Sacred Smokes


Product Details

$19.95  $18.55
University of New Mexico Press
Publish Date
5.4 X 8.0 X 0.6 inches | 0.55 pounds

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About the Author

Theodore C. Van Alst Jr. (enrolled member Mackinac Bands of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians) is an Active HWA member whose work has been published in Southwest Review, The Rumpus, Red Earth Review, the Journal of Working-Class Studies, Chicago Review, Apex Magazine, Electric Literature, Indian Country Today, and the Massachusetts Review, among others. He is also the author of Sacred City and the editor of The Faster Redder Road: The Best UnAmerican Stories of Stephen Graham Jones (both from UNM Press).


"While Van Alst's stories are gripping in their unfiltered and unforgiving realism, it is their style that serves as the focal point of the collection. Prose becomes poetry in the way Van Alst renders lines of exposition and dialogue, many having the look and sound of song lyrics."--Douglas Powell, Concho River Review
"Van Alst's storytelling is lively, engaging, and 'real.' . . . Teddy becomes a fully imagined character, one with humorous and pithy insight into his own life."--Laura M. Furlan, Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS)
"A masterpiece of Native American literature and of working-class letters in general."--CounterPunch
"Making a character like Teddy, who inhabits his world fully and also chafes against the confines of that world's edges, does important, necessary work in pushing against stereotype. By writing with such precision about urban Native and non-Native characters, kids in gangs, kids who grow up to join the Navy and to quote scholars and parse Bible passages, Van Alst delivers an important, thoughtful first book of fiction."--Waxwing
"The combination of authenticity, poetic musings, and gritty realism in the author's voice makes this book extraordinary."--Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing
"Irreverent, voice-driven, and deeply emotional. . . . Van Alst never sacrifices the pleasures of a good read to any kind of agenda, and his deadly dark sense of humor and the joy he takes in language itself shine from every page."--Chicago Tribune
"A powerful debut . . . that defies stereotypes through its raw and personal tales. The writing in Sacred Smokes is beautifully poetic, and each story is fluidly connected by its impactful prose and insightful observations."--Shepherd Express (Milwaukee)
"These stories will take you on a journey."--Erika T. Wurth, BuzzFeed News
"Sacred Smokes is a raw and gritty coming-of-age story that will make you laugh, cry, and feel the pain of growing up Native in the big city of Chicago."--Lakota Country Times
"It is fashionable in book reviews to praise an author's prose as 'luminous' or 'lyrical' or 'riveting, ' but the language in Van Alst's text goes beyond such descriptors. It generates heat and light. It is electric, forceful, magnetic--though often coolly understated. Like city neon or the third rail of the elevated train . . . the prose spits sparks that weld the read to the page."--Studies in American Indian Literatures (SAIL)
"Theodore Van Alst Jr. has created an exciting, compelling, and major work of literature."--Michael Snyder, Transmotion
"Sacred Smokes knocked me out with its hyperreal voice of an Indian gang member trying to survive the streets of Chicago. He sings his people's blues in fast-river poetry that shakes your mind and defies stereotypes. A necessary read!"--Susan Power, author of The Grass Dancer
"'Why do you write shit like that?' One of the characters in Van Alst's collection utters that question, blown away by what he's just heard. I echo that question--about all Van Alst's stories--but I know the answer: these are truths, on fire, full of pain, and deeply satisfying."--Debbie Reese, founder, American Indians in Children's Literature
"I haven't read anything this real and raw and necessary in a long time. . . . It's a book that'll lodge in you. There's moments and lines and images in here that cut through all the lies, right into the heart of childhood, right into the beating heart of Indian country."--Stephen Graham Jones, author of Mongrels: A Novel