Native americans

Ritualistic murder in 1920s America: Cahokia Jazz, by Francis Spufford, reviewed

Writers dealing with that knottiest of problems in fiction – to what extent can they describe cultures and societies not their own without appropriation, an insulting level of ignorance and/or launching a social media storm – are going about it in different ways. The latest novel by Sebastian Faulks is set in the future (where, pleasingly, everyone still needs a coat, phew). Val McDermid has gone the other way and returned to smoky, bottom-pinching years, starting with 1979. Francis Spufford’s solution to writing about race – and race in America at that – is to propose an alternate reality, invent an intensely detailed city to do it in, and extrapolate

Both epic and intimate: The Love Songs of W.E. Du Bois, by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, reviewed

To write a first novel of 800 pages is either supremely confident or crazy. Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, a professor of English at the University of Oklahoma and the author of five poetry collections, now gives us The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, a multigenerational saga set over two centuries. It opens in the 18th, with a young black American in search of the Seminole tribe in Florida. Instead, he finds another Native American community in an area of Georgia fabulously named The-Place-in-the-Middle-of-the-Tall-Trees. He calls himself Coromantee, and is embraced by the Creeks. This part of the novel is narrated like a chorus by the collective voice of the community.

What does ownership of land really mean?

At the end of the last century, Simon Winchester bought 123 acres of wooded mountainside in the hamlet of Wassaic, the village of Armenia, the town of Dover, the country of Dutchess, the state of New York, the country of America. His land had originally been inhabited by the Mohicans, who grew corn and squash and beans until they were expelled by the Dutch. It was then owned, in the titular sense, by Charles II, James II, Mary II, William III and Georges I, II and III, and had passed through the hands of a series of farmers, charcoal-makers and Sicilian immigrants before Winchester became its custodian. Despite having written

Born to be wild: the plight of salmon worldwide

In the Pacific Northwest, Native Americans paint images of salmon on to stones. They say that if you rub those stones you will acquire the fish’s two great qualities: determination and energy. Not so long ago these communities’ diets consisted of more than 80 per cent salmon, and they believed it to be a wondrous thing that the migratory fish returned on the same week every year. They also believed they ‘owed the salmon respect and gratitude’ — and if they failed in this they might stop coming back. In the 19th and 20th centuries their fears were realised. But it wasn’t Native Americans who were disrespectful to the once