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Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life
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Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,016 Ratings  ·  174 Reviews
Celebrated novelist David Treuer has gained a reputation for writing fiction that expands the horizons of Native American literature. In Rez Life, his first full-length work of nonfiction, Treuer brings a novelist’s storytelling skill and an eye for detail to a complex and subtle examination of Native American reservation life, past and present.

With authoritative research
Hardcover, 330 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published January 31st 2012)
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James Schaap
May 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This particular chapter of the job was a little racist. I was writing a book about members of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, and the publisher told me that I could choose the subjects myself but I had to include some New Mexico Native. I don't remember him saying that I had to have a real Indian, but I understood the requirement.

I called the reigning head of the CRC mission, a white man, a preacher, who let me know in no uncertain terms that he wasn't going to hand over a Navajo
Sep 30, 2011 rated it liked it
(Advance copy obtained via NetGalley)

David Treuer's book Rez Life, is a very readable "hybrid...of journalism, history, and memoir." The style is journalistic, in which specific aspects of "rez life" are illustrated through interviews and accounts of individuals, with bits of history thrown in to illustrate how specific conflicts and situations arose. The pieces of memoir arise because much of the book is about the reservations of the author's own tribe, the Ojibwe, and the body of the book is b
Jun 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Difficult to read... not only to learn about even more nastiness that the white government still inflicts upon the different native peoples, but technically difficult because of the structure of the book. The blurb reminds us that Treuer has written successful fiction, but it lies when making the claim relevant. There is no narrative, and there is no story arc, and there is no happily ever after. History, journalism, and a bit of memoir, are used to illustrate six encompassing facets of what it' ...more
Jul 31, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: rereads
A book well worth the read, in my opinion, with a wealth of information about current conditions on reservations and the history of how it came to be this way.

My only qualms were nitpicks: the editors were clearly getting bored toward the end, as the amount of typos only increased as I read along; the subtitle needs a little work in my opinion - I initially thought it would be an autobiographical sort of book; at times he repeats points he has made - within the same paragraph, which can get irri
Ana Rînceanu
The history of Leech Lake Reservation made simple to a non-Ojibwe audience. This was eye opening and a good introduction into Native American past victories, defeats, decisions and how they have shaped the way that the community lives today. Non-fiction, part essay and memoir, this is a book I can wholly recommend.
Feb 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am sad that I have been so uninformed for so long about the Native peoples who walked this land before us. I am sad that I, like a lot of people, have assumed that all of the United States' injustice toward the American Indian occurred in the past. Injustice still exists. People still suffer. Nothing is cut and dry.

Read this book.

"To understand American Indians is to understand America. This is the story of the paradoxically least and most American place in the twenty-first century. Welcome to
Kevin Langton
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a nice blend of memoir, history and straightforward journalism. I was engaged throughout and I also learned a lot. He writes specifically about Minnesota and Wisconsin tribes, but then applies these issues to more general stuff like federal policy and history. Wide range of subtropics here, which might bother some, but I enjoyed the ride.
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
5 stars for information. 5 stars for provoking thought. 5 stars for blending personal narrative, biography, historical and political analysis to foster understanding of how the past affects the present, as well as what might be most important now...
Apr 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Successful combination of memoir, history, cultural studies, etc. Been meaning to read this author for years, definitely plan to read more. (Started with this one because I got it at the Friends of the Library sale at Columbus Main Library). Giving four stars instead of five only because it was a bit repetitive, which made it longer and more shapeless and meandering. I don't usually mind meandering, especially in a work that is covering a lot of ground -- and different kinds of ground -- like th ...more
Jeff Mohr
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is recommended reading for those who know very little about life on Indian reservations in the United States and especially for those who hold many stereotypes and misconceptions about reservation life and the challenges that those who were here first face and often times amazingly overcome.
(Lonestarlibrarian) Keddy Ann Outlaw text

I blogged about this wonderful book yesterday, and here is the text from that post:

During my back-to-the-land days in the mid 70s, I gratefully absorbed the written works of Sioux medicine man Black Elk. These days I belong to a women's spiritual circle that gathers every Sunday to discuss lessons set forth by Seneca/Cherokee author Jamie Sams. We also raise some funds for native American chariti
Lillian Vancel
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I gave this book 5 stars because it provided me with such great insights and understanding into some very difficult concepts in the history of Native Americans. The author, David Treuer is an Ojibwe Indian who grew up on the Leech Lake Reservation in Northern Minnesota. His mother is Ojibwe, a nurse and a tribal court judge. His father is an Austrian Jew and Holocaust survivor who whose to live and teach on the Leech Lake Reservation. David and his brother Anton graduated from Princeton Universi ...more
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: native-peoples, roy
I finished this book a few days ago and have been having a hard time writing a review. My husband says it is probably the best book he has ever read. I thought it was good, but was thinking about a 3 (it seems most of what I read ends up with a 3). Treuer is a strong writer, so what are my reservations? (pun intended) I think that the book made me uncomfortable. It reminds me a bit of my reaction to Sometimes a Great Notion, a book that I tried to read three times and finally gave up.

I liked th
Nov 21, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-books
This is not a book I would normally pick up on my own, but an English teacher at work was seeking staff members to join reading groups for her classes and I volunteered to read this one along with some students.

Mostly I was interested in this book because my family has an Indian ancestry (Cherokee, which is rather amusing if you have read the book), and because I honestly do not know much about current life of Indians and life on the reservation, my knowledge is most kept to those little tidbits
Apr 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
David Treuer is a member of the Ojibwe tribe from the Leech Lake Reservation here in Minnesota. As I understand, this is the authors first full length work of nonfiction. Out of all the books I've read either written by or about Native Americans I found this one to be the most thorough when it came to describing not only the Native experience on the reservation but the historical perspective as well. Treuer does an excellent job educating the reader on Treaty rights, Tribal government, Sovereign ...more
Kristine Kucera
Feb 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
The book - and premise - itself was good; but, I had a hard time reading it on my kindle as the formatting was awkward. I learned quite a bit about the various tribes, history, and current situations. Being from Wisconsin, I found the spear fishing history to be informative as I recall that being quite the divisive topic back in the day. I found the reason for the existence of Indian casinos to be such an interesting story it could be its own book. I especially enjoyed the personal stories. The ...more
Anne Nerison
Jun 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Focusing mainly around the Leech Lake Ojibwe, Rez Life gives a good history of Native American reservations: how they came to be; what conditions are like today as well as in the past; the complicated nature of sovereignty; gaming and casinos; hunting and fishing rights; and the importance of language and culture. Truer mixes first-hand accounts with interviews, history, and data in a way that is engaging and interesting. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Native American affair ...more
Oct 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Treuer is a member of the Ojibwe tribe of Minnesota. Rez Life combines tales from his own experiences on the experiences of people he knows on the reservation along with factual information about the history of Native Americans. He covers how the Indians wound up on reservations and what the treaties created between the tribes and United States actually mean. I unfortunately didn't find it to be a very engaging book. The natural flow of the narrative seemed to be broken up by jumping back and fo ...more
Milissa Straka
Mar 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
I really and truly wanted to like this book because the subject sounds fascinating, but the author lost me when he blathered on for three pages in Chapter 1 about the characteristics and details of the differences between walleye and pike, and blah, blah, blah, blah, OMG......ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!

This one's going on my DNF (Did Not Finish) list. Life's too short to waste time reading books that put you to sleep.
Theresa Connors
Jun 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A blend of memoir and history giving the reader an authentic view of modern life on an Ojibwe reservation in Minnesota. The author's explanation of treaties and their ramifications for both sides was fascinating. He shows how past events have led to current conditions in a voice that doesn't judge or preach. He keeps it real.
Jun 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hearing about Bena, MN and the Cass Lake Reservation brought the Indian issues to reality. I learned much about their life and struggles.
Ann Heck
May 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed David Truer's "Rez Life"; it was so very interesting to read about current Lakota Indian reservations.
Detailed look at the historical and current treatment of Native Americans in the United States, but this is not the history they teach you in grade school! Even though I'd heard of a lot of the incidents recounted here, such as the way that Indian children were sent to boarding schools and punished if they spoke their native languages, I learned so much more.

The author skips back and forth between a historical recounting of the various treaties, laws and acts that the US government has used ove
Dec 06, 2016 rated it liked it
I'm guessing that this book is a rounded out version of essays previously published, as that would explain the potluck feel and more than occasional repetition from earlier chapters.

A good deal of the reporting was quite interesting, as was some - but a less hearty percentage - of the history. As for what he calls memoir, it seemed to be about everyone he knows, but not the author. I realize I whine in many reviews about excessive navel gazing, but I have to admit feeling a bit curious how he s
Jan 23, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a meaty book filled with history and personal stories of the struggles of native americans, past present and future. It tells a strong history of the trial of the native american with government and white people. The lies, the swindles and the process of elimination intended for these native peoples. It also explores the prejudice among their own people and the heartbreak in terms of family life, values and culture. This is a sad book. but also one of hope for the future.
Though I enjoye
Tom Gorski
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Admittedly I picked up this book because I'd been reading the mystery series by William Kent Krueger whose lead character, Cork O'Connor, is part Ojibwe and the stories center on a fictional reservation in Northern Minnesota. I also admit to being stunned at just how good this book is. It is as the author describes a hybrid with elements of journalism, history and memoir. It is a book that will make you angry at one moment, uplifted at another, melancholy at another and hopeful at the end. With ...more
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was an excellent overview of the policy's and culture that have impacted Native Americans on and off the reservation. The author is Leech Lake Ojibwe. This is not a look into the daily life of living on a reservation. There are many anecdotes used to illustrate the affects of events and policies.
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very informative text. Balance of thoroughly researched material and personal narratives.
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Considering how much of this book is devoted to legal technicalities, it is incredible it reads as well as it does. Does a really good job of introducing readers to a complicated topic.
Brittany Kubes
Jan 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american, non-fiction
Indian Law is one of the topics on the New Mexico bar exam (for lawyers). After learning a skeletal outline of Indian rights through studying for the February 2013 bar, it was interesting to read this book that expanded the bullet points of my skeletal knowledge. Generally, this writing style used by David Treuer, one that takes individual stories of real people as context/anecdotes for abstract laws/rights, is the best way I’m able to absorb history or nonfiction (see: Courtroom 302). Though, I ...more
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What do members of Treur's tribe think of this book? 1 10 Feb 21, 2014 10:05AM  
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David Treuer is an Ojibwe Indian from Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the NEH, Bush Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He divides his time between his home on the Leech Lake Reservation and Minneapolis. He is the author of three novels and a book of criticism. His essays and stories have appeared in Esquire, TriQua ...more
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“That Native American cultures are imperiled is important and not just to Indians. It is important to everyone, or should be. When we lose cultures, we lose American plurality -- the productive and lovely discomfort that true difference brings.” 4 likes
“That Native American cultures are imperiled is important and not just to Indians. It is important to everyone, or should be. When we lose cultures, we lose American plurality—the productive and lovely discomfort that true difference brings.” 0 likes
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