I don’t usually like collections of short stories, but Eddie Chuculate’s book Cheyenne Madonna could change my mind. He uses the short story as the narrative of Jordan Coolwater’s life. A life of artistic talent and too much alcohol. “You can trace the progression of alcoholism in my family like a flying arrow and I’m the bull’s-eye.” Dear Shorty centers on his relationship with his father, and the tragedy of alcoholism, as they become more drinking partners than father/son.
The stories begin before his birth, with Old Bull, a Cheyenne Indian, going on an adventure with three of his friends, he survives a hurricane to return home alone, bringing his “dream tale” with him. The stories move through his upbringing by his Creek Indian grandparents, to his many problems with alcohol, incarceration and relationships with women. At the end of the book, Jordan hooks up with Lisa Old Bull, and all our stories become links.
My favorite is the story of his friend, Yolanda, a coming of age story amid the complex dance of race relations in Oklahoma. Then there’s the tale, A Famous Indian Artist, his in your face, drinking, and living life large, Uncle. Chuculate writes his realism with style and grace. All the stories ring true with no excuses, life is what it is, along with the good and bad relationships. Chuculate may be telling us we’re all just hanging on for the ride like Old Bull in the hurricane.
Give this Oklahoma author some of your time.
Eddie Chuculate is Creek and Cherokee Indian from Muskogee, Oklahoma. He has a degree in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Cheyenne Madonna is his first book (hopefully not his last). He lives in Oklahoma.