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Cowboys and East Indians

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  329 ratings  ·  57 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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Elizabeth A
Jun 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: stories, 2016
"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.
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
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.
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.
Emi Bevacqua
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,

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,
Jun 01, 2017 rated it liked it
I don't really know what to put here for this book. Did I enjoy it? Well, sometimes. Does it have an interesting and important message? Yes, definitely. Was it fun to read? Well, no. Not really. Not fun at all. This is why I'm having trouble with this book. Somehow, McConigley has written a book with no-doubt great writing, and (sometimes) interesting characters, and yet it was still a slogfest to read (at least most of the time). There were definitely high points. Pomp and Circumstances, and Co ...more
met Nina at the Equality State book fest. she read the title story and I knew I needed to read on. won the 2014 PEN open story award.

Wow! I would have never picked this up had I not heard her speak but I'm glad I did. I wanted her stories to be full length novels. It is evident why she won a literary award. A very interesting look at Wyoming from a perspective I didn't realize I was missing. Also good to hear her speak and say that characters aren't based on anyone she knows. There is one story
May 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-very-favs
Nina McConigley's Cowboys and East Indians is a wonderful collection of short stories about cowboys (residents of Casper, WY) and Indian people (not the Native American variety), and of immigrants' experience in a western oil town. Each story drew me in, and I was sorry to see each one end - I don't know that I could name a favorite. The stories were so different from each other, except for a common theme in many of them, which was belonging - or not belonging. There are several stories that inc ...more
Dec 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read some of these stories on a train from 'my old home' of Laramie, WY back to 'my continual home' in Michigan, so of course I was fascinated by the many little pockets of life and struggles with 'West'ern identities that these stories take you into.

But they're also, all, well-crafted stories with a wide range of characters who will become dear to you. You'll get to know oil rig workers, school girls, sisters, expats, and motel owners, insiders and outsiders of all kinds. I'd read excerpts a
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was just an excellent read. Writing short stories is not an easy task, but McConigley has a fantastic for capturing so much in her short stories and each one in this book is really different. Just a joy to read and I found myself actually hollering out loud over some amazing aspect in each story. The book is full of surprises of so many kinds. I really loved it. The fact that I grew up in Wyoming, lived in Saudi Arabia for nine years certainly helped to understand and connect to so much in ...more
Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
A delightful little collection of short stories. Most of them are set either in Casper, Wyoming or Chennai or a mix of the two. The setting enables McConigley to highlight the difficulty of Americans in the West to assimilate the nuances between Native Americans and Indians as her title story and "Dot or Feather" illustrate. Other stories, like "Curating Your Life" shows the challenges that ABCDs have when trying to "find their roots" in India contrasted with white Americans who live as temporar ...more
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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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