Growing up in South Dakota, Josh Garrett-Davis knew he would leave. But as a young adult, he kept going back—in dreams and reality and by way of books. With this beautifully written narrative about a seemingly empty but actually rich and complex place, he has reclaimed his childhood, his unusual family—and the Great Plains.
Among the subjects and people that bring his Midwestern Plains to life are the destruction and resurgence of the American bison; Native American "Ghost Dancers" who attempted to ward off annihilation by supernatural means; the political allegory to be found in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; and current attempts by ecologists to "rewild" the Plains, complete with cheetahs. Garrett-Davis infuses the narrative with stories of his family as well—including his great-great-grandparents' twenty-year sojourn in Nebraska as homesteaders and his progressive Methodist cousin Ruth, a missionary in China ousted by Mao's revolution. Inspiring and fascinating, Ghost Dances is a fluid combination of memoir and history and reportage that reminds us our roots matter.
Book trailer ^^^
Book trailer filmed, directed, and edited by Michael Beach Nichols.
Sound-recorded, scripted, guitar-accompanied by Josh Garrett-Davis.
QUOTES AND REVIEWS:
"Ghost Dances is beautifully open-spirited. Its ambition never steps on its sense of humor."
— John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead
"With Ghost Dances, Josh Garrett-Davis bursts on the literary scene like a fresh, punk-voiced Wallace Stegner, weaving the story of his own coming of age into the tangled history of the Great Plains."
— Martha A. Sandweiss, author of Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line
"Josh Garrett-Davis has given us a tremendous memoir—as much a narrative about himself as the cradle of the Plains, where he was born. He shows us that 'proving up' often means letting go, and we meet all the noble, flawed, and resilient actors of the Plains here, including bison, punk rockers, Cather, Indians, Anglo homesteaders, and home wreckers, too. A wonderful read."
— David Treuer, author of Rez Life
"A meditation on home and homelessness, Ghost Dances combines memoir, history, and vision into an evocative chronicle in the ocean of grass where Josh Garrett-Davis came of age amid loss, love, and the rituals of hope."
— Brenda Wineapple, author of White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson
The Chicago Tribune: "Garrett-Davis' writing is enchanting.... The heart of the book, and the best part, is the story of the author’s upbringing on the Plains: his interesting and loving but flawed parents, the divorce that changed everything and his struggle to fit in at school or at least find a niche as an outsider."
Publishers Weekly (a "notable title" for Fall 2012): "Alienation and authenticity commingle in this memoiristic meditation on American's lonesome midsection....Garrett-Davis writes evocatively of 'the latent fury in this monotonous [Plains] landscape' and finds some juicy tufts of lore to graze on."
Columbia Magazine: “Garrett-Davis supplements this family narrative with dispatches on people and places tangentially related to him, employing a bewitching and satisfying range of technique. He mixes descriptions of prairies and pioneers with those of skateboarding and punk rock and offers long explanations of the surprising things that interested him as a teen and provided him with fellowship, such as L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the South Dakota governor, Bill Janklow, whom he reviled.... He is at his best when using his personal experience to illuminate some larger idea.”
Shelf Awareness: "A very personal, eclectic and funny re-evaluation of the history and abiding attraction of the Great Plains.... Josh Garrett-Davis carries a lot of baggage in Ghost Dances. Fortunately, he maintains a healthy sense of humor in his meditative memoir of 'proving up on the Great Plains.' "
Kirkus Reviews: "A young man charts the geography of his tumultuous childhood against the expansive backdrop of the Great Plains.... Garrett-Davis finds significant meaning in his home state's 'landscape of motion' and its long history of transient personalities. Deep sojourns into the weight and significance of nascent punk-rock record collections happily exist alongside intense observations about the demise of the great bison herds and even efforts to restart the Pleistocene epoch.... Profound and enjoyable reading."