Eddie Chuculate’s gritty, yet humor and pathos-filled linked story collection is not only a portrait of a young Native American artist struggling with the two constants in his life—alcohol and art—but an unsentimental portrait of America, of its dispossessed, its outlaws, and its visionaries.
Cheyenne Madonna traces the life of Jordan Coolwater. Bearing the burden of his Creek Indian ancestry, we watch Coolwater evolve from bored young boy shooting turtles on a summer day, to thoughtful teenager being raised by his grandparents, to struggling artist, to escaped convict, and finally, father.
The first story in this debut collection, “Galveston Bay, 1826,” won an O.Henry Prize in 2007, and the second, “Yo Yo,” received a Pushcart Prize Special Mention. Admirers of the short stories of Jim Harrison and Annie Proulx will appreciate Chuculate’s steady, confident prose rooted in American realism.
Praise for Cheyenne Madonna
“With Cheyenne Madonna, Eddie Chuculate emerges as an important new talent in his generation of storytellers. He’s a kind of journalist of the soul as he investigates the broken-hearted nation of Indian men. The epicenter of action is the tenuous meeting place between boyhood and manhood, between fierce need and desire. Chuculate relates a world that is exactly what it is, with no romantic savage junk, and no temporary spiritual life preservers. In the midst of despair there’s a shrine of meaning that surfaces, like the miracle of sunrise after an all-night party.”
—Joy Harjo, United States Poet Laureate
“Where are we, among these coyote mirages, this endless herd of antelope? What is this beautiful place? Is it the land of magical realism? Not exactly. It’s a bit north of that. The tone of Chuculate’s narration is serene and buoyant, a rare mood at present. Mozart might be a useful model to think of. Every sentence is unexpected, yet infallible. The ultimate aim of the short story, like the arrow, is to end exactly where it should. In art, the satisfaction of hitting the bull’s-eye is not a simple one. It goes deep.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin, National Book Award and Hugo Award winner
“Eddie Chuculate parses the world with a keen, shrewd eye and renders a vision that is remarkably original and yet satisfyingly familiar. I love this work. These are gems worth reading again and again and ones you’ll rave about in between.”
—Julie Shigekuni, PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award winner
“It is an extraordinary book, deceptively simple; each of the stories proves satisfactory on its own, but as a whole they combine to make an incredibly moving book… The great miracle is that Chuculate’s prose somehow manages to be vibrantly emotional without ever becoming sentimental. The writing is steady, contained, and calm, but each story feels authentic, beautiful, and almost effortless, as if the tales had always been floating in the ether around Eddie Chuculate’s head, and one night he simply plucked them down and pressed them smoothly onto the pages of Cheyenne Madonna.”
—Rain Taxi Review of Books
“Chuculate presents a profound disconnect between the mythology of Indian art and the present-day reality of Indian artists, who rarely get to be artists without the cultural qualifier. He also lays bare the effects of wide-spread multi-generational addiction without making excuses for the way his characters treat each other. There are no saints in here, and no demons, either. Cheyenne Madonna is a fantastic debut.”
—Santa Fe New Mexican
“Chuculate writes forthright prose in a somber key, examining without judgment the lives of Native American characters like Old Bull, a Cheyenne who, in ‘Galveston Bay, 1826,’ the collection’s one stand-alone story, ventures out to see the ocean for the first time, only to get savaged by a hurricane. Memory and will converge here to powerful effect.”