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Check It Out: Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

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This is Barb Gross with the Sioux City Public Library, and you’re listening to “Check it Out.” 

Today, I’m recommending Winter Counts, a remarkable debut novel by David Heska Wanbli Weiden, a member of the Lakota Nation of South Dakota. At first glance it’s an action-packed, gritty thriller, but Weiden also explores many social issues faced by Native Americans.

Virgil Wounded Horse is the novel’s flawed but endearing main character. He’s a vigilante, and his job is to bring justice to Native people who have nowhere else to turn. The Federal government often ignores crimes committed on the reservation, and tribal police can’t prosecute felonies. That’s where Virgil comes in. He enjoys administering justice, with his fists, to men who hurt women and children. Sounds grim, right? But oddly enough, the book has many humorous moments as well.   

Weiden also gives readers a revealing look at life on a reservation. He shows us the dark side but he balances that with the many positive attributes of his people. One of my favorite parts of the book is a subplot about returning to traditional Indigenous cuisine.  

Another reason to recommend Winter Counts is Weiden’s writing. Here’s a sample: “Sadness is like an abandoned car left out in a field for good — it changes a little over the years, but doesn’t ever disappear. You may forget about it for a while, but it’s still there, rusting away, until you notice it again.”

Check out Winter Counts, by David Heska Wanbli Weiden, and other thrillers at the Sioux City Public Library.

Support for Check It Out on Siouxland Public Media comes from Avery Brothers.