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Cowboys and East Indians

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  406 ratings  ·  65 reviews
Set in Wyoming and India, the short-story collection COWBOYS AND EAST INDIANS explores the immigrant experience and the collisions of cultures in the American West as seen through the eyes of outsiders. From motel owners to rig workers, cross-dressers to exchange students, this book examines the rural immigrant experience -- and how identity is shaped by place.
Paperback, 199 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by FiveChapters Books
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Average rating 4.23  · 
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A distinct short story collection about East Indians living in Wyoming. I thought Nina McConigley did an excellent job portraying the difficulties of this lived experience, like the racial microaggressions, feelings of “otherness,” and searching for your identity when you feel like you’ve lost it or it was never yours to begin with. At the same time, I found these stories repetitive in their focus on suffering. While I appreciate learning about and bearing witness to people’s pain, I also felt t ...more
Elizabeth A
Jun 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, stories
"We were the wrong kind of Indians living in Wyoming."

While in college I worked in an after school program, and a five year old girl asked me if I was Spanish. When I said I was Indian, she paused, squinted her eyes, and then calmly said, " I thought all the Indians were dead."

Another flashback. When we were kids playing Cowboys and Indians in Kenya, all of us wanted to be Cowboys, because they were the good guys, besides the Indians all got killed. Sigh.

The immigrant experience tends to be uni
Alyson Hagy
Dec 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Full Disclosure: Nina is a former student and a friend. That said, there's no mistaking the strength of this collection. Each piece is fresh and focused. And we can't, in my opinion, have too many new voices -- saying new and challenging things -- in America (especially in the West). My favorites are "Pomp and Circumstances," "Fenced Out," and "Curating Your Life." The last one gives us a luscious hint of what Nina McConigley will be like as a novelist. Marvelous. ...more
Jenny Shank
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing

Cowboys and East Indians
Nina McConigley
195 pages, softcover: $15.95.
FiveChapters Books, 2013.

In her captivating debut story collection, Casper-raised author Nina McConigley examines with wit and empathy what it means to be "the wrong kind of Indians living in Wyoming." Although prejudice and ignorance surface, there are few bad guys in this game of cowboys and Indians, only complicated human beings.

The characters in Cowboys and East Indians must explain th
Robert Vaughan
Feb 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I had the great fortune of reading with Nina in New York's esteemed Sunday Salon reading series in October, 2013. At that event, she sold out of copies of her book before I had the chance to purchase one! And for good reason. So thrilled I finally had the chance to take her stories in. Among my favorites are "Pomp and Circumstance," "Dot or Feather," and "Fenced Out." These illustrate the quiet, troubling protagonists, outsiders all, mixed cultures and ethnicities, and the wide swath of landscap ...more
Celeste Ng
I've never read a collection of stories like this before: Nina McConigley's debut collection focuses on East Indians living in the American West. The stories are laced through with a wry, bittersweet humor that made me laugh and wince at the same time. Take the first line of "Dot or Feather": "By the time Sindu Thyagaraja came to live in Wyoming, she was already calling herself Cindy." There aren't nearly enough stories out there exploring the ways immigrants, and their descendants, navigate the ...more
Aaron Lozano
Sep 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It's hard to convey on how many levels I identified with characters throughout these stories. The very first story read like I have often felt. It's pretty unique when that happens. I give out 5 stars rather freely, this one deserves at least 7. I wish I had more words for this, but I think you would ALL be better served to read it yourselves and create your own words for this book. It deserves them. ...more
Sep 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An insightful collection of stories, exploring themes of belonging, otherness and identity as something both inherited and created. Each story felt intensely personal, and had the kind of high-stakes emotional impact needed to keep the pages turning. But there's a lot of humor here, and unique perspectives driving the narratives. A unique collection, straight out of the heart of Wyoming. ...more
Emi Yoshida
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was a collection of beautifully curated short stories by incredibly talented writers. Now realizing all these are written by the same person, I am even more impressed; not only does McConigley have talent and depth, but range to boot. So many of my favorite themes are here: multi-cultural coming-of-age, finding oneself, covert racism exposed, and transportive travel writing.
Andrew Clem.
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Really thought-provoking book about the clash of cultures created by immigration of East Indians to Wyoming through the generations. Think of it as Jhumpa Lahiri meets Annie Proulx.
Jessica Mehta
Apr 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
McConigley has the ability to breathe incredible life into all of the characters in each of these short stories. It doesn't matter if you don't know what it's like to be the "wrong kind of Indian" in Wyoming, if you've never been to Wyoming, never been to India, or don't have a particular strong opinion on whether Midwestern steak or pav bhaji is the better comfort food. I believe every reader will find moments and characters to relate to. Whether it's a cross-dressing roughneck or a 20-somethin ...more
Swathi Iyer
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really powerful prose - there’s an undercurrent of melancholy woven throughout. Rich, beautiful descriptions of realities - both external and internal - so you’re transported to where the characters are, physically and emotionally.

“No, Lucky, you’re like one of those prairie dogs you see by the side of the road. When you’re driving. The ones that pause there on the edge, and you never know if they’re going to dart across the road, or have sense to turn back around onto the prairie. They’re just
Rucy Cui
Dec 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Cowboys and East Indians is a collection of short stories about the very unique immigrant experience of being “the wrong kind of Indians living in Wyoming,” written in spare prose that infuses its characters with warmth and its small-town settings with mythic nostalgia. “White Wedding” is my favorite here by far, a meditation on loss and familial obligation wrapped up in a coming-of-age story about biracial identity and post-college funk. It’s such a high bar to set that it became my ...more
Aug 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book

I loved this collection of short stories. I am a culture lover and adore reading about culture clashes. I grew up as an American in Kenya. This author describes a multitude of ways that Indian and American culture can clash and can combine. Her connection to Wyoming makes the stories more compelling than if they were centered around a big city.

I heard this author on The Moth and knew immediately that I should read her book. I was right.
Sep 20, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: indian-challenge
Book of short stories all involving East Indians living in Wyoming or from Wyoming living In India. Interesting perspective on cultural issues. Never thought about what it would be like to be transplanted into such a different world like Wyoming. I think it would be hard for me, as a city dwelling midwesterner. I can’t imagine what it would be like coming from half way around the world. But Nina McConigley can.
May 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club-picks
Feeling Ambivalent. Much like those in the book straddling different cultures. Felt too negative about the Indian culture without showing the positives. Stories seemed really extreme and hard for me to connect with. I did like the stereotype breaking that occurred in Reserve Champion. I really appreciated the story Melting and wrongly thought the book would be more like that.
Oscar Lilley
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book in a format I enjoy more than any other: Themed Short Story Anthology akin to The Things They Carried. What bugs me though is whether or not this is creative nonfiction or fiction. I started reading this believing it was the author's personal experiences. But now I'm left wondering how much of this is entirely imagined and how much really happened. ...more
Dyuti Ganjoo
Jul 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this book a few years ago. I grew up in this part of the world and I'm of East Indian descent. She has produced a work of amazing, observant creative fiction. It really feels like you are there. She's captured the desolation, the isolation, the ignorance, often masked by kindness and "warmth". It's all in there. Good work and important literary contribution. ...more
Nov 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Every once in a while I meet someone with an interesting story and even if I never see them again, I will remember their story. This collection of short stories is like that. I think I will remember them for a long time.
Each story was unique and stood on its own. Some were fun to read, others painful. I appreciated both. I definitely recommend!
May 07, 2020 rated it liked it
I thought this was a good collection of short stories with an uncommon perspective. Some, like ‘Pomp and Circumstances’ and ‘Cowboys and East Indians’ were more interested than others. I’ll likely revisit a few of the stories, and I suggest it to friends for a different viewpoint.
Kristin Martini
May 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was Wyoming. I was truly blown away by this collection and it caught me by surprise. Every story was as unique and heart-wrenching as the next. What an incredible feat. Love love loved it, so grateful I discovered it in my states challenge.
Joyce Reynolds-Ward
OMG loved this book! Disclaimer: Nina was at Fishtrap and I heard her speak and read, but did not take her workshop. Lovely writing nonetheless.
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Really interesting stories and I enjoyed the book.
Kris Rude
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really like short stories. As with many compilations, there were a couple of stories that fell flat for me, but the majority were well written and a few were exceptional. Well worth reading.
Kurt Lewis
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
What I love about these short stories was that Nina finds flawed characters and then makes them come alive for us! And then there’s the O’Henry endings that are not what we expected.
Josephine Ensign
Aug 04, 2018 rated it liked it
An enjoyable romp through neatly-crafted short stories. Indian Americans in Wyoming is a literary perspective quite unique.
Mark Leichliter
Apr 22, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Masterful control. A writer to be cherished. Full of wonderful surprises.
Bill Wolfe
Jul 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
For more reviews of literary fiction by women (plus interviews and guest essays by authors), visit my blog, www.readherlikeanopenbook.com.

Imagine standing out by virtue of your appearance when you want to blend in. Or being invisible because of that same appearance when you want to be noticed. That is the experience of many bicultural Americans; people view them as “different” because of their appearance when most of them are just as “American” — legally through citizenship and culturally throug
Tammy Dominguez
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A Book Review of Cowboys and East Indians By Nina McConigley (Review by Tammy Dominguez)

Nina McConigley wrote a book that is both true to human nature and fascinating. Although the book is fiction, (and can easily be mistaken for non-fiction if the reader is not paying attention), it is apparent during the reading that there is much truth and personal experiences in the words written.
Somehow, McConigley was able to paint a beautiful and honest picture of human nature (the way we treat others,
Amar Pai
Mar 07, 2016 rated it liked it
This book is a collection of stories about growing up Indian (sub-continental; that's what "East Indian" means although the phrase feels off to me) in Wyoming. I grew up Indian in Wyoming so you'd think I would relate to all these stories. But they are suffused with a sadness that doesn't fit my own experience. I guess I got lucky, or else repressed memories, because I don't recall ever being called "nigger" or any other names and don't remember that much racism in general.

The stories are good,
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NINA McCONIGLEY was born in Singapore and grew up in Wyoming. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston, where she was an Inprint Brown Foundation Fellow. She also holds an MA in English from the University of Wyoming and a BA in Literature from Saint Olaf College. She is the winner of a Barthelme Memorial Fellowship in Non-Fiction and served as the Non-Fiction Editor of ...more

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