The Only Good Indians – Stephen Graham Jones

Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.

The Only Good Indians is the second novel I’ve read by Stephen Graham Jones. The first was Mongrels, and like…that book absolutely gutted me. It was unlike anything I had ever read, and I adored it completely. I’ve collected some of his other books in the interim, but The Only Good Indians has been on my radar for awhile now (the release was delayed by several months, THANKS COVID-19). And I mean…this book could not be more brilliant & haunting & impactful. Fucking hell…get this one on your TBR if it’s not already there!

One of the things that’s most striking about this book is the writing style. There’s a rhythm to it that’s so incredibly unique…it’s almost like you are really hearing someone’s inner monologue, in a way. Not quite stream-of-consciousness, but just very fluid, and lyrical. The same goes for the dialogue. Jones writes dialogue in such a way that, you feel like you are peering over the shoulders of these characters, overhearing a conversation between two people who have developed their own shorthand way of communicating with one another. I’m not sure I’m explaining this very well, but there really is something special about the way Jones writes dialogue.

This is the story of four friends, Blackfeet Native Americans, bound by a dark secret in their past. Something that comes back to haunt them, ten years later.

The Only Good Indians is a book that takes an unflinching look at racism & stereotypes, family, friendship, grief, anger, trauma…there is a lot going on in this gorgeous novel, a lot more than I’ll ever be able to unpack in a review. SO READ THIS BOOK ALREADY! This is something you need to experience on your own, and it’s a fucking journey, I promise you. This is that rare book that makes you want to simultaneously set it down because you’re so upset about something that’s just happened, but also you have to keep reading to see what fresh hell Jones has waiting for you.

There’s been a lot of talk surrounding The Only Good Indians, and other recent books from BIPOC or LGBTQ+ authors, specifically in regards to how these books are reviewed. Like, there was for real some bullshit reviews of Mexican Gothic (a book I’m planning to read very soon!) saying the book “wasn’t Mexican enough” or some such. And just…no. Like, full stop, fucking no.

Or people saying they “can’t relate” to a book like The Only Good Indians. I mean…isn’t that kind of the point of reading fiction? And in particular, reading books by authors who have a different experience from your own? I don’t see myself reflected back in The Only Good Indians. I can’t relate to the experience of growing up on the Blackfeet reservation. And of course, this book isn’t supposed to be a handbook to the Native American experience. IT’S A HORROR NOVEL! But it’s written by a Blackfeet Native American author, who brings his unique experience to his work.

The Only Good Indians is nothing short of a masterpiece. This is a brutal story, one that sometimes feels terribly bleak. But there’s also these moments of incredible beauty, and the whole novel is tinged with a sense of hopefulness. I am in literal awe of Stephen Graham Jones as a storyteller, and am really looking forward to reading more of his work!

Erin is a friend on Bookstagram who has a lot of great links to Indigenous bloggers/Bookstagrammers in her story highlights, and she was kind enough to help me find an Indigenous reviewer who was looking to read The Only Good Indians, so this ARC is getting packed up & shipped out tomorrow! Through Erin’s account, I also discovered another blogger/Bookstagrammer named Autumn, who has a great interview with Stephen Graham Jones here!

Many thanks to Saga Press for sending me this ARC! The release date for The Only Good Indians is TOMORROW, July 14th…but it also seems like the book was quietly released into the world last week? I saw it on the shelf of my local Barnes & Noble, and they are not known to put books out early. Either way…GET THIS BOOK AND SHOVE IT INTO YOUR EYES!!!

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