The Only Good Indians | Stephen Graham Jones
Updated: Dec 27, 2021
Read If: you like untangling complicated stories, you like to watch the world burn, you can suspend your disbelief.
The Only Good Indians is one of the books I read this year that I would label "literature," which by definition is anything considered superior or of artistic lasting merit.
Aside from the dictionary definition, I think you need to work for literature, at least a little bit. Most literature isn't an "easy" read; it makes you think, sometimes even after you put the book down (hopefully) and the story sticks with you. A lot of literature makes people uncomfortable. That's what The Only Good Indians did for me. I thought about it for weeks after reading it - I'm still thinking about it now - and I'm confused, intrigued, and pulled back to it constantly.
This books has roots in both modern and past Native American culture, which I think is why some readers struggle with it. Unfortunately, most people don't seek out information on the Native American culture(s) on their own. In school, we learn about Greek and Roman mythology, but many other cultural stories and backgrounds are skimmed over at best.
Jones' book is a bit of a twisted story that has both gruesome deaths, heart breaking deaths, an overlap with the natural world, and a sort of "revenge" vibe although I personally didn't walk away from it feeling like everyone got what they deserved. For the most part, it felt like everyone lost.
The Only Good Indians is a book about bad choices, the echo of consequences, and how a person can be haunted and overcome by their past. It's disturbing in places, but ultimately an amazing book, one of my top books of all time.
Important note to readers: If dog deaths bother you A LOT, maybe pass on this one.