Feathering Custer


Feathering Custer

W. S. Penn

240 pages


December 2004


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

The noted Nez Perce fiction writer and critic W. S. Penn turns his wry and penetrating gaze on the state of modern Native life and literature and considers how modern scholarship has affected the ways Natives and others see themselves and their world. The result is a uniquely frank, witty, and unsettling critique of contemporary theory and its ability to come to terms with the real lives and literatures of Natives in North America.

Key to this critique is the troubling issue of what properly constitutes a traditional "Indian" identity and an "Indian" literature within Native communities and in the academy. In confronting this issue, Penn exposes some of the sillier uses of the serious language of diversity as well as the impact of identity politics on Native professors. And yet, Penn argues, the storytelling traditions so central to Native communities remain very much alive today, hidden in the corners of the literary canon.

Author Bio

W. S. Penn is the director of the Creative Writing Program and winner of the Distinguished Faculty Award at Michigan State University. His many books include the North American Indian Prose Award–winner All My Sins Are Relatives (Nebraska 1995); the American Book Award–winner Killing Time with Strangers; and This Is the World.


Feathering Custer points to the need for critical understanding of the literatures of Native America. Penn's volume offers a challenge to all those interested in meaningful insights into these literary works to search the indigenous storytelling traditions, lives, and literatures of Native Americans.”—World Literature Today

“Penn demonstrates his own mastery of critical theories as he weaves them into his life experiences.”—Choice

“Penn refuses to take refuge in jargon or doublespeak, and his attempts to negotiate complicated cultural thickets prove winning.”—Publishers Weekly

"[Penn] attempts, with commendable verve and insight, to take the measure of Native American studies today. . . . Penn refuses to take refuge in jargon or doublespeak, and his attempts to negotiate complicated cultural thickets prove winning."—Library Journal

"At their best, the essays punch current notions of political correctness and academic protocol square in the chops. . . . It's an entertainment to watch Penn as he escapes being pinned down, taking up apparently contradictory positions . . . just for the fun of it all, making friends and foes alike sweat a little. Penn has emerged as an important presence on the Native American literary front."—Kirkus Reviews

“James Joyce–certainly a canonical writer–once said he expected to forge the consciousness of his race through his writing. For Joyce, that was a choice; he could have swum with what had already been created. For W. S. Penn, there is no such freedom: he must forge what the white world long ago destroyed, and he must forge it passionately and alone.”—Southwest Book Views

“Penn weaves in life experiences that grounded me from the academe. His arguments for a satire forming community, empowerment being false power and a mythic mind connecting all things prove his potent point that history reveals itself by telling us how we can continue to be (not what we have been).”—Meghan Saar, True West

“Folklorists interested in these issues will benefit from Penn’s insightful and engagingly written commentaries.”—William M. Clements, Western Folklore


2002 Writer of the Year Award, sponsored by Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, winner