The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band (Sun Tracks #77) (Paperback)

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Opening July 4, 1969, on the Pine Ridge Reservation, The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band begins with a raucous Fourth of July gig that abruptly ends with the Red Birds ducking out of the performance in a hilarious hail of beer bottles. By the end of the evening, community member Buffalo Ames is dead, presumed to be murdered, just outside the bar. Sissy Roberts, the band’s singer and the “best female guitar picker on the rez,” is reluctantly drawn into the ensuing investigation by an FBI agent who discovers Sissy’s knack for hearing other people’s secrets.

The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band is part mystery, part community chronicle. Shaped by a cast of skillfully drawn characters, all of whom at one time or another are potential suspects, at the core of the story is smart and compassionate Sissy. Four years past high school, Sissy’s wry humor punctuates descriptions of reservation life as she learns more about Ames’s potential killer, and as she embarks on a personal search for ways to buck expectations and leave rural South Dakota to attend college.

Ames’s death is just an example of the undercurrents of violence and passions that run through this fast-moving novel of singing, loving, and fighting. Following Sissy as she unravels the mystery of both Buffalo Ames’s death and her own future, The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band is the story of Indian Country on the verge of historic change and a woman unwilling to let change pass her by.

About the Author

Frances Washburn is the author of two previous novels, Elsie’s Business and The Sacred White Turkey. She is an associate professor and director of graduate studies in the department of American Indian studies at the University of Arizona.

Praise For…

"A slim, evocative, entertaining tale of strange happenings on an Indian reservation in South Dakota."—Shelf Awareness

The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band is filled with a cast of memorable characters. Washburn has a knack for the quiet, tight narrative line that packs a punch.”—Lisa Tatonetti, co-editor of Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature

"The setting and clipped wry style of The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band are a delight, but the novel's greatest strength is Sissy, a character full of self-knowledge and wisdom even as she struggles with the twin mysteries of Buffalo's death and her own self-discovery. The music she sings is a great soundtrack to an affecting tale."—The Historical Novels Review

“A novel about lives stuck and getting unstuck, about the hurts and humor of daily life, The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band is a critical act of literary sovereignty.”—Susan Bernardin, co-author of Trading Gazes: Euro-American Women Photographers and Native North Americans, 1880-1940

“Washburn's smart, hard-edged writing drops you into a world of rez rodeos and honky-tonks and, of course, a murder. Greasy spoon cafes become home to honest emotion and broken dreams with echoes of classic county and western songs. The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band gives witness to a splendid, fresh literary voice.”—James Ruppert, editor of Nothing But the Truth: An Anthology of Native American Literature

"Character development is Washburn’s strong suit. The people she writes about are so memorable that you can (if you can!) put down the book, return to it in a few days, and immediately continue your connection with its characters and the world in which they live. It is indeed a wonderful story.”—Tom Holm, author of The Osage Rose

“In a novel rich in detail and smart about the lay of the land on and around the rez, Washburn’s novel is both compelling and educational.”—American Indian Library Association
“This is a book that makes sense of a people who turned down more than $1 billion offered in exchange for the Black Hills. Some things are not easily bought and sold, some things are not “things” at all, only mirrors in which we can choose to see who we are and who we might become. Washburn writes beyond every Indian stereotype to leave us with a story that is as old as those Hills.”—Star Tribune


The Red Bird All-Indian Traveling Band will make you laugh out loud while breaking your heart. Frances Washburn writes with insight, compassion and a rich irony. It is powerful stuff that lingers long after you turn the last page.”—Margaret Coel, author of Killing Custer

Product Details
ISBN: 9780816530823
ISBN-10: 0816530823
Publisher: University of Arizona Press
Publication Date: February 27th, 2014
Pages: 184
Language: English
Series: Sun Tracks