I had a whole other blog post planned and partially written for today, but I just finished The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones and I can’t not shout about it. This book got all up in my feels in all the best ways and I think everyone who does not hate horror should read it. It’s not necessarily scary like some horror is, but it is inevitable and visceral in the way all the best horror is and I cannot possibly recommend it enough. That said, the rest of this post will be spoilery screaming about this book, so if spoilers bother you, look away now. Preferably to read this book.
So. This book. This fucking book. It hit me right where I live. I don’t claim to know what life is like for native Americans. That said, I am related to half these fucking characters. Fuck, I AM half these fucking characters. Right down to the sudden need to preserve traditions as age is approaching. I have never felt so seen by a book written by an American before. I am very much not okay.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around why this book hit me so hard where I live, so forgive the brief incoherence. Because the fact of the matter is, none of the details quite match. Elk are not native to Finland, the only place I’ve seen them is in zoos. The closest thing here would be either moose, or roe deer. Or reindeer if you go up north. For the purposes of being a sort of presence that elk are in this story, it would be moose. This is not the same thing at all. Finns don’t have the same kind of history of trauma as native Americans do. But there is a history of trauma that is ever present even if not necessarily talked about. None of it is the same. And yet…
And yet, the sort of cycle of violence that the book centers around feels so familiar. The stories told by uncles and grandfathers feel the same as the stories I’ve gotten from aunties and grandmothers. They’re not the same stories. I’ve got an uncle who tells the kind of stories that Denorah thinks about when she thinks about her dad. Different stories, different men, same feeling.
There’s a way in which you know exactly how this book is going to go. From the first moment that deer carcass showed up in Lewis’s living room, I knew they were all going to die. Every man jack of them. And they do. In bad ways. And so does everyone who touches their lives in any positive way. Except for Denorah. And even Denorah dies in a way. The book turns her as much into a myth as the Elk Head Woman. But Denorah turns into a myth because she is the one to stop that circle of violence. And I cried so hard at the ending. Denorah is everything that I have ever wished that I could be in that moment and everything I don’t think that I could be.
Anyway. Read this fucking book if you haven’t. If you have, read it again. I know I plan to. As well as everything else Stephen Graham Jones puts out in the world.