Reading List: Fiction

Fiction Books

Now Is the Hour, by Tom Spanbauer. Dancer Tom Spanbauer follows his well-received The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon with this straightforward but luminous tale of a country boy’s self-liberation. In the summer of 1967, 17-year-old Rigby John Klusener is hitchhiking from his hometown of Pocatello, Idaho, to San Francisco to escape a life of religious, racial and sexual bigotry. He leaves behind a pregnant girlfriend, a hopelessly mystified mother, an embittered father and a sister trapped in a brutal marriage. As he waits for a ride out on the deserted highway, he winds the story back to his childhood, then virtually walks the reader through a life marked by hard farm work, Catholic guilt and the liberating passion of deep friendships formed with the most scandalously disreputable people of the community. Rigby’s storytelling voice is natural, warm, and positively addictive; the many pages of this breathtaking, romantic, and unpredictable novel fly past. Rarely does such a gripping story match with such a lovable character. 

The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon, by Tom Spanbauer. Spanbauer’s most famous novel and a must-read is the bittersweet story of a boy growing up with hard-drinking whores and assorted misfits at the end of Idaho’s gold rush. Although his real name is Duivichi-un-Dua, he is also known as Shed. At times, Shed isn’t sure who is crazier: the God-fearing citizens of his hometown Excellent, or his adopted family of whores and their admirers at the Indian Head Hotel. Other times, being half-Indian, half-white, and bisexual makes Shed crazy too. But Shed has a special strength he calls “killdeer,” his own code of trust and self-preservation. Crazy or not, Shed tells what he calls his “human-being story” in a true and honest voice. Spanbauer’s masterful plot is delightfully unpredictable and compelling. Tom consulted with his friend Clyde Hall who contributed some of the ideas and concepts behind the story.  

Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman, by Malidoma Patrice Somé. Born in West Africa in the early 1950s, Somé was kidnapped at age four by a French Jesuit missionary to be trained as a priest. For the next 15 years enduring the harsh regimen of a seminary where his native language and tribal traditions were systematically suppressed. At age 20 he escaped, but when he returned to his Dugara people in Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) they rejected him as an outsider. To reconnect with his native culture, Somé underwent a month-long initiation into shamanism during which he reports that he journeyed to the underworld, became a bird, then a porcupine and was buried alive. This vivid autobiography takes readers into a world of black magic, palpable spirits, walking dead people, force fields, transdimensional journeys— a world as strange as anything in imaginative fiction. A must-read! 

Zadayi Red, by Caleb Fox. In this thoughtful debut, a retelling of an ancient Cherokee myth, Sunoya, born under a sign revealing that her life would be either one of great blessings or darkness, sets out on a path toward becoming her tribe’s medicine chief. When she is grown and a vision shows her people facing destruction, the responsibility to save them—at the cost of a great sacrifice—falls first on her and then, years later, on Dahzi, a boy she’s rescued and adopted. Dahzi struggles with his heritage and typical teen desires as he fights for his people and eventually confronts the Immortals, the beings who created the world. Fox elegantly blends the old tale and contemporary fantasy without being anachronistic or plodding, bringing depth and humor even to often-clichéd elements such as Sunoya’s spirit guide. Fox possesses a rare skill in masterfully telling a story. He is a true storyteller in the tradition of Native people.

Give Your Heart to the Hawks: A Tribute to the Mountain Men, by Win Blevins. For over thirty years, from the time of Lewis and Clark into the 1840s, the mountain men explored the Great American West. As trappers in a hostile, trackless land, their exploits opened the gates of the mountains for the wagon trains of pioneers who followed them. In Give Your Heart to the Hawks, Win Blevins presents a poetic tribute to these dauntless “first Westerners” and their incredible adventures. Here, among many, are the stories of: John Colter, who, in 1808, naked and without weapons or food, escaped captivity by the Blackfeet and ran and walked 250 miles to Fort Lisa at the mouth of the Yellowstone River; Hugh Glass, who was mauled by a grizzly in 1823, left for dead by his trapper companions, and crawled 300 miles to Fort Kiowa on the Missouri; Kit Carson, who ran away from home at age 17, became a legendary mountain man in his 20s and served as scout and guide for John C. Fremont’s westward explorations of the 1840s; Jedediah Smith, a tall, gaunt, Bible-reading New Yorker whose trapping expeditions ranged from the Rockies to California and who was killed by Comanches on the Cimarron in 1831.

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