by Elizabeth Black
A tale of loss, and longing for home and the connections that bind two peoples to a single land—and to one another. The American Library Association called the debut novel “a poignant family saga and an enlightening history lesson.” Kirkus Reviews declared, “Black offers a moving, and justifiably tragic, depiction of the fate of the farmers, land, slaughtered buffalo, and feedlot-incarcerated cattle of the Great Plains.” Kansas Senator Bob Dole praised the book, “filled with affection for the Great Plains and the extraordinary people bound to it. Insightful and disturbing, Elizabeth Black's first novel confronts the problems faced by farm families struggling to stay on the land they love.”
Buffalo Spirits won the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Literary Award, 2004, Annual Three Oaks Prize in Fiction, and was selected as a finalist in the William Faulkner Novel Competition.
Selected from more than one thousand entries, this compelling debut novel begins with the sentence, "Going home is better than being home." Seeking spiritual rejuvenation, a Chicago journalist returns to her vanished childhood farm in Dodge City to reconnect with family, what family is left, and her childhood Familiar, a young Indian girl. In the process, she uncovers an old mystery dating back to the land of the farm before white people wrested it away from Native Americans. She also uncovers painful but necessary truths about her own heritage. Black beautifully and hauntingly depicts the majesty of the Great Plains.
About the author:
Born in Dodge City, Kansas, the author of Buffalo Spirits has survived two tornadoes, one rattlesnake bite, and too many dust storms to count. At the University of Kansas, she studied creative writing with esteemed professor Edgar Wolfe, and in 1968 she earned the University's top creative writing award for her short stories. In 1970, Elizabeth studied Modern English Literature at the University of London.
Between 1971 and 1985, Elizabeth Black wrote for a variety of publications, including Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Daily News, Chicago Magazine, Mademoiselle, Playboy, and Cosmopolitan. From 1975–1977, she was co-editor of the Chicago Monthly magazine. Elizabeth co-authored a healthcare book (Harper & Row, 1983).
During the 80s and 90s, Elizabeth pursued a second career in art direction and graphic design, serving as art director of a number of magazines including Great American Pace, OS/2 Professional, and Biomechanics Magazine. She won a Folio Award for Art Direction in 1995 for Biomechanics Magazine. During those years, she also continued to publish articles in a variety of magazines, and edited Stride, a quarterly women's health magazine.
In 1999, Elizabeth left graphic design to resume her writing career full time, producing the novel Buffalo Spirits, a project she had long envisioned. The novel was named a finalist in the William Faulkner Novel Competition in 2002, was awarded the 2002 Three Oaks Prize in Fiction, and won the Helene Wurlitzer Award.
Part Native American lore, part ecological treatise, part mystical odyssey, and, perhaps, part autobiography, Black's debut novel leads her readers along unexpected paths. Rebecca grows up in western Kansas in the 1950s, moves to Chicago, and becomes a successful journalist, but behind this normalcy lies a moody, nomadic soul. As a child she communes with Gentle Wind, her "spirit sister" who lived on her family's land a century earlier. Rebecca loses touch with Gentle Wind but keeps her fierce allegiance to the plains. Whenever she returns home, Rebecca is angered at the changes time has wrought, giving Black numerous chances to rail against cattle feedlots, over-irrigated fields, and strip mining. Interspersed chapters written in the voice of Gentle Wind recount the great buffalo slaughter from 1865 to 1875 and the gradual demise of the Plains Indians, culminating in their removal to an Oklahoma reservation. Black has packed a few extraneous side plots into her debut, but the end result is a poignant family saga and an enlightening history lesson. --Deborah Donovan, American Library Association
Buffalo Spirits is filled with affection for the Great Plains and the extraordinary people bound to it. Insightful and disturbing, Elizabeth Black's first novel confronts the problems faced by farm families struggling to stay on the land they love.
--Senator Bob Dole
Black offers a moving, and justifiably tragic, depiction of the fate of the farmers, land, slaughtered buffalo, and feedlot-incarcerated cattle of the Great Plains.
For more about this book: https://buffalospirits.com/