July 20 , 2009

Ghost Dances

Proving Up on the Great Plains


Growing up in South Dakota, Josh Garrett-Davis knew he would leave. But as a young adult, he kept going back – in dreams and reality and by way of books. With this beautifully written narrative about a seemingly empty but actually rich and complex place, he has reclaimed his childhood, his unusual family – and the Great Plains.
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Among the subjects and people that bring his Midwestern Plains to life are the destruction and resurgence of the American bison; Native American "Ghost Dancers," who attempted to ward off destruction by supernatural means; the political allegory to be found in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; and current attempts by ecologists to "rewild" the Plains, complete with cheetahs. Garrett-Davis infuses the narrative with stories of his family as well – including his great-great-grandparents' twenty-year sojourn in Nebraska as homesteaders and his progressive Methodist cousin Ruth, a missionary in China ousted by Mao's revolution. GHOST DANCES is a fluid combination of memoir and history and reportage that reminds us our roots matter.

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