Book Reviews of On the Rez

On the Rez
On the Rez
Author: Ian Frazier
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ISBN-13: 9780312278595
ISBN-10: 0312278594
Publication Date: 5/4/2001
Pages: 320
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.

4.2 stars, based on 15 ratings
Publisher: Picador
Book Type: Paperback
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3 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed On the Rez on + 2 more book reviews
This book was alright, not the best though. It seemed very much broken apart, like Ian went off on tangents that had nothing to do with what he was talking about. It was an okay book, but it was mostly about him and Le War Lance, with not much mention on the lives of the people on the rez. Like what it was like to live there, what it looked like, that kind of thing.
reviewed On the Rez on + 29 more book reviews
review from
"Given that the Great Plains long functioned as a stomping ground for the Oglala Sioux, it was inevitable that Ian Frazier would cross paths with them when he wrote his 1989 chronicle of that sublime flatland. But the encounter between the self-confessed "chintzy middle-class white guy" and his Native American counterparts went so swimmingly that Crazy Horse assumed a starring role in the book. Now Frazier continues his cross-cultural romance in On the Rez. This account of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is as touching, funny, and maniacally digressive as anything he's written. What's more, he manages to avoid most of the politically correct potholes along the way, producing a vivid, ambivalent (i.e., honest) portrait of a community where the very "landscape is dense with stories."

Much of On the Rez revolves around Le War Lance, whom Frazier first met in Great Plains. This yarn-spinning, beer-swilling figure serves the author as a kind of Native American Virgil, introducing him to the hard facts of reservation life. In fact, their friendship, with its accents of deep affection and dependency, anchors the entire narrative and elicits some typically top-drawer prose:

Le's eyes can be merry and flat as a smile button, or deep and glittering with malice or slyness or something he knows and I never will. He is fifty-seven years old. I have seen his hair, which is black streaked with gray, when it was over two feet long and held with beaded ponytail holders a foot or so apart, and I have seen it much shorter, after he had shaved his head in mourning for a friend who had died.

On the Rez delivers a history of the Oglala nation that spotlights our paleface population in some of its most shameful, backstabbing moments, as well as a quick tour through Indian America. The latter, to be honest, seems a little too conscientiously cooked up from primary sources and news clippings. But elsewhere Frazier is in superb form, reporting everything he sees and hears with enviable clarity and promptly pulling the rug out from under himself whenever he seems too omniscient. Few accounts of reservation life have been this comical; even fewer have moved beyond the poverty and pandemic drunk driving to discern actual, theological wickedness on the premises: "At such moments a sense of compound evil--the evil of the human heart, in league with the original darkness of this wild continent--curls around me like shoots of a fast-growing vine." In the hands of many a writer, the previous sentence might resemble a rhetorical firecracker. In Frazier's, it comes off as a statement of fact--which is only one of the reasons why every American, Native or not, should take a look at this sad, splendid, and surprisingly hopeful book. --James Marcus"
reviewed On the Rez on + 52 more book reviews
This is a brand new, never-been-read book, so I can't give you MY review. Pay no attention to my rating...could not figure out how to NOT rate a book! I had it on my pile of "to read" books and kept moving it down, so after all this time it's still there and I have finally realized that I am NOT going to read it. So, someone else can enjoy it instead. The story takes place on an Indian Reservation and the book cover says: "No citizen interested in reservation life--or in human kindneass and human troubles--should fail to read Ian Frazier's gripping story. - Tony Hillerman" (Gee, maybe I should read it!!)