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The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band
By Frances Washburn
184 pp. / 5.50 x 8.50 / 2014
Paper (978-0-8165-3082-3)
  - Sun Tracks

Related Interest
  - Indigenous and Native American Studies
  - Literature and Essays

Opening July 4, 1969, on the Pine Ridge Reservation, The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band begins with a raucous Fourth of July gig that abruptly ends with the Red Birds ducking out of the
A slim, evocative, entertaining tale of strange happenings on an Indian reservation in South Dakota.

—Shelf Awareness

The setting and clipped wry style of The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band are a delight, but the novel's greatest strength is Sissy, a character full of self-knowledge and wisdom even as she struggles with the twin mysteries of Buffalo's death and her own self-discovery. The music she sings is a great soundtrack to an affecting tale.

—The Historical Novels Review

In a novel rich in detail and smart about the lay of the land on and around the rez, Washburn's novel is both compelling and educational.

—American Indian Library Association

This is a book that makes sense of a people who turned down more than $1 billion offered in exchange for the Black Hills. Some things are not easily bought and sold, some things are not


at all, only mirrors in which we can choose to see who we are and who we might become. Washburn writes beyond every Indian stereotype to leave us with a story that is as old as those Hills.

—Star Tribune

Character development is Washburn's strong suit. The people she writes about are so memorable that you can (if you can!) put down the book, return to it in a few days, and immediately continue your connection with its characters and the world in which they live. It is indeed a wonderful story.

—Tom Holm, author of The Osage Rose

The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band will make you laugh out loud while breaking your heart. Frances Washburn writes with insight, compassion and a rich irony. It is powerful stuff that lingers long after you turn the last page.

—Margaret Coel, author of Killing Custer

performance in a hilarious hail of beer bottles. By the end of the evening, community member Buffalo Ames is dead, presumed to be murdered, just outside the bar. Sissy Roberts, the band's singer and the "best female guitar picker on the rez," is reluctantly drawn into the ensuing investigation by an FBI agent who discovers Sissy's knack for hearing other people's secrets.

The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band is part mystery, part community chronicle. Shaped by a cast of skillfully drawn characters, all of whom at one time or another are potential suspects, at the core of the story is smart and compassionate Sissy. Four years past high school, Sissy's wry humor punctuates descriptions of reservation life as she learns more about Ames's potential killer, and as she embarks on a personal search for ways to buck expectations and leave rural South Dakota to attend college.

Ames's death is just an example of the undercurrents of violence and passions that run through this fast-moving novel of singing, loving, and fighting. Following Sissy as she unravels the mystery of both Buffalo Ames's death and her own future, The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band is the story of Indian Country on the verge of historic change and a woman unwilling to let change pass her by.

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