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Savage Conversations

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  57 ratings  ·  13 reviews
May 1875: Mary Todd Lincoln is addicted to opiates and tried in a Chicago court on charges of insanity. Entered into evidence is Ms. Lincoln's claim that every night a Savage Indian enters her bedroom and slashes her face and scalp. She is swiftly committed to Bellevue Place Sanitarium. Her hauntings may be a reminder that in 1862, President Lincoln ordered the hanging of ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published February 5th 2019 by Coffee House Press
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3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  57 ratings  ·  13 reviews

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Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Strange, disconcerting, mesmerizing - these are a few of the words that come to mind after finishing this book. This is written somewhat like a play, but in verse. It is the desperate conversations between Mary Todd Lincoln, following the death of her husband, the spirit of a hanged Dakota man, and the rope used to hang 38 Dakota men on Lincoln’s orders. The book seeks to present another side of history, namely that of the native Americans, for whom Lincoln was not as much of a hero, through the ...more
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
JUST published, and in the week or so since it showed up on my front porch I've already read it THREE TIMES. It's absolutely brilliant. LeAnne's new book is a play, mostly in verse, set in June 1875-June 1876, with three major speaking characters: Mary Todd Lincoln, Savage Indian, and The Rope. MTL insists that she's being visited by an Indian ghost/spirit who does violence to her (cutting her, sewing her eyes open so that she has the opportunity to see....something, and even scalping her on occ ...more
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this sparse, difficult, weird little book. In what Coffee House is selling as fiction but reads almost as a play, Howe puts an institutionalized Mary Todd Lincoln in conversation with the ghost of Lakota man while an actual noose watches and, often, seethes. Lincoln and this ghost talk about their respective lives implicating each other in violence and see the future of racial oppression in America. To me, this work read a lot like an avant-garde play suggesting and hinting and letting t ...more
Feb 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Cathleen by: M
A fever dream fascinatingly both raw and lyrical, this exercise in dramatic frame interrogates historical perspective in a manner designed to disconcert, even to horrify. There is terrible beauty in the way nostalgic exceptionalism is toppled to make way for indignation and scorn, and the reader is left wondering not only what s/he just read, but what to do with it.
Becky Loader
Apr 09, 2019 rated it did not like it
I like to think of myself as a person who has read a lot about Mrs. Lincoln. I also think I am relatively intelligent and can reason through factual material that is presented to show many aspects of a topic. I respect strong women, from any historical period, who lived in time periods I only know about through reading. I also grew up in a household that respected Native Americans and honored their beliefs.

Howe has a lot of hate that is expressed in this small book, on almost every page. There a
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is why I read books by Coffee House Press. They are constantly bringing attention to authors who are willing to explore form, language, and break the rules of what a book is supposed to be and do. LeAnne Howe relies on the playwriting format to tell us about Mary Todd Lincoln who was committed in a psychiatric hospital a few years after her husband's assassination. Mary claimed to see and talk and be hurt by a "savage Dakota man" so, Howe offers us a glimpse into these conversations with th ...more
Carol Tilley
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
A difficult, beautiful work of dramatic poetry. Howe's words have given me much food for thought.
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A short, difficult poetic work of fiction presented as a play, Leanne Howe's Savage Conversations is a haunting exploration of American histories of exceptionalism. Minimal in its actors but full in its implications, this book has the weight of American history behind it. The conversations between Mary Todd Lincoln and the "Savage Indian," an executed Dakota man, are heavy with reference to the First Lady's personal life, the life of the nation, and the recurring presence of a violent past. I ...more
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Savage Conversations is structured as a dialogue between Mary Todd Lincoln, the ghost of a Dakota Indian (identified as "Savage Indian"), and the rope with which that Indian was hanged. The Indian is one of the 38 Dakota men ordered hanged in Mankato, MN for their part in a raid against white settlers during the Dakota Wars of 1862. This mass execution, the largest in American history, was ordered by President Abraham Lincoln. While researching Lincoln, LeAnne Howe learned that in the 1870s, as ...more
Stevo Brock
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was a Best of the Best for the month of February, 2019, as selected by Stevo's Book Reviews on the Internet. Search for me on Google for many more reviews and recommendations
E. Adeline
[4.5 stars]

I really, REALLY want to see this performed.
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
I liked the idea, but I did not like the execution of the idea. I don't feel like it treated the subject with enough gravity.
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Extremely powerful & evocative.
I’d love to see a live performance of this someday.
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LeAnne Howe is the author of three books, including Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story (Aunt Lute Books, 2007), and is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation. In 2006-2007 she was the John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi at Oxford. She was the screenwriter for Indian Country Diaries: Spiral of Fire, a 90-minute PBS documentary released in November 2006. Howe's fir ...more