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The Beadworkers

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  232 ratings  ·  45 reviews
Beth Piatote's luminous debut collection opens with a feast, grounding its stories in the landscapes and lifeworlds of the Native Northwest, exploring the inventive and unforgettable pattern of Native American life in the contemporary world

Told with humor, subtlety, and beautiful spareness, the mixed-genre works of Beth Piatote's first collection find unifying themes in th
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published October 22nd 2019 by Counterpoint
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Average rating 4.22  · 
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 ·  232 ratings  ·  45 reviews

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Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My life wouldn’t be as full if I hadn’t begun beading. Beadwork balances us. It allows us to decolonize that much more. It connects us to our ancestors and our kin. After finishing The Beadworkers by Nez Perce author Beth Piatote I was convinced this collection contains the same good medicine that beading does.
It is a collection that I instantly fell in love with. It swept me away completely. It’s a sad truth that much of colonial society believes that Indigenous cultures are dead and buried. T
Jenny (Reading Envy)
These short stories, some poetics, and one play/script type story focus on relationships between people in the northwest that have some kind of indigenous background, most often Nez Perce. The author includes some Nez Perce language and some elements of traditional tales (Coyote may show up) but for the most part the stories are contemporary people navigating their lives.

I was immediately drawn in by the cover because Mt Hood was my closest mountain growing up and my morning bus ride often inclu
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Piatote's stories seem to somehow tenderly pull no punches. There are people who seem to think Native Americans and their cultures are something of the past, but they'd be incorrect-- Natives are alive and well, rightly reclaiming their traditions and challenging the effects of colonization. The Beadworkers shows just a few examples of that, whether quiet or loud, and so much more-- unbreakable family ties as well as untethered ones, strained friendships, and unpredictable romances. This collect ...more
Nov 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
New favorite.

Piatote is Nez Perce, and an associate professor of Native American studies at UC Berkeley. She speaks brilliantly about colonialism and the violence against Native families that persists today, and this ongoing war is a theme in her creative works as well. Also, her passion for Indigenous language rejuvenation is in evidence thought this collection. Alongside these vital topics, Piatote crafts vibrant characters and richly metaphoric writing. I was stunned by her description of a w
Never Without a Book
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beth Piatote’s short story collection, The Beadworkers, is truly a stunning debut. In this collection Piatote shows us how mainstream American culture continues to erase the identities and traditions of indigenous groups. Exploring the lives of modern Indigenous families through poetry and verse, Piatote gives us unforgettable characters and stories that will make you revisits this book.

The longest and my favorite story is: “Antíkoni”, in this story Piatote addresses how Indian artifacts are tr
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2020
I was going through books I need to return to the library and realized I never posted any final thoughts for this book! And oh, does this collection need one more spot in my feed because the writing and creativity (especially in genre) are so worth your time. This is one of those books where I recommend you crack your expectations way open before you start reading - once you settle into Piatote’s writing you’ll want to keep reading. She has such a knack for this simplicity that will take you by ...more
Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Poignant and powerful short fiction stories about Native Americans, their lives and culture, mostly set in the Pacific Northwest. Like a lot of good fiction, the stories read like very good, very realistic nonfiction. Author Piatote is an award winning essayist and fiction author, a university professor of Native American studies and a Nez Perce enrolled with the Colville Confederated Tribes. I particularly enjoyed the short story/play “Antikoni” and the short stories “Katydid” and “Fish Wars.”
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2020
Wowow clearly I don’t read enough fiction by indigenous authors because I learned so much about how Native Americans in the US keep their traditions and culture alive today! This book is a collection of short fictional stories painting a picture of the daily fight indigenous groups face against the US’s attempt at cultural erasure.

One thing I was really surprised about was a couple of the stories pointed out the pressure put on Native American women to bear children (in particular with a Native
Mallory Whiteduck
Jul 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Kitchen table beading lessons with Beth Piatote ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

One of the most striking features of this collection of stories is the way Beth Piatote uses innovations in form. The story ‘Beading Lesson’ seats you at the kitchen table, giving a beading lesson. Beth Piatote gives her readers a sense of everything that goes into the transmission of these traditions, including traditional knowledge and contemporary kinship.
“You go ahead and pick some colors you think she would like. Maybe three or fo
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
With one book, Beth Piatote has moved into the circle of my favorite authors. Her writing is honest and raw and moving. Her prose is poetic and her story-telling deep and meaningful. Without explosions, aliens, or manufactured thrills, each of the stories held me tight and transported me into another world. Even the uncomfortable ones. "Fish Wars" took me back to my childhood because of the way the family interacted and I ended the story breathless. This book contains poetry that is delicious bu ...more
Oct 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
I happened upon this book on the “new arrivals” shelf at the library and am glad I did. This short story collection by Nez Perce author Beth Piatote is excellent. I appreciated the diversity of storytelling methods in here, including poems, very short stories, and a powerful retelling of Antigone. In many of her stories, Piatote addresses the ways Native American culture is erased from American society. I haven’t previously read much from Native American women and I think it’s so important to he ...more
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
This 2019 debut collection is a beautiful celebration of the Native Northwest community and life. It’s also an act of resistance, declaring ‘we are here and we’re not going anywhere.’ Beth Piatote, a Nez Perce author and professor of Native American Studies writes with conviction. Showing glimpses into past and ongoing effects of colonization, all while reclaiming space and honoring her ancestors, their collective traditions, stories and language. Oh, the love of her language was so clear and wo ...more
Laura Hoffman Brauman
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure how to categorize this - short stories, a play, a poem/hymn -- but however you categorize it, Piatote's writing is evocative and powerful. At times the writing feels stark and to the point, at other times it feels lush and rich -- but always beautiful. ...more
Peter Rock
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an inventive, intelligent, ever-changing collection of stories. I felt a little unbalanced in the best possible way. This is a book that rewards and respects its reader, that doesn't over-explain, and where the contortions of its structures feel, always, necessary. ...more
Jackson Matthews
Oct 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
oh my stars! Cannot wait to hear an audiobook of this, as the language is so beautiful in print that it must shine even better when we can hear the words as they originally were. Water is life water is alive. Recommending to everyone!
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories, own
I absolutely love reading stories that are like no other stories I've read. Thanks to the bookseller at Rediscovered Books in Boise, ID for the recommendation.


"...a woman who has seen all of his tattoos and most of his scars." (83)

"Waiting is harder when you know you are doing it." (117)

"I knew I was wrong to want him, but one day my heart flew away and I ran after it." (117)

"Still, I fed the ache." (121)

"Sometimes I think love is a trap, sometimes a promise, sometimes a physics problem."
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Mix-genre collection. A+. I mean, the collection ends with a play, a re-write of Antigone, replacing Greek tragedy with American Indian. That takes brains, education, knowledge, and a hell of a whole lot'a skill. Beautiful writing. ...more
Jun 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Move over Mr. ALexie.
Wyndy Carr
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Author Beth Piatote's book shows us clear truth of Indigenous survivals in a hostile world which has mistaken their way of life and individual lives as "hostile" and inferior. Piatote, a Nez Perce and an Associate Professor of Native American Studies at Cal Berkeley, gathered a packed house at the Tuesday night Ohlone Café University Press Bookstore on Bancroft Way for her reading of parts of The Beadworkers, recently released by Counterpoint Press, another Berkeley endeavor. We munched “the fir ...more
Ovi Stein
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
So beautifully written — the last 50 pages are a play which kind of lost me to be honest — I wish it was a little more poignant but overall and enjoyable and easy read — I read it in 2 sittings
Marilyn Smith
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you love beautiful writing and who doesn't, get this right now. The Beadworkers is a deceptively slim little book but don't be fooled by page count. This special book is a superb collection of Native American stories that are contemplative, contemporary and glittering with empathy. I love it. Slow down and travel through these pages. ...more
Jan 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a unique collection featuring poems, short stories and a play that look at the Native American experience in the northwest. I struggled a little initially since the first pieces were all very short and I didn’t fully comprehend them. For me as a reader there wasn’t enough background or context and the ideas didn’t seem fully developed.

As the pieces got longer I found I understood and enjoyed them more. Some of the ideas were thought provoking and scathing - a Monopoly type board game bas
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
A quarter-century ago, they hired a new, young reporter at The Register-Guard, and assigned her a desk next to mine. From the get-go, it was clear that Beth was smart, talented, passionate about her Native American heritage, and skeptical of the constraints that journalistic norms could impose upon free-spirited writing. Now a professor of Native American Studies at Cal-Berkeley and the mother of two, Beth Piatote still possesses all of those qualities — as I affirmed by happy accident when stum ...more
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: author-of-color
This collection of short stories, poetry, verse, and even a play shows the author's strength of connecting themes of Native Americans past and present. I particularly enjoyed Antikoni which is a reframed version of the Greek Drama, Antigone, but set in modern times. She crafted the plot in a creative and intelligent way showing how family and traditions are sometimes above the law. I didn't enjoy all of the stories as much as this one, but I will be excited to read more by Piatote. ...more
Apr 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
A collection of short stories by a woman who is a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Oregon and a professor at Berkeley. She has a nice writing style, fresh and flowing. You get to know her characters and can see them and get into their minds. It also includes one short play that was alternately funny and confusing. But it didn't detract from the short stories which I enjoyed very much. ...more
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is a varied collection of poetry, vignettes, glimpses, thoughts, prose, and lyrical writings that are raw and unbalancing. They made me feel simultaneously slightly uncomfortable and very privileged to see these small glimpses into another world/another way of living. I could not put it down.
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, excellent. Loved the variety of styles in this collection, and looking forward to what the author publishes next!
Sandy Lane
Jul 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Best writing on Native American life I've read since Tommy Orange's There There. Powerful stories with vivid characters, prose flowing like a drumbeat. ...more
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. I didn’t culturally understand all of it, but it was still engaging. The Antigoni retelling was really interesting.
Nov 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: indigenous-books
For my “realistic fiction” week I went for the well worn reality I live in - Native America.

Content warning: death, dismemberment, cannibalism (very brief), domestic violence

In 10 short stories and 1 play, The Beadworkers is a collection of stories out of Native Northwest. From a girl who’s family is caught in the Fish Wars of the 1960s to a re-imagined telling of Antigone dealing with the repatriation of Indigenous remains, this story collection looks at the gamut of Native experiences in the N
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