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On The Rez

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,666 ratings  ·  167 reviews
A great writer's journey of exploration in an American place that is both strange and deeply familiar.
In Ian Frazier's bestselling" Great Plains," he described meeting a man in New York City named Le War Lance, "an Oglala Sioux Indian from Oglala, South Dakota." In "On the Rez," Frazier returns to the plains and focuses on a place at their center-the Pine Ridge Reservatio
Hardcover, 311 pages
Published 2000 by Farrar, Straus, Giroux
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'On the Rez' is a tough book to review. It's a book that seems to be liked more by professional reviewers than by regular readers. On here, its reviews run the gamut from, "What the hell is this about?" to, "It's a wonderful book, unflinching in its take on the hardships of life on the rez, while still offering hope for the future."

'Rez' is a frustrating book for readers like me, who crave linear stories. Perhaps I crave them because I'm a native Midwesterner who grew up in cities with straight
Apr 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book seems to have drawn more criticism than is perhaps fair, given the author's apparent intent and targeted audience. Readers already steeped in Oglala Sioux history, the history of the American Indian Movement, or that of the Pine Ridge Reservation, may find the book lacking in details and specifics. If you already have an advanced degree in Native American Studies, this book probably is not for you. However, as somebody who has always wondered what goes on farther down those dirt roads ...more
May 03, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: My mom. She read it first and liked it.
I really didn't enjoy this book, I think because I have a significantly different philosophy than the author. The story is an autobiography of sorts, about a man who really, really wishes he were born an Indian (Native American), so he spends a lot of time visiting a reservation and "making friends" with the inhabitants, who basically use him for money and car rides... Which he acknowledges but still seems to really enjoy, kind of like the little kid who always gets made fun of but still wants t ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
3.5 stars

This is an interesting book, though as others have said, the last third is by far the best. Frazier, a white travel writer, befriends an Oglala Sioux man named Le from the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, and writes about his time hanging out with Le and his friends and family. He also writes more broadly about Native Americans today and about the last few centuries of history. The last third of the book is a biography of a basketball star named SuAnne Big Crow who was an inspira
Jul 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Frazier again knocks it out of the park with this book, a very honest and not editorialized/moralized tale of historic and modern life on (primarily) the Pine Ridge reservation of the Oglala Sioux. I thought the story was refreshingly told, with lots of interviews and historical documents but none of the insipid kinds of commentary that usually follow. The state of affairs here is the result of complicated interactions of history, temperament and greed with blame falling to all parties involved, ...more
Hai Quan
The author invites you to join him in visiting his Native American friends in several reservations ( Rez).
You hear the conversations between them, see the lives they live .
You witness the tragedies of alcoholism and its effect on their health and longevity : Death for alcohol abuse , alcohol induced violence and automobile accident is staggering.A real sad preventable situation , but no effort from the tribal as well as the federal, it seems to me, is taken to curb it!
I think the Native American
Bob Nichols
Frazier spends time on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. His attachment to the Indians there is clear. This includes his relationship with one of his central characters, “Le,” who is frustratingly illusive. Le always has a story, yet he is capable of connecting when he wants. Frazier’s account of SuAnne Big Crow’s life, a bigger-than-life basketball star, was mesmerizing.

Frazier weaves the history of Indians in American throughout his book. Here too his affinity for Indians is clear. “In colon
Just spit it out, Man! What is it that you are trying to tell me? What kind of book is this? Argh!!

I usually get through books quickly, I can't help it, I'm a compulsive reader. This book was challenging for me to finally finish. Frazier does a terrible job with a fascinating subject and I find that almost unforgivable. The idea of a memoir laced with history and research sounds fantastic, unfortunately the result leaves a lot to be desired.

Frazier really, really needed to figure out where he w
I can't believe so many people rated this book 4-5 stars. Some people, I noticed, read it for a class. I can see how they might rate it higher when they're viewing it as a textbook; as a textbook, I admit it's better than most I've had to read. But for pleasure reading, I wouldn't recommend it. Although, I did pull one quote from it that I will chew on later.

The critics applaud Frazier's "keen eye for detail", but I would categorize it as more of a nauseatingly overdone & boring eye for detail.
Dec 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Loved it! Sue Anne Big Crow. You can't be from South Dakota and not know that name. Whether you are white, brown, black, green or purple, South Dakotans know Sue Anne Big Crow. She is an iconic myth that I bet if I was back home now, young people would probably wonder if she really even existed. She was an Oglala Sioux from the Pine Ridge Reservation. She came from a huge family. She was Basketball Royalty, tragically died in a car wreck in 1992. For those who knew her, thier grief is still real ...more
Apr 08, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: partially-read
I really tried with "On the Rez". After hearing conflicting opinions from other readers, I forged ahead and gave it almost 150 pages--but I can take no more!

The book contains some interesting information and anecdotes, but it runs all over the place. Frazier doesn't seem to have a clear purpose for what he's writing about. The stories almost seem better suited to magazine pieces (which may be what he originally intended?).

One thing that bothered me greatly was Frazier's stating that while many
Bonnie Brody
Mar 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an enormously powerful account of the history of the Oglala Sioux and their current lives on the reservation at Pine Ridge. Mr. Frazier juxtaposes the 'evil ("mistakenly called bleakness by others") with the promises, hope and brightness of youth.

Ultimately, this is the inspirational story of SueAnn Crow, a promising student athlete with a wonderful life before her. It appears that success in this culture is not received well. Standing out as 'better' is inappropriate and SueAnn's g
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an unusual book--non-fiction, but not a documentary-type at all. It is more like a stream-of conscious recounting of the author's complicated relationships with Indian individuals, the Pine Ridge Reservation in S. Dakota, and the concept of "indian-ness" (my word.) He does not give easy answers, but describes in detail the life and look of the reservation. He becomes friends with Le, a remarkable Oglala Sioux indian. It's hard to know why the two feel like brothers--it seems like the aut ...more
Jul 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone curious about Native Americans
I love this book. It gives me insight into a culture which is unlike yet intertwined with my own. Growing up white in western South Dakota generally meant ignoring the fact that the poorest county in the nation is an hour and a half from my home. Ian Frazier comes into the Pine Ridge reservation as a friend to one man, and he gets to know people and tells their amazing stories.

I think my favorite thing about this book is Frazier's tone. So frequently when you hear about the Lakota peoples the st
Braden Canfield
I have been out to Pine Ridge Reservation many times. Saw much of what this book describes first hand.. even met a character or two that get mention herein. Loved the book and have a deep love for the place. The people there carry and live with such a grand mixture of devastation and tragedy on the one hand, bravery and perseverance on the other. I truly believe that the ethnic cleansing that occurred as part of the darker history of our country's birth is not only our greatest shame but stands ...more
Disco Earl
I picked up Great Plains after visiting St. Louis and learning that the prairie grasses there were originally more than six feet high, and I wanted to learn more. I had really enjoyed Frazier's Travels in Siberia, and I heard good things about this book. Great Plains is very well reported and packed with interesting info. But there's no drive to the narrative. If you liked the Reporter at Large features in old issues of The New Yorker, you'll love this book. Frazier used to be a staff writer at ...more
Pat Camalliere
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book wasn’t what I was expecting, as I was informed it was a memoir. It didn’t fit neatly into that category, as the author set out to investigate the subject, making it more of a non-fiction book describing present day on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the current life of reservation American Indians. I was expecting an uplifting memoir, but I’m afraid it gave a rather bleak picture. I must say, however, that the writing at times was so beautiful that I was jealous of the writer’s t ...more
Jul 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simply a beautiful book. Not perfect, but it seems wondefully true to what the author thinks, experienced, and learned, and to what he couldn't resolve.

"The real issue is that Indians' relationship to this country is still that of the colonized, so that when non-Indians write about us, it's colonial literature. And unless it's seen that way, there's a problem.What really bothered me about Ian Frazier's book is how everybody kept talking about it as some sort of special work, and it's not. It's a
On the Rez was on a recommended reading list in Subjects Matter: Every Teacher's Guide to Content-Area Reading. When I was at the Euless Public Library, it was one of the few titles I remembered on my to-be-read list. I had put it on the list because the description of the book said that the approach to talking about Indians was different. It neither patronized or aggrandized Native Americans and their cultures.

I vaguely remember one of my literature professors telling us that there are two stor
Read the STOP SMILING interview with author Ian Frazier

Of No Fixed Accord
By Nathan Kosub

(This interview originally appeared in STOP SMILING The Documentary Issue)

Ian Frazier is a staff writer at the New Yorker, where he began his career over 30 years ago. In April 2005, he revisited the legacies of Baghdad's historical invaders. ?It seems that so much of the foolish and horrible things that people do come from being adrift in the world,? Frazier told me. Against that, a book is ?an efficient way
Dec 20, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The most compelling aspect of this book, for me, was the way the author inserted himself into the narrative. Sometimes when I am reading non-fiction, that kind of subjectivity bothers me, but in this case, I think the book wouldn't have been a success without it.

Frazier's connection to, and his quasi-obsession with, the Oglala Sioux, is recounted in this memoir-esque book. He builds the story off of his on-again/off-again friendship with Le, who lives in Pine Ridge on the Sioux reservation. The
Dec 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating first-person account of one man's experience of befriending a resident of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
I normally don't care for the New Yorker style first-person, narrator-centric style of storytelling, but this book could only have been written in this style.
The biggest flaw of this book is that Frazier hits the reader over the head with a history lesson first.
The Lakota history could have been woven into the narrative more artfully.
Nevertheless, a great rea
Aug 09, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was uneven but overall it was well worth reading. It's an unjudgmental look at Native Americans living on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The author doesn't pretend that the specific man he profiles is typical, but he does a good job of fitting himself in to make observations even though he (the author) is an outsider. I think the books' real strength is the overviews he has of bits of Native American history, facts about Native Americans in the US today, and reconstructing some of the eve ...more
Jan 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Frazier has the social sensibilities of a skilled archeologist paying sharp attention to dialect, landscapes, sounds, and political nuances, and artfully describing them in clear, concise and easy to understand language.

Having grown up in Lakota territory, his words resonate the truth of what I know first-hand.

This is not only a book about the Lakota (aka Sioux), it is a book about American society and who we have become.
Noel Bass
May 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ian Frazier takes a fickle approach to this book. It starts with almost a text book of information, but in an instant, as if to take a deep breath, changes into a journal. By the tail end of the book we are suddenly following a sports hero. There is a lot of humor in this book, but almost incidentally rather than pre-conceived. Through all the grief and hopelessness and disparity, he finds beauty through the people and land.
Todd Stockslager
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other
Frazier writes a free-wheeling account of the Pine Ridge, South Dakota Sioux reservation and the Native Americans he meets there and in New York City. This book is hard to categorize: part history, part sociological treatise, part political polemic, part humorous treatment of modern life, part stream of conscious reporting with a debt to Tom Wolfe--and none of the above. It works at each level, and keeps you reading hungry for more.
Oct 08, 2009 rated it it was ok
I couldn't get through the first couple chapters in this book. Normally I try to read everything through, but this one beat me. I couldn't get over the "I wish I had been born Indian" approach to his writing and perspective. Very off-putting. Vic Glover's book about Pine Ridge is much, much better. No wonder the library was getting rid of it. ...more
Sep 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this book after having visited the Pine Ridge Reservation and found it to be fairly accurate. It is not a book giving a historical account of Native American life, specifically, not of Lakota history. It is telling of current Lakota life. I don't know that it exemplifies the pride of tradition, family, and the reasons for staying in such a poverty ridden area. ...more
Jul 13, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology
I have a hard time seeing how Ian Frazier is not a white person trying to appropriate an Indian culture. I tried to keep an open mind, but I think he ignores the warning signs, and choses to make a buck for his book.
Sep 05, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this after visiting Pine Ridge myself -- and found it rather indulgent of the author. Frankly, I hoped for more.
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Ian Frazier (b.1951) is an American writer and humorist. He is the author of Travels in Siberia, Great Plains, On the Rez, Lamentations of the Father and Coyote V. Acme, among other works, all published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He graduated from Harvard University. A frequent contributor to The New Yorker, he lives in Montclair, New Jersey.

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“America is a leap of the imagination. From its beginning, people had only a persistent idea of what a good country should be. The idea involved freedom, equality, justice, and the pursuit of happiness; nowadays most of us probably could not describe it a lot more clearly than that. The truth is, it always has been a bit of a guess. No one has ever known for sure whether a country based on such an idea is really possible, but again and again, we have leaped toward the idea and hoped. What SuAnne Big Crow demonstrated in the Lead high school gym is that making the leap is the whole point. The idea does not truly live unless it is expressed by an act; the country does not live unless we make the leap from our tribe or focus group or gated community or demographic, and land on the shaky platform of that idea of a good country which all kinds of different people share.

This leap is made in public, and it's made for free. It's not a product or a service that anyone will pay you for. You do it for reasons unexplainable by economics--for ambition, out of conviction, for the heck of it, in playfulness, for love. It's done in public spaces, face-to-face, where anyone is free to go. It's not done on television, on the Internet, or over the telephone; our electronic systems can only tell us if the leap made elsewhere has succeeded or failed. The places you'll see it are high school gyms, city sidewalks, the subway, bus stations, public parks, parking lots, and wherever people gather during natural disasters. In those places and others like them, the leaps that continue to invent and knit the country continue to be made. When the leap fails, it looks like the L.A. riots, or Sherman's March through Georgia. When it succeeds, it looks like the New York City Bicentennial Celebration in July 1976 or the Civil Rights March on Washington in 1963. On that scale, whether it succeeds or fails, it's always something to see. The leap requires physical presence and physical risk. But the payoff--in terms of dreams realized, of understanding, of people getting along--can be so glorious as to make the risk seem minuscule.”
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