Calling for a Blanket Dance


By Oscar Hokeah

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A moving and deeply engaging novel about a young Native American man as he learns to find strength in his familial identity. 

Told in a series of voices, Calling for a Blanket Dance takes us into the life of Ever Geimausaddle through the multigenerational perspectives of his family as they face myriad obstacles. His father’s injury at the hands of corrupt police, his mother's struggle to hold on to her job and care for her husband, the constant resettlement of the family, and the legacy of centuries of injustice all intensify Ever’s bottled-up rage. Meanwhile, all of Ever’s relatives have ideas about who he is and who he should be. His Cherokee grandmother urges the family to move across Oklahoma to find security; his grandfather hopes to reunite him with his heritage through traditional gourd dances; his Kiowa cousin reminds him that he’s connected to an ancestral past. And once an adult, Ever must take the strength given to him by his relatives to save not only himself but also the next generation of family.

How will this young man visualize a place for himself when the world hasn’t given him a place to start with? Honest, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting, Calling for a Blanket Dance is the story of how Ever Geimausaddle found his way to home.


Lena Stopp


I always told Turtle when I was raising her, “If a man acts like a child, then send him back to his ae-jee and let her straighten him out.” She hardly ever listened to me—mostly, she would make a sour face and turn away—but when things got bad with Everardo, she finally did. Turtle wasn’t much for talking but her emotions barked like a bluetick—you could tell. And sometimes I’d say things like, “Just because you look more Kiowa doesn’t mean you can forget you’re Cherokee,” and she’d scrunch her brow. I’d throw back my head and laugh a good one. Tla, mostly, I liked to tease her about Everardo. The last time he stayed out all night, I told her, “That’s what you get for marrying a sqaw-nee.”

She’d driven around Lawton like a ski-lee on a broomstick and found Everardo at a cousin’s house half drunk and oosa-tle. She dragged him into the backseat of her car, let him pass out next to Ever—he was just six months old by then—and drove south out of Oklahoma. She headed across Texas and down into Mexico. Come to find out, Everardo hadn’t seen his parents in over ten years. Turtle had just gotten her per cap money from the Kiowa Tribe, $1,500. She meant for that au-dayla to pull double duty: fixing Everardo and getting her a home.

Aldama, Chihuahua, was filled with desert and large mountain chains, unlike Lawton, which was flatter than the back of my head. There was Mount Scott just north of Lawton, but it looked more like a groundhog had dug a mound of dirt out of the Southern Plains. Turtle told me how it wasn’t even a real mountain compared to the ones in Chihuahua.

As they drove into his hometown, Everardo’s eyes finally popped open, with the familiar sound of dirt kicking up underneath the car. It sobered him instantly. Turtle said his face aged backward twenty years as they drove up to his parents’ house. His mother, Lucia, had no idea her skee-ni son was about to arrive. I shouldn’t be like that. He wasn’t skee-ni. Just a selfish ouk-seni. But when Lucia opened the front door to find an older version of her baby boy, she embraced him in such a long hug that when she let go, he was five years old again.

Lucia did not waste any time. She began wrapping pork tamales, and wrapping Everardo in question after question, like about his brother, Augustine. He told her about Augustine and his new girlfriend and that they were getting married. Lucia pulled out homemade marzipan candy and shoved pieces into Everardo’s mouth, feeding him like a skaw-stee little toddler. She told him about his cousins living in Riverside, California. They worked as maids in the motels and their children learned English in the schools.

My grandson, Ever, took to Lucia because she did to him what she had done to his daddy. Shoved marzipan into his mouth. Turtle said Ever scrunched up his little brow, smacked his gums a bit, and then a smile spread across his chubby face. Sure enough, he crawled into Lucia’s lap like Christmas come early. The funniest part of the reunion was watching Everardo eat, or really, watching Lucia watch Everardo eat. She hadn’t seen her son in a decade, so she pulled tamales from the pot and served them fresh, still steaming. Turtle said Everardo cut the smallest chunks with his fork, and slowly placed each bite onto his tongue. There he was, just like his baby, smiling from ear to ear as he chewed those tiny bites. Lucia held Ever in her lap at the kitchen table and didn’t take her eyes off Everardo for a minute.

Turtle had fallen for Everardo because if he wasn’t laughing, he was smiling. Lucia told Turtle about the pranks he used to pull as a boy, how he’d trick his younger cousins into eating habaneros. Then he’d laugh as their faces turned red. One time he tied a row of firecrackers to a cat’s tail. Everardo and his friends laughed until the cat ran straight into a neighbor’s house. The firecrackers did slide off the cat’s tail, but they dropped inside the living room. Everardo and his friends had to work off payments for new furniture. “This is the son that turned me into an old goat,” Lucia said. She and Everardo laughed with different pitches but in the same rhythm.

His father, Javier, came home a few hours later and nearly lost his breath. He thought he saw the ghost of an ancestor, Everardo Francisco Carrillo, who was rumored to be an early Spanish governor of their hometown, Aldama. Then he nearly fainted when he realized it was a shapeshifter posing as his son. He hugged Everardo and then pulled him back by the shoulders to look at him. Hugged him again and then pulled him back again. He couldn’t believe his eyes.

Javier wanted to show Everardo how his childhood home had been upgraded. New cement on the walls and floors. Then Javier took him outside to show him how he painted the cement walls pink at his mother’s request. He pulled out a ladder and made Everardo climb onto the roof to see how he had personally cut the rain gutters and laid the sheet metal.

Everardo’s parents had a large home—four bedrooms with a living room and kitchen. His parents and his family had hand-built it all. Even the upgrades. It was a community effort. Turtle told me how she admired the way Everardo’s family worked together to build what they needed. She listened carefully as his father explained how he used chicken wire between cement layers. There was something about the way Javier relived the building of the home. Next thing, Turtle started daydreaming. Everardo had promised her a house. One day, he always told her, over and over. But “one day” said everyday sounded more like “never.”

Then Everardo’s aunt stopped by to borrow sugar and coffee from his mother, and word spread like mountain winds cutting through the valley. Every night a cousin or an uncle or an old friend stopped by to visit with Everardo and to meet his wife and child. They bombarded him with questions, “What kind of work is in Oklahoma?” and “How are the cousins doing?” and “Do you have your own home?” Everardo answered accordingly, except when it came to the last. When relatives came to the question of having his own home, he told them he had a house in the middle of Lawton. According to the bull spilling out of Everardo’s mouth, he had to mow the lawn all summer. “You wouldn’t believe how much grass there is,” he’d tell them. Everardo told them about a vegetable garden in the backyard and a flower garden off the sides of the front porch. “It’s easy to grow in Oklahoma,” he said, “The soil is good.”

Turtle only spoke a few phrases in Spanish and a handful of words, but she understood clearly all the bullshit Everardo told his family.

It was a lie she held for their entire trip, and it only pissed Turtle off the more she thought about not having a home of her own. She wanted nothing more than to turn the lie into truth. By time the week was over she was ready to get back to Oklahoma. On the last day, Everardo’s ae-jee asked, “Just one more hug, please?” again and again. They were leaving Mexico, or trying to anyway. But Everardo couldn’t deny his mother. She hadn’t seen him in ten years. Lucia hugged Everardo, Turtle, and then Ever. Only to ask again right after. Then hugged them in the same order.

On the day they were to leave, Javier suddenly needed help with some last-minute work around the yard. A hole needed to be dug for a pig roast the following weekend. Then he needed help replacing a cracked window. He had Everardo hand him tools as he shimmed the busted window out and slid the new one in. When they finally climbed inside their car, tla, Lucia stopped them again. She hurried toward the house yelling, “You need this for the road.” She walked back out of the house with a can of green beans and her only can opener. Everardo tried to turn it away, but his mother said, “No, no, take it.” She reached inside the car window and placed the items on his lap. Then she leaned over to give him one more kiss on his forehead.

On the drive back, Peguis Canyon was wrapped inside a dark shadow, like the mountain chain was witched. Between the growing darkness and desert, Turtle couldn’t even tell which way was north. The night grew so dark it was almost like the sand itself turned black. A place where ski-lees gave birth to demons. Everardo had trekked the highway in his younger days. He seemed to know this part of Mexico well. Turtle focused all her attention on rocking Ever; she wanted him to sleep—the drive would be easier for everyone that way. Once they cleared the canyon, Everardo found a Mexican folk music station. The quick strums from a guitar mixed with a dancing violin made Ever’s eyelids slowly fall. Turtle’s head rolled on her neck from the long serenades between singers. Soon the darkness covering the desert looked like the darkness behind her eyelids. She tried to stay awake, pulling her eyes open and blinking repeatedly. It all started to blur. The night, the desert, the car.

Suddenly, headlights lit up the highway.

Three police cars sat parked side by side and spread across both lanes.

Everardo quickly stopped the car. Turtle didn’t fully understand what was happening until she saw three Mexican policemen standing at the front of their car. She wanted to tell Everardo not to get out. But she couldn’t speak. She was aus-guy. He climbed out of the car and met the policemen at the front of the vehicle. Turtle watched as he handed one of the officers his identification. This officer was the tallest of the three and wore a metal badge. The other two had similar gray uniforms, but without badges. Everardo told the badged officer he was traveling from his parents’ home in Aldama, that his wife and son were in the car. Then the officer asked if he was smuggling contraband into the United States. The officer didn’t wait for Everardo’s response, and asked “Do you have any American money?” Everardo pulled a twenty dollar bill from his pocket, saying, “It’s for gas back to Oklahoma.” The badged officer snatched the twenty dollar bill out of his hand, and told Everardo to follow them back to the police station. They wanted to search the car for drugs.

Turtle said she felt sick to her stomach, and there was something skee-ni in the air. Everardo drove their car behind the badged officer while the other two police cars followed. Soon they arrived at an old, abandoned gas station just off the state highway, a converted store made into a police station. The town of Presidio was about thirty miles ahead, which meant they were only thirty miles from the U.S. border.

They huddled together outside their car, holding each other like tumbleweeds caught on a barbed wire fence. Turtle rocked her oos-di and kissed him on his cheeks. Thankfully, Ever slept. Those ou-yoee grabbed bags of clothes from the backseat and tossed them out. Next they yanked the spare tire from the trunk and threw it onto the ground. Turtle was mostly scared for Ever. She said she thought about running as fast as she could into the night. She just needed to make it to the U.S. border. Surely, the American officers would help her. She was American. Her father served in the Korean War.

Those skee-ni little assholes forced Turtle and Everardo to pick up their belongings that were strewn all over the ground. Turtle climbed into the backseat of the car and carefully laid Ever down. She was grateful when he stayed asleep. He stirred a few times as if he were hungry, but she was able to soothe him. Turtle tucked him into a blanket—not so much to keep the cold out but more to have something weighted on top of him: it always seemed to help him sleep.

Carefully, Turtle climbed out of the backseat and hurried to help Everardo pick up their clothes and stuff them back into the bags. They returned the spare tire to the trunk along with the tire jack. When she bent over to place the things into the car, she noticed those nasty policemen looking at her and smiling, like three horny desert dogs. She tried her best to hurry. She didn’t like them looking at her.

Here she picked up papers that were thrown from the glove box, and she had to chase an envelope toward the policemen. “Do you want me to help you?” the badged officer asked. Turtle snatched up the envelope, hearing their coyote cackles behind her. By the time all the papers were back into the glove box, Turtle was mostly aus-guy for Ever—afraid he’d be missing—so she hurried into the backseat. She had her window down and heard the badged policeman say to Everardo, “Do you know how much money we can get for this car and all the stuff you have?”

“I’m trying to get my family back to Oklahoma,” Everardo said.

The badged officer shoved Everardo to the ground. “Where’s the money?”

“I don’t have any more money,” Everardo said, on his back and hands out.

The officer looked at Everardo’s boots. “I bet I can get some money for these,” he said and reached out to grab them. Everardo tried to pull his feet away but the officer caught the tip of a foot and yanked the boot off. Everardo came back around with his other foot and kicked the officer in the side of his knee. The officer stumbled and nearly fell but caught himself before he landed on the ground. Then he lunged forward and kicked Everardo in the side.

Turtle said she almost screamed but quickly held her breath. Ever was sound asleep. The last thing she needed was for him to wake up and call attention to their hiding place in the car. She wiped her tears as soon as they hit her cheeks. She looked around but could only see darkness and the police station. She knew she was close to Texas, close to the U.S. border, but not close enough to know which direction. She couldn’t follow the road or else the policemen would catch her. She had a hand resting on Ever’s back, and she tried her best to not cry out, to not wake him up.

On the ground, Everardo cringed against the pain in his side.

That awful badged officer pulled out his gun, smiling like a damned ski-lee, and aimed it directly at Everardo’s head.

Everardo said, “No, please. My wife and son are watching, no, please.”

“Maybe I’ll take all of it,” the officer said. “I’ll sell your wife and son, too.”

“God, please,” Everardo begged.

The officer paused, stepped back, and holstered his gun.

Right then, Turtle told me she thought they would release Everardo. There was something about Everardo’s call to God. It made the officer change. She said it seemed to frighten him. He stepped back, stood next to the other two policemen, and postured long enough to give Turtle hope. But then he yelled out into the desert and commanded the two policemen to attack. Everardo curled up into a ball as the two men sent the tips of their cowboy boots into his back, sides, and legs. Everardo used his arms to cover his head, but it didn’t stop the men from stomping their heels onto his hands and arms.

“Please, stop!” Everardo yelled.

The officer pulled the two men away and he climbed on top of Everardo. He pinned Everardo’s arms down with his knees and slammed his fist into Everardo’s face left and right until he went unconscious, but the officer continued, Everardo’s head slung around on a loose neck with each hit.

Turtle knew if they killed Everardo then she and Ever would be next. They wouldn’t leave witnesses. She scooped up Ever. She got out of the car and ran toward the three men. Turtle slid down to her knees in front of the officer. In perfect Spanish, she said, “For God and my son, please stop. Spare us.”

The badged officer was at eye level with Turtle. He paused mid swing.

Tears fell from Turtle’s eyes.

Everardo’s bloody face and gashed head lay between them.

Ever was now wide awake in Turtle’s arms, looking out from underneath the blanket. His eyes caught the officer’s eyes. He was so close to the violence, too close to the rage. Oos-dis weren’t supposed to be around such things. They could be witched. Their spirit forever altered. A witching was almost incurable.

“I have money,” Turtle begged, and she quickly rifled through Ever’s blanket, fumbled with the snaps on his pajamas, and pulled out a tan-colored envelope, the same one that held her Kiowa per cap check. She showed the officer $1,400 in twenties and hundreds. “Take it all,” she begged. “But please leave us at the border.”

The officer looked at Ever in Turtle’s arms and then at the wad of cash in Turtle’s hands. He snatched the money, and barked at the two policemen, “Take them before I change my mind.” He climbed off Everardo and walked toward the police station, using a handkerchief to wipe the blood from his knuckles.

Turtle called me in the middle of the night. She was at a hospital in Presidio, Texas. Worse still, Everardo was nearly beaten to death. First thing I asked about was Ever. Was he okay? How was he doing? Did he see what happened to his daddy? Next thing you know Turtle barked at me, “Lena, save your superstitions for another day.” Mostly, she was upset because her husband was hospitalized. Here all that they had had been stolen. Car, money, clothes, and most important, my grandson’s soul. But Turtle didn’t have the patience to hear the last one.

I wired Turtle money and said I’d drive down. I wanted to tell her, “I’ll only send money if you come back with me to Tahlequah,” but instead I said, “Don’t try to leave before I get there.” I also wanted to tell her, “You should’ve known better,” meaning to go to Mexico. It wasn’t America. It wasn’t safe. I didn’t say that either.

I held my lectures until much later, until I had them in my car, where Turtle couldn’t hang up on me or walk away. The first thing I told my daughter was, “You never take an infant around violence,” and she tried to argue with me, because by her take, Ever was “only” six months old and would never remember the incident. If she moved to Tahlequah, I could teach her how energy easily imprinted on the water molecules of an oos-di. Babies should be laughing and loved on. Not watching their fathers being beaten to near death. Turtle called my fears “superstitious mumbo jumbo.” But it didn’t stop me from telling her that Ever would need to be cured by a medicine man. When Turtle laughed, I could tell she wanted me to be offended. Then afterward, she suddenly fell dead silent. I saw the concern grow on her face. The last thing either of us wanted was for our precious oos-di to be forever witched.

Lawton was the last place I wanted to go, or wanted my daughter and grandson to go. I wanted to stay on I-44 and continue north to Oklahoma City. Then I’d turn east along I-40 so I could eventually turn north again and follow highway 69 through Muskogee. Then we would’ve been safely inside Tahlequah. My hometown. But Turtle jumped into the driver’s seat when we stopped for gas in Wichita Falls. She said, “I’ll drive the last hour to Lawton.” She knew me better than most. Surely, I wouldn’t kidnap my daughter and her family. Here I was offended she thought I’d try. Maybe she half expected me to make the threat, and I’d be lying if I hadn’t considered it.

But I took the opportunity to refresh her memory about dirty old Lawton. It was as gada-haee as exhaust shooting out of a tailpipe, and no one cared enough to clean it. A dozen Lawtons could fit inside Oklahoma City, but it had more violent crimes. The gangs and the drugs were out of control. I hated to say it, but it was a poor town, a rat’s nest, if you asked me. Fort Sill barely kept the city alive. Turtle’s only reason to stay in Lawton was her daddy, Vincent, who barely took care of himself. Vincent lived off land-lease money and social security. He spent more on liquor than on his own family. And now she had a husband who lay in the backseat of my car like a sick dog. How was she going to survive? Ever had been through enough already. He didn’t need to be exposed to more of the same. Better yet, I could call on a medicine man to have Ever cured.

Instead Turtle focused on driving and didn’t say a word to me. Her face flushed, and the red in her cheeks nearly boiled to a purple. There was a second reason to stay in Lawton, her sister, Lila. But she wasn’t going to be any help. She had a family of her own. “How was she going to take on a whole other family?” I asked her. Again, Turtle pretended to not hear. Sadly, my warnings didn’t stop her from pulling off I-44 and onto Lee Boulevard, so I began to plead, telling her how I’d give her the money that was stolen, but only if she came with me to Tahlequah. I didn’t even deny Everardo. “Bring him, too,” I told her.

It would’ve been better to get a snide answer, but Turtle wasn’t built that way. She drove us through Lawton and pulled up to Vincent’s house, letting me sulk like a ten-year-old. I’ll give her this: her silence was precise and cut perfectly into the heart.

“What’s wrong with Everardo?” I asked. I knew he was beaten but there was more, something she wouldn’t say. It took us both to help him into Vincent’s house, and she finally said, “It’s his kidneys. He’s still peeing blood.” I was shocked because it was the first time I realized how deeply Everardo was wounded. Suddenly, I realized that his damaged kidneys could turn into a permanent disability. Now I truly understood the depth of Turtle’s concern—not only for the health of her husband, but for their future raising a family.

Sure enough, Vincent wasn’t home, and Turtle told me how he disappeared as soon as his Kiowa per cap check arrived. I wasn’t surprised. I also wasn’t surprised to step into his little one-bedroom house to find it in such sad condition. There were no decorations on the walls, dust stood an inch thick on every surface, and his kitchen was littered with dishes. It was likely in as sad a condition as Vincent himself, but he wasn’t around to compare. We helped Everardo into Vincent’s bed, and Turtle situated the pillows just right. A glass of water. Pain pills.

Ever kept me busy by constantly crawling into the kitchen and then the bathroom. To distract him, I handed him one of Vincent’s gourd rattles. Ever sat in the middle of the living room holding the rattle and swung the metal tin shaker repeatedly over his head, as if he were calling to the birds. I couldn’t help but laugh at how much he reminded me of Vincent. The way Vincent held his eagle feather fan and gourd rattle during the dances. He’d almost cross the two just above his head, his knees bent low with each drop to the drumbeat. It was easy to fall in love with Vincent—he was like a drug—but I hadn’t known what I was getting myself into until it was already too late.

And there I sat in Vincent’s living room. A part of me wanted to wait long enough to watch him walk through the door. The part that remembered his dance, and his sideways glances laced with a playful cockiness. Maybe I still loved him. But not enough to forget the pain, like his absence, like the emptiness of this home. I watched Turtle zip into the kitchen and then back to the bedroom, rummage through a closet and then back to the bedroom, and then hurry into the bathroom and then back to the bedroom. Then I looked down at Ever, shaking his grandfather’s rattle. That’s when I understood Turtle was still caught in Everardo’s dance. The way I had been caught in Vincent’s. She wouldn’t leave Everardo any more than an alcoholic could leave alcohol. So I picked up Ever, kissed him hard on the check, and told him, “Make your momma bring you to me. I’ll get you a medicine man.” I laughed at his big, bright eyes.

Then I handed Ever to Turtle, and told her, “When you’re ready to move to Tahlequah, call me.”

It was during one of our rare phone calls when Vincent explained to me how he came home a week later and found Everardo lying in his bed. Vincent told me how Turtle was nowhere to be seen, and neither was Ever. Vincent stood in the doorway to his own bedroom. He and Everardo locked eyes.

Vincent asked, “Where’s my daughter?”

Everardo was tucked under Vincent’s Pendleton blanket and responded in Spanish. Vincent had no idea what he said. He walked into the living room and laughed at himself for being unable to go into his own room. Vincent took sympathy when he saw how badly Everardo was beaten. The bruises were likely fading and becoming yellow, but the majority of his face had to have been swollen and gashed, and even if the swelling was modest at that point it’d still be enough to frighten anyone who suddenly crossed him. By that evening, Vincent started to worry if Turtle had abandoned Everardo all together, left him lying in her father’s bed as a sort of odd revenge on them both. Vincent told me how he laughed at the idea of Turtle forcing the two men in her life to deal with each other. Turtle had her ways. She might not tear you apart like a tornado, but she knew how to bend you with the lightest breeze. But he became more and more frustrated as each minute passed. Here he was trapped inside his own house, of all things.

Finally, Turtle walked through the door, and quickly apologized as soon as she saw her daddy. She sat Ever in the middle of the living room with his toys but kept apologizing as she did so.

Vincent barked, “What the hell is going on?” He not only wanted to know what was happening with Everardo but also why she would leave him all day in such condition.


  • Winner of the PEN America/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel
    Finalist for the 2023 Aspen Words Literary Prize
    Finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize/Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction

    A TIME Must-Read Book of 2022
    A BookPage Best Fiction Book of 2022
    A Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction and Best Debut Book of 2022

    “With intricate prose and unflinching vernacular, Oscar Hokeah chronicles a family and a community. We learn trials and aspirations for each generation, and witness what is woven into complicated arrival. We need these characters and their testimonies. But more than that, we crave –I crave—this kind of honest storytelling. These rhythms. These dances. This beauty. This welcoming to a place where the people speak and are unafraid.”
    Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, author of The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois

    “A profound reflection on the intergenerational nature of cultural trauma… Hokeah’s characters exist at the intersection of Kiowa, Cherokee and Mexican identity, which provides a vital exploration of indigeneity in contemporary American letters.”
    The New York Times Book Review
    “Hokeah skillfully recreates the years leading up to and following Ever’s birth, capturing the traumas and complexities that shaped him into who he is and may determine who he becomes.”
    “Quaking with age-old righteous anger but nevertheless luminescent with hope.”

    “Oscar Hokeah explores family and identity, past and present, in his debut novel… Above all, the book explores family relationships, obligation, resentment, and devotion.”
    —The Boston Globe

    “Hokeah’s prose is punchy and descriptive, filled with Native American words and phrases that come naturally to the characters. This blending of languages is still uncommon in contemporary fiction, but the current Indigenous literary and cultural renaissance promises that more voices will grow this singularity into a rich multitude. But of course, renaissance is the wrong word to use here. Hokeah, who is of Mexican heritage as well as a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, shows that this tradition has been here the whole time, evolving and surviving.”
    “This miraculous story presents a collective imagining not only of who its main character is, but who everyone else anticipated and dreamed he could become. It is a must-read.”
    “Drawing on a wealth of Indigenous tradition, Hokeah has produced in his debut a novel that underscores the quiet strength that arises when a family is true to its identity and the too common tragedy that results when identity is suppressed.”
    The Millions
    “An auspicious debut . . . Recalling both Tommy Orange and Gabriel Garcia Marquez in its narrative structure . . . A book to deeply invest in.”
    Chicago Review of Books
    “Told from a variety of voices, this story is one of love, loss, growth, tradition and evolution. Not to be missed.”
    Ms. Magazine
    “[A] captivating debut . . . with striking insight into human nature and beautiful prose, this heralds an exciting new voice.”
    Publishers Weekly, starred review

    “What is wonderful about Hokeah’s debut is that each character gets to tell their own story, while also covering Ever’s life, who they each feel responsible for as part of their family and community. ... What we have with this book is a complete picture of one person as seen by others, and an entire community made up of Kiowa, Cherokee, and Mexican Americans, each with their own language, speech rhythms, and ways of seeing the world.”
    Literary Hub
    “Hokeah’s debut will feel familiar to fans of Louise Erdrich and Tommy Orange . . . A novel that builds in richness and intricacy . . . Another noteworthy debut in what feels like an ongoing renaissance of Indigenous peoples’ literature, both reflecting this lineage and introducing an exciting, fresh new voice to the choir.”
    Library Journal

    “As in the novels of Louise Erdrich and Tommy Orange, the chorus of voices—rendered in unadorned vernacular peppered with Indigenous words—evokes a close-knit Native community in all its varied humanity, anchored by tradition while marked by injustices past and present… Simply told and true to life.”
    Kirkus Reviews

    “A masterwork of peripheral narration.”
    Kirkus Reviews, "Best of 2022: A Year of the 'Fully Booked' Podcast"

    “Oscar Hokeah’s debut novel… reads like a Louise Erdrich novel. Yet, while this inspiration seems clear, Hokeah’s story is profoundly original.”
    Chicago Review of Books

    “A moving symphony of voices, and a beautiful story about loss and belonging."
    Book Riot

    “Hokeah's novel not only tells a story that is ultimately uplifting, but also immerses readers in Oklahoma's Kiowa, Cherokee and Mexican communities… Ever and his family aren't looking for a way to define themselves within a larger national identity, but they are trying to pry their lives from the forces of generational trauma that shape their community.”
    Minneapolis Star Tribune

    “With beautiful prose and a deeply moving cast of characters, Calling for a Blanket Dance introduces Oscar Hokeah as an important and exciting new voice in literary fiction.”
    Electric Literature

    “Speaking to a shared experience of many Indigenous peoples, this novel puts readers in the shoes of a people trying to make their way in a country that has stolen their place.”
    Morning Brew’s Sidekick
    “A necessary and important addition to your TBR.”
    The Young Folks

    “A coming-of-age tale that is uniquely Kiowa and Cherokee, and that celebrates connection, family and honor.”
    Minnesota Public Radio / MPR News with Kerri Miller
    “A coming-of-age tale that is uniquely Kiowa and Cherokee, and that celebrates connection, family and honor.”
    Minnesota Public Radio / MPR News with Kerri Miller
    “Riveting… Hokeah’s character’s work their way through and beyond so many obstacles. What emerges is an authentic cultural voice speaking on behalf of the many ways family bonds bend, break, and hold on forever.”
    KCUR (Kansas NPR) / Up To Date
    “Filled with astonishing immediacy, and embellished with Hokeah’s authentic voice, these epic stories soar with indelible images of a proud, but challenged, people who find strength through their blood-lines and their enduring familial love. Some characters are so broken and bitter that I was moved to tears. But most characters persevere, and thrive, through the indomitable will and pride of their heritage. Hokeah has accomplished something unique here. In his quietly brilliant depiction of his Cherokee/Kiowa/ Mexican heritage he has dipped into his medicine bag and gifted us with a small but compelling masterpiece. This should be required reading for every American.”
    Kiana Davenport, author of Shark Dialogues
    “The characters that populate Calling for a Blanket Dance are real, amazing, vulnerable and beautiful in their flaws and, even despair—Oscar Hokeah unveils their suffering and joy, their struggle to live with honor, care for family, walk right. What an accomplishment. Few writers have the courage or craft to pull this off. Oscar Hokeah beats the drum and stomps, announcing his power is back, the people have returned with powerful stories. He weaves a tale that is unforgettable and fortifying. I couldn’t put the book down.”
    Jimmy Santiago Baca, author of A Place to Stand
    Calling for a Blanket Dance is a stunning novel. Oscar Hokeah writes from deep inside the heart of his communities, bringing life to generations of voices who became so real to me they felt like relatives. The reader can’t help but invest in each character as they navigate bitter challenges, sometimes surprising themselves with their strength, their ability to survive and love. Hokeah’s prose gorgeously weaves authentic local vernacular with the lyrical notes of hard-won insight. This novel belongs on every recommended booklist for fans of literary fiction.”
    Susan Power, author of The Grass Dancer
    “Hokeah offers us a rich tapestry of interconnected narratives, a chorus of distinct voices battling against history, failing bodies, and barren landscapes. We move through decades, fall in love and despair with the Geimaussadle family. The scale and beauty reminds you of One Hundred Years of Solitude set in Oklahoma. Here’s a True American Epic.”
     —Gabriel Bump, author of Everywhere You Don’t Belong
    “As a plethora of voices accompany Ever Geimausaddle's upbringing, we learn of challenges and resilience, the multilingual language of hope and the grace of forgiveness. Their lives, tender and difficult, full of awe and learning, remind us that the borderlands are fluid regions where families have intermingled, overcome challenges, and danced together for centuries."
    Cristina Rivera Garza, author of Grieving: Dispatches from a Wounded Country
    “Oscar Hokeah is the real deal.  A new voice with ancient music.”
    Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The House of Broken Angels

    “Oscar Hokeah brings to life a kaleidoscope of characters from an unforgettable Native American family. His depiction of Indigenous cultures honors their strength of community with remarkable love and healing humor, sending out a vital drumbeat of hope for future generations.”
    Christian Science Monitor

    Calling for a Blanket Dance stitches an intergenerational quilt of rich themes… unassuming, accessible, and profound.”

    “[Calling for a Blanket Dance] crosses multiple generations and cultures, always with a generous eye, connecting every strand in an indelible vision.” 
    Spectrum Culture

    “Author Oscar Hokeah and narrator Rainy Fields both give vivid, emotional performances in this intergenerational drama… Together, Hokeah and Fields bring this multifaceted novel to life, drawing listeners into the messy web of community and family that Ever inhabits.”
    AudioFile Magazine

    “A lyrical, unputdownable multigenerational tale rooted in family and love.”
    Portland Public Library

    “Hokeah’s debut novel proves the impact of generational resilience—what it means to pass down knowledge, tradition, and values… What sets the novel apart from a collection is that the characters refuse to stand alone, choosing to quilt their stories together. Calling for a Blanket Dance becomes a blanket, and, just like the stitches that bind them, it’s the love for community that holds the novel together.”
    World Literature Today

    “A compelling book about how our family shapes how we are seen and who we become... Honest and powerful, great storytelling.”
    —The Southern Bookseller Review

    “A collective story about familial bonds that readers won’t soon forget.”
    Tribal College: The Journal of American Indian Higher Education

    “A story of love and resiliency that is hard to put down. Calling for a Blanket Dance is a novel sure to remind many readers of their own families, the individuality that each person brings, the crucial role that community plays, and our interconnection."
    Latinx in Publishing

    “Generations of struggles, questions, and trauma all come to a head in the person of Ever Geimausaddle, the Native American protagonist of this far-reaching story by Oscar Hokeah. As Ever struggles to figure out his place in the world and what his future looks like, stories from his parents, grandparents, and other members of his community intertwine with his in a tale that reaches far beyond just one man’s life.”

    “Calling for a Blanket Dance stitches an intergenerational quilt of rich themes… unassuming, accessible, and profound.”

On Sale
Jul 25, 2023
Page Count
288 pages
Algonquin Books

Oscar Hokeah

About the Author

Oscar Hokeah is a citizen of Cherokee Nation and the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma from his mother's side and has Mexican heritage through his father. He holds an MA in English with a concentration in Native American Literature from the University of Oklahoma, as well as a BFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), with a minor in Indigenous Liberal Studies. He is a recipient of the Truman Capote Scholarship Award through IAIA and is also a winner of the Native Writer Award through the Taos Summer Writers Conference. His short stories have been published in South Dakota Review, American Short Fiction, Yellow Medicine Review, Surreal South, and Red Ink Magazine. He works with Indian Child Welfare in Tahlequah.

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