the man found in the field often takes a backseat to Cash's life story. She's survived a succession of foster homes, beginning work as a farm laborer at the age of eleven and getting her own apartment at the age of seventeen. Now nineteen, this five foot two woman with (as she tells us) black hair down to the bottom of her butt doesn't expect anything from life. If she doesn't need it, she doesn't buy it-- the cigarettes and beer she's smoked and drank since the age of eleven she considers necessities. She is very attuned to the land and nature because "the land had never hurt her or left her." She is a small, fierce bundle of rage, and as her story unfolds, readers understand why even though they may wish she could control herself better for her own safety. When she learns that there are seven orphans that will become a part of the foster care system, she rages, "You know, every one of these farmers is working our land. They got it for free. The government gave them our land for free... And now they'll have seven more farm laborers to work our land for them...for free." Cash doesn't want the same thing happening to those seven children that happened to her. 

The legal kidnapping of Native children into the government foster care system is injustice at its finest (worst?), and through Cash, Rendon makes us feel every bit of it. Cash thinks about many things. Of working in the fields since the age of eleven. Of both her parents running away from government boarding schools. Of Native women fake speaking Spanish in order to be allowed into bars. It's 1970, and something called the American Indian Movement is beginning to be heard from, but Cash has also signed up for junior college. What's she going to do? 
 
I can't wait to find out in the next book in this series, Girl Gone Missing. What a book! What a character!
 
Murder on the Red River by Marcie R. Rendon
eISBN: 9781641293778
Soho Press © 2021
Originally published 2017.
eBook, 202 pages
 
Amateur Sleuth, #1 Cash Blackbear mystery
Rating: A+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.

22 comments:

  1. I was hoping you'd like this, as I've read about this book and then saw it on your list of new reads.
    I'm afraid I'll get too upset, too, about the kidnapping of Indigenous children and using them as laborers.
    So glad you gave it a rave review. I think I'll try to tough it out as it has issues I want to read about and it appears as if the author did a great job.
    I remember the American Indian Movement.
    I think I'm going to read this book even though I, too, will be angry and upset at the mistreatment of Native people. But I should know about this.

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    1. We all should know about this. The author did a great job probably because, as a Native American, she's lived through it and/or know many who have.

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  2. I keep hearing good things about this one, Cathy, and your review only makes me want to read it more. Some books are like that; they draw you in and they make you feel - a lot. Sometimes that can be draining, but it sounds like this one is very powerful.

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  3. This one does sound quite authentic in regard to the experience of Native Americans and that is a refreshing turn of events in comparison to the way they have often been depicted in the past. Putting this series on my reading list.

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    1. Good. I think you'll gain a lot by reading it, Dorothy.

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  4. This book sounds amazing, and heartbreaking, thought-provoking and a real must read. I'm so glad you read and reviewed it! I'm putting it on my TBR list right now.

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  5. Sounds fascinating and heartbreaking. There is so much to learn about history!

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    1. Yes, there is, and I'm happy to see that the varnish is being stripped off the old painting of history so we can all see its true colors.

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  6. It's about time that the true history come out about all of U.S. history.

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    1. Yes, it is- although I know many people would absolutely refuse to believe it.

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  7. Why do they refuse to believe these events? It's reality. There are books which explain the history and maps of where Indigenous people lived and shows their population shrinking.
    My mother researched this history when she was older, and each time I visited her, she'd show me a new outrage done to Indigenous people.
    I mean nuclear weapons were tested in Native lands not so long ago, leaving people with illnesses and children with birth defects.
    The truth about taking of Native children and sending them to non-Native schools, away from their families and culture, is in books, museums, etc. Problem is if schools don't teach it and BAN books about it.

    I'm lucky in having friends who have Indigenous heritage and I've heard so much from them. One organizes the Day of Mourning every "Thanksgiving" in Plymouth, Mass. I've heard that history many times, the truth about the "Pilgrims" and the Wampanoag people on Cape Cod.

    Schools should be teaching all of this history. And the truth about Columbus. Now states and cities are declaring Indigenous Peoples Day in October because the truth is bbeing told and believed.

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  8. Yes. And I am lucky to have these very knowledgeable friends.

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  9. I am reading this book now, and Cash is a character that made me not want to put the book down and go ot bed. Very good character, and the writing about the land and the feelings about it is so good. I'm remembering growing up in the Midwest and driving down highways with cornfields all around. I can't wait to read what Cash will be up to in the rest of this book and the two more I have ahead. Yet as good as the book is, I'm still tearing up while reading about her childhood. Sad and mad at the same time: Yes, it's so.

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    1. I thought you'd like these books, even with the sadness of Cash's life. I'm glad I was right.

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  10. You were right. I'm making myself read through the sad parts about It is the racism thrown at 19-year-old Cash and the terrible, abusive childhood she suffered. Yes, you are right. Rendon does make you feel it. That's a difference between a nonNative writer and an Indigenous author. I feel like drinking beer and smoking while I read this (don't do either). I'm just tearing up and eating chocolate. I feel like the government and the entire social work department should be held accountable for these outrages committed on Native children. I do want to read the three books, but I'll need light reading in between. I stopped to read a bit of The House in the Mountains, and teared up and got angry. But I am so proud that so many women in Italy joined the Resistance. So I'll need some light reading sometime soon.

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    1. I needed some light reading myself, and just finished a very enjoyable cozy.

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  11. Good for you. The one saving grace is that in spite of oppression, women are strong and risk everything in Italy and here in the Indigenous Peoples Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the anti-Asian violence, Latino immigrant rights movement. I feel proud of women when I read these books. I will read Rendon's other books. I just saw the Instagram page of my friends' Zenith Bookstore in Duluth, Minnesota. I wondered if they carried Rendon's books. There was a photo of her holding up a book, and so she was at their store, and they do promote her books. So glad.

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Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!