Elsie's Business


Elsie's Business

Frances Washburn

Native Storiers: A Series of American Narratives Series

216 pages


October 2006


$18.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Beaten, raped, and left for dead at the side of a road on the Standing Rock Reservation, young Elsie Roberts disappears into her self to revisit the haunts of her childhood and, perhaps, the depths of her experience to uncover the deepest mystery of all. In Elsie’s Business, Elsie’s search through her own memories ultimately intersects with the search of a stranger who is seeking Elsie’s story.

A picture emerges of a poor child, half black and half Native, whose mother has barely eked out a living for the two of them by tanning deerskins and cleaning houses. Rebuilding her life in a different town as a housekeeper, tanner, and beader of moccasins and bags, much like her mother, the taciturn Elsie finds modest comfort and connections among the white people who employ and befriend her. But her peace is fleeting, for someone from her past, or possibly her present, would like to see her silenced completely. A mystery of mesmerizing suspense and sadness, Elsie’s Business weaves the story of a ravaged woman into the traditional tales of her people to create a vivid sense of communities bound by storytelling and understanding and sundered by ignorance and silence.

Author Bio

Frances Washburn is an assistant professor of American Indian studies and English at the University of Arizona.


"An outstanding, original, engaging narrative of a native community and survivance."—Gerald Vizenor, author of Manifest Manners: Narratives on Postindian Survivance

"Washburn weaves together a murder tale, a story of small-town prejudice, and a bit of Native American mysticism in a haunting debut."—Booklist

"[A] blend of murder mystery and Native American legend . . . intriguing."—Kirkus Reviews


2007 Spur Award, sponsored by the Western Writers of America, best first novel category finalist

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