- Night Sky, Morning Star
Night Sky, Morning Star won the 1999 First Book Award for Fiction from the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas for Isleta/San Juan Pueblo writer Evelina Zuni Lucero. The award is well deserved. Lucero has created an engaging and meaningful narrative, populated by memorable characters whose stories intersect and come full circle on journeys of loss, remembrance, and healing—personal quests made from within a vital tribal community and set in terms of the ongoing struggle for Native sovereignty.
Cecelia Bluespruce is a gifted Isleta Pueblo potter and sculptor. Her adult son, Jude, urgently seeks the father he has never met. Julian Morningstar, incarcerated twenty-three years on trumped-up charges related to American Indian Movement activity, has little hope of parole. As Jude's search and Cecilia's own disturbing, prophetic dreams burst open her long-kept secrets, she finds she must confront her complicated feelings for Julian, the only man she has ever loved. Cecelia eventually reaches out to her cousin Marli, a Native American studies professor, and their Auntie Reena, proprietor of a reservation curio shop, both of whom must come to terms with her own painful and private history in order to find integration and resolution.
Night Sky's plot is interwoven with the concrete details of the characters' lives, both mundane and momentous. The novel travels through rivalry between the Indian students at a Board of Indian Affairs–run boarding school and the public high school, university activism, powwows, "49s" and fancy dance competitions, the American Indian Movement, and programmatic fbi suppression of the movement. These details allow [End Page 319] the story to move actively forward rather than getting suspended within purely internal landscapes. Lucero roots her characters' emotional lives within the day-to-day realities of contemporary southwestern Native America: Marli wrangles with a corrupt computer disk in her office at the University of New Mexico while listening to the Indian program on the campus radio station; and Cecelia prices and bubble wraps her clay pieces in preparation for a craft show, wondering how to determine the value of work that will be sold to shoppers who are just as likely to pass her table by, saying, "This stuff is way too expensive. We'll stop by one of those stores where you can buy something Indian for a dollar."
The novel's point of view shifts among the central characters and from the past to the mid-1990s present. Marli, a veteran of a string of bad relationships, confronts her memories of betrayal by her former lover, a champion fancy dancer. She finds a decent, caring partner in Cecelia's friend, Laguna Pueblo potter Rupert, only to find that Rupert is the son of Guy, Reena's first husband, a scoundrel who publicly humiliated Reena with his philandering. Cecelia, who has walled herself off from love since her relationship with Julian, begins spending time with attorney Drew Kamore, but she has not forgotten Julian any more than he has forgotten her.
Among Night Sky's many strengths is its portrayal of close family ties among women and its redemptive vision of heterosexual love, whereby healing occurs through restorative relationships between women and men. There are also moments in the novel, however, when this vision can be restrictive. When Jude learns that Cecelia knows who his father is, he says, "It was such a relief to know my mother wasn't a whore," as he imagined her to be when he thought that she had had multiple sexual partners. Jude's point of view makes sense in light of the character's pain and confusion, but his notion of sexual virtue is not challenged in the novel. Similarly, Julian's homophobia is true to the prison culture but, again, is not interrogated by Lucero or her characters. "Faggots" are "the lowest of the low," and a gay Indian prisoner is threatened by "his homeboys from the rez" for "affecting the honor of the whole group."
Yet one of the uplifting aspects of the novel is that...