Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Review: 'Yellow Hair' by Andrew Joyce

Florida author Andrew Joyce took a leaping chance on providing follow-ups to an American classic Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn - and oddly enough he succeeded! Joyce is an inveterate hitchhiker and doubtless that lifestyle has supplied him with the rich imagination he so freely offers in his newest book YELLOW HAIR that explores the history of American Indians, the Sioux Nation in particular.

Andrew sets the tone in his author’s note at the beginning of the book – ‘Yellow Hair documents the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from their first treaty with The United States in 1805 through Wounded Knee in 1890. Every death, murder, battle, and outrage depicted herein actually took place— from the first to the last. The historical figures that play a role in my story were real people and I used their real names. I conjured up my protagonist only to weave together the various events conveyed in this fact-based tale of fiction.’ So Andrew remains passionate about American history – our writers such as Mark Twain and now our American Indian heritage.

To take the reader to the roots of his story Andrew steps further back, describing the planet’s beginning as a sea covered globe followed by the recession of the waters and the emergence of life on land. ‘Eventually the first of the two-legged creatures arrived. They were a species that had developed elsewhere on the planet. They came down from the North carrying their homes on their backs and herding hitherto unknown species of four-legged animals. In only a short while, the offspring of the two-legs had populated the great plains of the continent. By then they had broken up into different tribes, and on occasion made war with one another. They hunted the buffalo, elk, and deer for sustenance. They scratched at the earth and planted seeds in the rich soil that had once been the bottom of a sea. They lived that life for 10,000 years until men from the South arrived. They wore iron helmets and iron upon their breasts. Their skin was white, not the color of a human being’s. They called the people of the plains “Indians.” They called themselves conquistadors and they brought with them an animal no one had ever seen before. It stood fifteen hands high and could be ridden long distances or used to carry packs.’ That is the quality and veracity of the story to come.

Andrew’s prose is sophisticated and credible as he outlines this criminal history of our abuse of the Sioux Nation for 85 years. The ‘Yellow Hair’ of the title is Jacob Ariesen of Concord Massachusetts. As Andrew introduces him ‘The coming of the White Man would forever change the fortunes of the people of the plains— more often than not for the worse. Very few White Men had a positive influence on the Indians. But there were a few.
One of those men was Jacob Ariesen.’

His name became Yellow Hair and this in many ways is a novel that allows us to understand the agonies of the Indians but also the humanity of such few but significant men as Yellow Hair. The novel is rich in engrossing history and written in a manner that makes it a very fine novel. Grady Harp, October 16
I received this book at no charge in exchange for my honest review

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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