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Morgan Talty Books In Order

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Publication Order of Collections

Night of the Living Rez (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Morgan Talty is an American literary fiction author best for his 2022 debut novel, Night of the Living Rez. He was born and raised in Penobscot Indian Nation. His work has appeared in TriQuarterly, LitHub, Narrative Magazine, The Georgia Review, Granta, and Shenandoah. His debut novel won the 2021 Narrative Prize and has been supported by National Endowment for the Arts and Elizabeth George Foundation. Talty is an assistant English professor at the University of Maine, Orono and a faculty member at Stonecoast MFA and the Institute of American Indian Arts. He is a resident of Levant, Maine.

Although a collection of short stories, Night of the Living Rez flows like an episodic novel. Each of the twelve short stories revolves around David, known to his friends as Dee or his mom as “Gwus”. David is a member of the Penobscot Nation whose mother snatched him away from his white father’s home in the dead of the night to take care of him on the reservation in Maine where she was raised. The story jumps from when David was a child participating in stick fights in a swamp with his friends to his late middle age and his regular visit to his mother in an elder care home.

The author fleshes out the main character and his family in these 12 stories: a modern life on the reservation characterized by poverty, addiction, trauma, community friendship, and love. There is an intriguing blend of contemporary and traditional worldviews in these tales. As the title suggests, spirits and monsters of the community belief system scavenge the land throughout David’s life.

In the heart of these stories, Morgan Talty shares with the readers about David’s relationships with his friends and, more so, with his best friend, Fellis. He also examines David’s relationship with his mother, who drinks wine nightly with her boyfriend. In the first story, titled Burn, we meet David as he unsuccessfully tries to scam a pot from a dealer and later encounters Fellis in the forest. Fellis was unconscious in a snowbank, and when he regained consciousness, he discovered his hair had frozen into the ground and was trapped until David came to his rescue, cut off the braid and took him home. Fellis gives David some cash to buy snacks and pot, and he also requests David to go and collect his hair from the woods so that they can burn it and keep the spirits away.

This event sets the book’s tone: until Fellis mentions the burning of the hair to keep the spirits away, these could be any two young men; there is a generality to the experience, but the ending makes this story an indigenous tale.

The second short story in the book is titled In a Jar. It tells the story of David and his mother’s resettlement on the reservation. Almost immediately, David discovers a glass jar hidden beneath the stoop of their house. The pot is filled with corn, hair and teeth. The teeth are white and have some tint of yellow, the hair is grey, thin and loose, and the corn bears a similar resemblance with the teeth- they are white with yellow stains. And recognizing bad medicine upon discovering the jar, David’s mom calls Frick, a medicine man, to help remove the pot and perform a cleansing ceremony. Even with the stories that follow, David and his mother never seem to get over the buried curse.

Throughout this episodic novel, Morgan Talty shows us the seasons of David’s life on the reservation. It is a tough life where the fear of evil curse blends alongside the ravages of poverty and drug addiction. David’s mom is trapped in an abusive relationship with an alcoholic medicine man. Methadone treatments are essential parts of David and his friends. His sisters are trapped deep down into a mental illness coerced by other things like the death of her baby due to methadone withdrawal seizures.

Overall, these stories have a lot of loss and grief and some intriguing feed of wit and humor. David, his family, and his friends have always had struggles and a survival mindset. These chapters give an accurate and believable account of real people and not stereotypes, allowing the reader to relate David’s problems to those with experience in our own lives.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Morgan Talty

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