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The Insufficiency of Maps
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The Insufficiency of Maps

3.24 of 5 stars 3.24  ·  rating details  ·  164 ratings  ·  41 reviews
In this powerful debut novel by award-winning Nora Pierce, a young girl must discover the meaning of self and family as she struggles to find her place between two contrasting realities.

On the reservation, Alice lives in a run-down trailer. Both her parents are alcoholics. She seldom has enough food and she rarely attends school, but she is free to follow her imagination
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Washington Square Press (first published 2007)
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Ann Marie
well I don't know what to think...Alice is a child...she also tells the story...I think she aged ten years thru the story...but the story? seems to paint a dim picture of the American Indian and I am not certain this was what the author intended...for me it seemed as if everyone of Indian origin in this story was either smoking dope or drinking...noone took care of the child...the flow is choppy at best...and nothing is really settled in the's as if the book tried to become a story ...more
I read this book while traveling and was pleased to have it. It held my interst and was a fine read.

My reaction in the end however is somewhat mixed. I was distracted by the similarities between this book and White Oleander and while they certainly deal with topics that deserve to be looked at often and from many angles, I still spent more time being reminded of the other book instead of simply taking in the story.

The other thing--and I hope this isn't a spoiler--is that the "take home message"
I picked up this book because I saw it in the stacks and I loved the title. Although at points I thought it had promise, ultimately I found the first half sad almost to the point of being exploitative and the second half a quick run to a conclusion that was unsatisfying given the detail in the first half of the book. Also, the voice of the protagonist didn't feel right to me. It is written in first person, present tense and at times the voice does sound like a child's as it should (in her though ...more
Elizabeth Reid
"'We learned it from the white man, how to use those words. Don't cost you nothing. Just stay here, take these horses, we gonna give you all this land and you don't gotta worry about nothing. Here, take these blankets, sign right here under these words, here I come, you just wait.'

'Hush up. My point is, words are shit. And they're shit because they're everything. Like any magic, they can turn you on.'"
I enjoyed this debut novel about a young American Indian girl, and her Mother. A raw and gritty story of Indian culture and a life of poverty, alcoholism and wanting to know where she belongs. I was saddened while reading this book, for Alice because she loves her mother despite the illness she has, and the helpless feeling she has about her life in general. Author, Nora Pierce is a wonderful writer and I hope to read more of her works.

S. Harrell
Pierce's finesse in relaying the landscape of a child's life through the delicate filter of her young perspective is brilliant. It's terribly challenging to write a child's first person point of view in an adult work, and Pierce accomplishes it masterfully. Through this naive lens the author gives tremendous insight into cultural wealth and poverty, mental illness and the soaring imagination inextricably tied to it, as well as the emotional hurdles of a child displaced by virtually everyone. Wha ...more
From the book jacket: Pierce asks probing questions about identity and difference in the context of the contemporary Native American experience. From me: I love maps, but I love them in the sense of seeing where things are, where I can go, trips I'd like to take, where water runs. My maps I look at regularly are one of Manhattan, one of the water sheds in Austin, one of the archaeological sites in Middle America. Alice, the child in the novel, uses maps to try to find where she came from, and wh ...more
Aug 21, 2007 Amy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adults
Shelves: 2007-books
This book is about a Native American girl growing up in the late sixties. Her mother is schizophrenic and her father is an alcoholic. She is eventually placed in a caucasion foster home after her mother has a breakdown that nearly kills her. It is a sad, touching story, but not particularly well written. The time line gets muddied (she seems to go from 5 to 12 quite quickly) and the prose is a bit repetitive. Still an interesting book.
This is a very moving story about a young girl Alice, who is of American Indian descent, and seen from her perspective from when she was about 5 through to 14. Lots of issues such as identity, cultural belonging, family, separation, abuse, mental illness, alcoholism etc - it's not an easy story, but I imagine it is a common one. I think it's also about a mother's love for her child in the face of incredible adversity.
When Native-American, is five years old, she is taken from her schizophrenic mother and placed in a foster home. As she comes to age, she comes to term with her dysfunctional family and their Native American roots. A short, quick read, recommended for those who enjoyed Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of Part-time Indian and want to read more Native American fiction and young adult fiction.
John Solder
Very real, touching story about a young native girls and her coming to terms with a crazy mother, drunk father, dieing grandfather, her heritage, and trying to fit in to American culture. The books has so many small beautiful and haunting passages that will make you take a step back. Pierce gets in touch with some deep human emotions and does a good job of developing characters. Serious read, but worth it.
A novel about growing up Native American as seen through the eyes of a child who is torn between the people of the "res" (her own heritage), many of whom are broken and dysfunctional, and the White people who take her in as a foster child. Her mother's mental illness make it impossible for the child to stay with her, and we follow the disintegration of the spirit through the child's eyes.
Katie M.
Engaging, if choppy, story about a young girl's life with her doting schizophrenic/alcoholic parents, and her subsequent placement with a white foster family. Not a hugely memorable book, but there's a lot of loveliness in here, and some delicate exploration of heavy issues (mental illness, reservation life, fit vs. unfit parents, white-family/fosterkid-of-color dynamic, etc).
Marlee Cowan
The first half of the book gets 4.5 stars but the last half only 3 stars. I didn't enjoy the end nearly as much as the just didn't have the same spirit or interesting qualities. But the beginning was wonderful, such a clever way to write the story and teach me something at the same time.
This was a little hard to connect with, because the narrative is fairly disjointed...but it's very intentionally disjointed and mirrors the turmoil of main character Alice's life. It was very, very sad, as well; the mother in me wanted to gather Alice up in my arms on pretty much every single page.
A raw and jagged read about the pain of growing up with a parent suffering from mental illness, foster families and the struggle of fitting in, defining culturals when roots are missing... A great read for everyone, but many of my Native American students will especially enjoy this one.
This is an interesting book about a Native American girl who has a schizophrenic mother. The perspective and style almost make the reader feel like a schizophrenic! It is interesting, though, to see the Native American perspective, both in the native culture and among whites.
I didn't love this book for several reasons. The story line is depressing with regard to the plight of the modern day native American and I didn't really learn anything new. While I feel it was well written, it certainly did not leave me 'wanting more'.
C. Adam Volle
Didn't have to look up the author online after finishing this flat little chore to know I'd been ambushed once again, by that most predictable and grating sub-genre in literature: the First Novel Produced Within A University's Creative Writing Department.
Very honest and sometimes heartbreaking story. A little girls account of what it is like to live on an Indian reservation and the struggles with alcoholism. it gives us a peak of what life is like when you have a parent with a mental disease.
I read this book in one night. I was compelled and drawn in by the story. Now, I want to set it aside and reread it in a few weeks to see if it is actually a good piece of writing or just a truly compelling story and character.
I think I just picked this book up randomly at the library. It was a quick read, perfectly fine, but I'm sure I didn't get it. A lot about the girls' obsession with maps, bones, and artifacts, but I didn't get any of it.
Melody Mees Bass
I liked this book very much, and I highly recommend it both for the depiction of Native American culture in California and how children are affected when a parent has a mental illness.
Aug 09, 2008 Heidi rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: adult
This was quite a sober book about a young girl whose mom is schizophrenic. I never felt resolved that the main character discovered her "place" in life, like she was searching for.
Jul 25, 2011 Sarah added it
Sad, sad story. Nicely told from a child's perspective. Approaches mental illness, alcoholism, Native American identity issues, and racism without preachiness.
Marla Sommer
Sad book about a Native American girl taken away from her schizophrenic mother. She is raised by white foster parents where she never feels at home.
an impressively written coming of age story, with a strong native american protagonist and a strange and lovely portrayal of schizophrenia and displacement.
Simple, a little slow. I'm surprised I finished it given that I easily walk away from books but I guess it was an okay story.
The book does a good job of portraying life as a neglected child, who is obviously loved by her mentally ill mother.
Well-written touching, but fairly predictable story of young girl coming of age with three or four strikes against her.
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The Insufficiency of Maps: A Novel

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