There is nothing particularly noteworthy about an Easter turkey. But when the turkey is stark white and appears on Easter Sunday on the doorstep of a Lakota medicine woman and her teenage granddaughter, it is clearly out of the ordinary. Taking turns, Stella and her grandmother, Hazel Latour, tell the story of what follows as the mysterious turkey stirs up discord on the reservation, where some greet it as wakan, holy and sacred because of its coloring and timing, and others dismiss it as inexplicable but unimportant, while a less reputable local healer views it as a clear challenge to his standing.
A tour de force of storytelling, The Sacred White Turkey is at once remarkably entertaining, rich with suspense and humor, and deeply philosophical, exploring questions of spirituality and power, abuse and trickery, all within a framework that embraces both Native and Catholic traditions. As the Latours find themselves the target of escalating violence, embroiled in a BIA leasing scandal, and witnesses to a turkey crucifixion, readers will find themselves thoroughly engaged in the unfolding mystery and meaning of the sacred white turkey.
Frances Washburn is an assistant professor of American Indian studies and English at the University of Arizona. She is the author of Elsie’s Business, available in a Bison Books edition.
"A lively, heartfelt novel. . . . [The Sacred White Turkey is] a charming, plainspoken tale of two people who have only each other until a bird gives them the courage to battle the forces of corruption and evil."—Publishers Weekly
"Washburn's novel examines contemporary and traditional life on the Pine Ridge Reservation and finds spirituality, chicanery, humor, and wisdom. . . . The Sacred White Turkey brings voice to a community and reveals its characters beautifully. Captivating."—Heather Paulson, Booklist
"This book has a Barbara Kingsolver feel to it. I like how Washburn skillfully weaves Catholic, Lakota, and pragmatic notions about belief together into a pastiche that seems real to me. I highly recommend this book."—Herb Thompson, Southwestern American Literature
"While granting readers the pleasure of a good old-fashioned mystery, the real delight in Frances Washburn's The Sacred White Turkey is how it immerses us in a world without the binaries and categorization so common in literature dealing with race."—Peter Grandbois, Rain Taxi