Old Town Road: Remixing Westerns


Alternative Westerns with Black cowboys, fierce women, and “the west” defined by Indigenous authors.


Betrayal at the Buffalo Ranch

Sara Sue Hoklotubbe

When Angus Clyborn's Buffalo Ranch opens in Cherokee Country, murder, thievery, and a missing white buffalo calf take Sadie Walela and her wolfdog on a dangerous and wild ride.

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There There

Tommy Orange

As we learn the reasons that each person is attending the Big Oakland Powwow—some generous, some fearful, some joyful, some violent—momentum builds toward a shocking yet inevitable conclusion that changes everything. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life back together after his uncle’s death and has come to work at the powwow to honor his uncle’s memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and will to perform in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and loss. There There is a wondrous and shattering portrait of an America few of us have ever seen.

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A Yellow Raft in Blue Water

Michael Dorris

Michael Dorris has crafted a fierce saga of three generations of Indian women, beset by hardships and torn by angry secrets, yet inextricably joined by the bonds of kinship. Starting in the present day and moving backward, the novel is told in the voices of the three women: fifteen-year-old part-black Rayona; her American Indian mother, Christine, consumed by tenderness and resentment toward those she loves; and the fierce and mysterious Ida, mother and grandmother whose haunting secrets, betrayals, and dreams echo through the years, braiding together the strands of the shared past.

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Ceremony

Leslie Marmon Silko

On a New Mexico reservation, one Navajo family--including Tayo, a World War II veteran deeply scarred by his experiences as a Japanese POW and by the rejection of his own people--struggles to survive in a world no longer theirs in the years just before and after World War II.

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Fools Crow

James Welch

In the Two Medicine territory of Montana, the Pikuni Indians are forced to choose between fighting a futile war or accepting a humiliating surrender, as the encroaching numbers of whites threaten their very existence.

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Dark Trail

Hiram King

When Bodie Johnson returns from the War Between the States, he finds his home destroyed and his family gone--packed up like cattle and shipped west on a slave train. With only that information to go on, Bodie sets out to find whatever remains of his family.

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God’s Country

Percival Everett

The unlikely narrator through this tale of misadventures is one Curt Marder: gambler, drinker, cheat, and would-be womanizer. It's 1871, and he's lost his farm, his wife, and his dog to a band of marauding hooligans. With nothing to live on but a desire to recover what is rightfully his, Marder is forced to enlist the help of the best tracker in the West: a black man named Bubba.

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Sabrina & Corina

Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Set against the remarkable backdrop of Denver, Colorado-a place that is as fierce as it is exquisite-these women navigate the land the way they navigate their lives- with caution, grace, and quiet force. In "Sugar Babies," ancestry and heritage are hidden inside the earth, but have the tendency to ascend during land disputes. "Any Further West" follows a sex worker and her daughter as they leave their ancestral home in southern Colorado only to find a foreign and hostile land in California. In "Tomi," a woman returns home from prison, finding herself in a gentrified city that is a shadow of the one she remembers from her childhood. And in the title story, "Sabrina & Corina," a Denver family falls into a cycle of violence against women, coming together only through ritual. Sabrina & Corina is a moving narrative of unrelenting feminine power and an exploration of the universal experiences of abandonment, heritage, and an eternal sense of home.

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Half an Inch of Water

Percival Everett

A deaf Native American girl wanders off into the desert and is found untouched in a den of rattlesnakes. A young boy copes with the death of his sister by angling for an unnaturally large trout in the creek where she drowned. An old woman rides her horse into a mountain snowstorm and sees a long-dead beloved dog. For the plainspoken men and women of these stories—fathers and daughters, sheriffs and veterinarians—small events trigger sudden shifts in which the ordinary becomes unfamiliar. A harmless comment about how to ride a horse changes the course of a relationship, a snakebite gives rise to hallucinations, and the hunt for a missing man reveals his uncanny resemblance to an actor. Half an Inch of Water tears through the fabric of the everyday to examine what lies beneath the surface of these lives. In the hands of master storyteller Everett, the act of questioning leads to vistas more strange and unsettling than could ever have been expected.

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The Round House

Louise Erdrich

It is an exquisitely told story of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family. Riveting and suspenseful, Erdrich’s The Round House is a page-turning masterpiece of literary fiction—at once a powerful coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a tender, moving novel of family, history, and culture.

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Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down

Ishmael Reed

"Folks. This here is the story of the Loop Garoo Kid. A cowboy so bad he made a working posse of spells phone in sick. A bullwhacker so unfeeling he left the print of winged mice on hides of crawling women. A desperado so onery he made the Pope cry and the most powerful of cattlemen shed his head to the Executioner's swine." And so begins the HooDoo Western by Ishmael Reed, author of Mumbo Jumbo and one of America's most innovative and celebrated writers. Reed demolishes white American history and folklore as well as Christian myth in this masterful satire of contemporary American life. In addition to the black, satanic Loop Garoo Kid, Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down features Drag Gibson (a rich, slovenly cattleman), Mustache Sal (his nymphomaniac mail-order bride), Thomas Jefferson and many others in a hilarious parody of the old Western.

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Book of the Little Axe

Lauren Francis-Sharma

In Trinidad, in 1796, teenage Rosa Rendón quietly but purposefully rebels against typical female roles and behavior. Bright, competitive, and opinionated, Rosa sees no reason she should learn to cook and keep house—it is obvious her talents lie in running the farm she expects to be her birthright, despite her two older siblings. But as her homeland goes from Spanish to British rule, it becomes increasingly unclear whether its free black property owners—Rosa’s family among them—will be allowed to keep their assets, their land, and ultimately, their freedom. By 1830, Rosa is living among the Crow Nation in Bighorn, Wyoming with her husband, Edward Rose and family. Her son Victor has reached the age where he should seek his vision and become a man. But his path is blocked by secrets Rosa has kept hidden from him. So Rosa sets out to take him on a journey to where his story began and, in turn, retraces her own roots, those of a girl who forged her own way from the middle of the ocean to the grassy hills of a far-away land.

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A Book of Tongues

Gemma Files

Former Confederate chaplain Asher Rook has cheated death and now possesses a dark magic. He uses his power to terrorize the Wild West, leading a gang of outlaws, thieves, and killers, with his cruel lieutenant and lover, Chess Pargeter, by his side. Pinkerton agent Ed Morrow is going undercover to infiltrate the gang, armed with a shotgun and a device that measures sorcerous energy. His job is to gain knowledge of Rook’s power and unlock its secrets. But there is someone else who has Rook in her sights: the Lady of Traps and Snares, a bloodthirsty Mayan goddess who will stop at nothing to satisfy her own desires. Caught between the good, the bad, and the unholy, Morrow will have to ride out a storm of magical mayhem to survive.

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Topaz

Beverly Jenkins

Ambitious newspaper reporter Kate Love's determination to unmask a railroad stock swindler has led her to the brink of matrimony with the wealthiest, most eligible black man in the East—the very scoundrel she intends to expose! But at the last possible moment a champion appears to whisk her away from the altar: Dix Wildhorse, a Black Seminole marshal from Oklahoma's Indian country. A daring black knight whom Kate's father sent to rescue—and wed—the free-spirited ebony hellion, Dix ignites fires within her with just a touch, a whisper, a brazen kiss. But Kate isn't about to abandon her career to become the dutiful wife of a lawman who wants to keep her wrapped up in a protective cocoon. As the battle of wills intensifies, the heat of their passion blazes with unmatched fury. And only total surrender will unleash the sweet ecstasy of love.

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Whiskey When We’re Dry

John Larison

In the spring of 1885, seventeen-year-old Jessilyn Harney finds herself orphaned and alone on her family's homestead. Desperate to fend off starvation and predatory neighbors, she cuts off her hair, binds her chest, saddles her beloved mare, and sets off across the mountains to find her outlaw brother Noah and bring him home. A talented sharpshooter herself, Jess's quest lands her in the employ of the territory's violent, capricious Governor, whose militia is also hunting Noah--dead or alive. Wrestling with her brother's outlaw identity, and haunted by questions about her own, Jess must outmaneuver those who underestimate her, ultimately rising to become a hero in her own right. Told in Jess's wholly original and unforgettable voice, Whiskey When We're Dry is a stunning achievement, an epic as expansive as America itself--and a reckoning with the myths that are entwined with our history.

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Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Dee Brown

First published in 1970, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee generated shockwaves with its frank and heartbreaking depiction of the systematic annihilation of American Indian tribes across the western frontier. In this nonfiction account, Dee Brown focuses on the betrayals, battles, and massacres suffered by American Indians between 1860 and 1890. He tells of the many tribes and their renowned chiefs—from Geronimo to Red Cloud, Sitting Bull to Crazy Horse—who struggled to combat the destruction of their people and culture. Forcefully written and meticulously researched, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee inspired a generation to take a second look at how the West was won.

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The Compton Cowboys

Walter Thompson-Hernandez

A rising New York Times reporter tells the compelling story of The Compton Cowboys, a group of African-American men and women who defy stereotypes and continue the proud, centuries-old tradition of black cowboys in the heart of one of America’s most notorious cities. In Compton, California, ten black riders on horseback cut an unusual profile, their cowboy hats tilted against the hot Los Angeles sun. They are the Compton Cowboys, their small ranch one of the very last in a formerly semirural area of the city that has been home to African-American horse riders for decades. To most people, Compton is known only as the home of rap greats NWA and Kendrick Lamar, hyped in the media for its seemingly intractable gang violence. But in 1988 Mayisha Akbar founded The Compton Jr. Posse to provide local youth with a safe alternative to the streets, one that connected them with the rich legacy of black cowboys in American culture. From Mayisha’s youth organization came the Cowboys of today: black men and women from Compton for whom the ranch and the horses provide camaraderie, respite from violence, healing from trauma, and recovery from incarceration. The Cowboys include Randy, Mayisha’s nephew, faced with the daunting task of remaking the Cowboys for a new generation; Anthony, former drug dealer and inmate, now a family man and mentor, Keiara, a single mother pursuing her dream of winning a national rodeo championship, and a tight clan of twentysomethings--Kenneth, Keenan, Charles, and Tre--for whom horses bring the freedom, protection, and status that often elude the young black men of Compton. The Compton Cowboys is a story about trauma and transformation, race and identity, compassion, and ultimately, belonging. Walter Thompson-Hernández paints a unique and unexpected portrait of this city, pushing back against stereotypes to reveal an urban community in all its complexity, tragedy, and triumph.

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Black Cowboys of the Old West

Tricia Martineau Wagner

The word cowboy conjures up vivid images of rugged men on saddled horses—men lassoing cattle, riding bulls, or brandishing guns in a shoot-out. White men, as Hollywood remembers them. What is woefully missing from these scenes is their counterparts: the black cowboys who made up one-fourth of the wranglers and rodeo riders. This book tells their story. When the Civil War ended, black men left the Old South in large numbers to seek a living in the Old West—industrious men resolved to carve out a life for themselves on the wild, roaming plains. Some had experience working cattle from their time as slaves; others simply sought a freedom they had never known before. The lucky travelled on horseback; the rest, by foot. Over dirt roads they went from Alabama and South Carolina to present-day Texas and California up north through Kansas to Montana. The Old West was a land of opportunity for these adventurous wranglers and future rodeo champions. A long overdue testament to the courage and skill of black cowboys, Black Cowboys of the Old West finally gives these courageous men their rightful place in history.

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