Book Review: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: None used Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book that's published in...

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: None used

Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book that's published in 2020, A book featuring one of the seven deadly sins

TW: Graphic gore/violence and death to humans and animals, racism

I grew up in a world of deer hunters. My daddy shot a deer in our yard from the living room of our house when my mom was pregnant with me. My first word was "deer." We had taxidermy deer heads lining the walls of our house, and my parents still have those same deer along their walls til this day. I was raised being told my grandfather was half-Cherokee, but we never really practiced any Native lifestyles. And who knows what my heritage is? I've yet to take any kind of DNA testing, so I'm unsure of family's history. But since I wasn't raised practicing Native customs, I would not call myself Native. I do not really understand or know the struggles of Indigenous peoples. I requested a copy of The Only Good Indians because I was so intrigued by the cover, but I was a bit uncomfortable with the title once I found out the book was about Native Americans. After looking more into the book, I realized it's actually written by a very popular Indigenous horror author that I'd never heard of before. He's written tons of terrifying horror stories and is compared to Jordan Peele, which totally makes sense. Both of them write horror stories that speak much deeper than the words on the surface - they speak of racism and oppression. They're critical pieces of art (literature, film). And while I chose the book initially because I thought it was a deer on the cover, I came to find the story was actually about elk, and I spent a lot of time while reading the book trying to learn more about elks.

After an unfortunate event involving the slaughter of an elk herd on a day lovingly referred to as the "Thanksgiving Classic," a group of four friends is stalked by a vengeful entity hellbent on taking back what was taken from them. Each of the four men have taken steps away from many pieces of their culture identity and the traditions they were raised upon.

Wow. So there has been a lot of controversy surrounding this book, and oddly not because the content of the book. Many reviewers have been addressing their dislike for this book because they "couldn't relate." This book is definitely about cultural identity, and there were some things that I was not familiar with, but that absolutely did not take away from this story. The things I didn't understand, I googled. There were also some weird issues with the topic of basketball, because apparently basketball being popular about Indigenous folks is weird? I don't know. But here's the thing - I'm speaking out against these ridiculous White folks who had issues with this book because of the "relatability" of the story. If anything, I would be more understanding of complaints about the gore, violence, and death in this book of both humans and animals, because it was really, really graphic. But this is a horror story, and those things could definitely before foreseen. Even the official synopsis discusses the topics of disturbing violence, and it was certainly disturbing. And here's the thing - the point of reading is to learn about different people, different experiences, stories that are unlike your own. If we wanted things to be "relatable," would so many people love a book about a boy wizard? For Christ's sake, how many of us are boy wizards? So forget the ignorance, and read this book because it is incredible literary horror.

This book started out as a bit of a slow burn. The epilogue was incredible. But once I got into the first chapter, I was intrigued but it wasn't unputdownable. But then about of a third of the way through the book, things turned around real fast. The story got incredibly intense, terrifying, and I had to keep going because I had to know what the hell was going to happen next. This story was unbelievable in the best way, because it was so intense. I was petrified as I read. It's the kind of horror that creeps up under your skin until you're itching all over and cannot get away from your fear.

My biggest complaint about this book is, at times, the writing is almost stream of consciousness, and could get a bit confusing at points - but that's more a preference in the type of writing I enjoy. It wasn't always like that, but some parts of the book that were more focused on the perspective of a specific character were the parts that I noticed the most. But overall, the story-telling was phenomenal.

"If the only good Indian is a dead one, then she's going to be the worst Indian ever." - The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians is a horrifying tale of revenge with violent and disturbing scenes of gore and death. This was my first time reading Stephen Graham Jones and I certainly plan to read more from him. His writing style and story-telling are reminiscent of classic Stephen King horror tales. This is a dark book, but if you are a horror fan, I would highly recommend this book.

Goodreads rating: ★★★★★

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