REVIEW: "The Road Back to Sweetgrass"

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the road back to sweetgrass review-web.jpgBy Linda LeGarde Grover

Publisher: University of Minnesota

Press

September 2014

194 pages

Anishinaabe author, Linda LeGarde

Grover (Boise Forte Band of Ojibwe) contributes to the nation’s

literary achievement in historic fiction. Her novel, “The Road Back

to Sweetgrass,” published in the fall of 2014, explores the realm

of Indigenous thought through historic, Anishinaabe circumstance from

1970 to 2014. This book begins in the fictional, Ojibwe reservation

of Mozhay Point, located in north Minnesota.

From a chance encounter during a

summer wild rice harvest in 1973, protagonist Margie Robineau of

Mozhay Point finds herself falling head over heels for Michael

Washington, described as a debonair, Jay Silverheels-meets-Marlon

Brando figure of the Miskwaa River Band of Ojibwe.

Michael and his father, Zho Washigton,

of the Wazhushkag (Muskrat) family, were erased from the BIA rolls by

an Indian agent during the allotment period, who reassigned them a

last name of Washington. Zho becomes a powerful analogy of

inspiration and transformation in this novel.

The character of Dale Ann Dionne

brings a new perspective to the Federal Indian Relocation Program,

when she finds herself in the metropolis of Chicago in 1970 working

as a telephone operator.

Remedy of craft in satire is found

through Grover’s use of parody, which evokes humor from her

presentation of characters like American Indian Studies Professor,

Dr. Roger-Head, who teaches a course entitled, “Indians of America”

(18-19). At other times, laughter is provoked by characters like

Teresa Robineau, who sports a 70’s version of emo glasses,

compliments of her local IHS clinic.

From Grover’s artistic organization

of novel sections, to her use of Ojibwemowin and English, The Road

Back to Sweetgrass is clearly the product of Indigenous thought and

experience in the modern era. Readers of this novel are sure to find

resilience in that moment when you know your “own story”