Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
456 Pages | 6 x 9
As the novel opens, Johnny is trying to organize the remaining members of his displaced California tribe. At the same time, he is struggling with his own sexuality and thinking about leaving his grandmother’s home for the big city. As the novel shifts perspective, tracing the controversial history of the Pomo people, we learn how the tragic events of Elba’s childhood, as well as Iris’s attempts to separate herself from her cultural roots, make Johnny’s dilemma all the more difficult. In the end, what binds both family and tribe together is a respect—albeit at times reluctant—for the traditions that have withstood so many challenges.
This new edition of the novel features a revised preface by the author and an afterword by Reginald Dyck, who identifies broader contexts important to our understanding of the novel, including tribal sovereignty, federal Indian policy, and the effects of historical trauma. Gritty yet rich in emotion, Watermelon Nights stands beside the works of Louise Erdrich, Stephen Graham Jones, and Tommy Orange.
“While intersectionality operates at the systemic level, showing how systems confront individuals, literature operates at the individual level, showing how individuals confront systems. Native American literary works like Watermelon Nights challenge expectations about individuality, systems, and even what is meant by confrontation. To be true to his characters, Sarris offers none of the consolations of a showdown, a hero’s journey, or a happily ever after. He offers the stories of a people who lived here, took care of the land, told stories, and remain here, often overlooked even as their land is “acknowledged.” Watermelon Nights is an important American novel and an increasingly relevant work for resisting a political and cultural economy that privileges protest and encourages forgetting for the sake of belonging.”---Los Angles Review of Books
“[Watermelon Nights] is a gritty and powerful book that deserves rediscovery.”— Arkansas Democrat-Gazette