Cheyenne Madonna by Eddie Chuculate

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One stormy night in 1826, just north of Galveston Bay, Old Bull, a Cheyenne Indian who had just seen the ocean for the first time, found himself trying to outrace a hurricane. Lifted from his horse, spun around, and thrown down in the bayou, Old Bull rode the current into a small canyon, and survived. He was the only one of his party to return from the expedition, arriving home nearly naked, nearly hallucinating, riding a horse.

Such is the auspicious beginning to the life of Jordan Coolwater, a distant relation to Old Bull, whom we meet as a boy in the 1970s, shooting turtles on a summer day, and being raised by his grandparents on Creek Indian land in the house of his great-great-grandfather, a survivor of the "Trail of Tears." Bearing the burden of his ancestry, Jordan Coolwater—from bored young boy, to thoughtful teenager, struggling artist, escaped convict, and finally, father—is the subject of Eddie Chuculate's prize-winning collection of linked short stories. The first story in the collection, "Galveston Bay, 1826," won an O'Henry Prize in 2007, and the second, "Yo Yo," received a Pushcart Prize Special Mention.

Reminiscent of Denis Johnson's Jesus's Son, Chuculate's gritty, deceptively simple stories also recall Junot Dias and Sherman Alexie. This is not only a portrait of a young Native American artist struggling with the two constants in his life, alcohol and art, but also a portrait of America, of its dispossessed, its outlaws, and its visionaries.

About Eddie Chuculate

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Eddie Chuculate is Creek and Cherokee Indian from Muskogee, Oklahoma. He has a degree in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts and is the second Native American to have held the Wallace Stegner fellowship at Stanford. He lives in Denver, Colorado.
Published July 16, 2010 by Black Sparrow Books. 160 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Ironically, their only bond is the bottle: “You can trace the progression of alcoholism in my family like a flying arrow and I’m the bull’s-eye.” A story that should have kept a tight focus on father and son veers off into Jordan’s troubles with the law and his escape from an Indian Detention Cen...

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Publishers Weekly

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In seven interconnected stories Native American author Chuculate pursues the painful self-discovery of a half-Cherokee youth trying to distance himself from his family's chronic drinking, impoverishment, and racism.

Jul 19 2010 | Read Full Review of Cheyenne Madonna

Star Tribune

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Chuculate's debut is rich and moving as he traces the life of Jordan Coolwater, from hope to struggle and back to hope.

Sep 18 2010 | Read Full Review of Cheyenne Madonna


A longtime fan of Charles Bukowski and his chief inspirator John Fante, I recently did a search on Black Sparrow Press at Paperback Swap, knowing that press also to have published books by Paul Bowles, Mohammed Mrabet and other talents.

Nov 13 2010 | Read Full Review of Cheyenne Madonna

Project MUSE

Although the collection ends with a slight glimmer of transformation in Coolwater's character, that does not satisfy the audience's desire for more than the implied change from a tousled preteen boy into an adult, at least mildly reflective of his past—both immediate and ancestral.

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