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Cheyenne Madonna’ author Eddie Chuculate weaves a shocking and memorable read

Marielle Hampe | Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Raw emotion, realistic details and rapid plot shifts characterize Eddie Chuculate’s fictional book, “Cheyenne Madonna.” Chuculate will be reading from his book Thursday in the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.. The event is free and open to the public.

Chuculate won the O. Henry Prize in 2007 for his short story “Galveston Bay, 1826,” the first of the seven short stories in “Cheyenne Madonna.” Just published in July, “Cheyenne Madonna” is Chuculate’s first book.

“Galveston Bay, 1826” describes Cheyenne Indian Old Bull travelling to the ocean for the first time with his friends. An unexpected hurricane leaves Old Bull the only survivor. The remaining six interconnected short stories of “Cheyenne Madonna” detail Jordan Coolwater’s adventures 150 years later as he leaves Oklahoma and travels to the West to become a sculptor.

Jordan Coolwater is introduced as a seventh grade boy spending the summer with his grandparents on Creek Indian land. YoYo, a self-assured and sexually explicit ninth grade African American girl, moves into a nearby house. YoYo quickly escalates their friendship into a shocking evening alone at her house. The events are at first baffling, but Chuculate’s narrative is daring. His plot twists and climatic scenes earn him appreciation as an articulate and masterful storyteller.

Chuculate’s plot digs deeps into human emotions and situations. Chuculate does not spare any topic from discussion. Alcoholism, racism and sexual abuse are only a few of the difficult topics Chuculate seamlessly weaves into his text.

Each situation and plot detail is unexpected. The book manages to enlighten, question and enrage the reader all within a short span of text. “Cheyenne Madonna’s” plot is sometimes shocking, but the surprising and unsettling parts of its story only add to its appeal.

Alcohol and art become driving forces of the text’s plot. Alcoholism permeates Jordan’s family as both his uncle and father are heavy binge drinkers. Jordan also cannot escape alcohol, and his addiction becomes more apparent as he seeks to further his artistic career.

Jordan’s relationship with his father, Shorty, is expressed more clearly in the story “Dear Shorty.” Chuculate foreshadows later despair in its opening paragraph when he writes, “What a lonely feeling that is, at the edge of the earth, the edge of your hopes, to look out over a balcony as spooky nighttime fog creeps in, and not be able to see the water but only hear it, hear it boil to a hushed roar, then release.”

Beautiful descriptive details such as this make the reader engage with Chuculate’s text. Not only are his details descriptive, but his characters are realistic and honest. Each character suffers, makes mistakes and learns through pain.

Jordan’s life takes a myriad of twists and turns which ultimately end with him in prison. After prison, Jordan begins his artistic career anew and rediscovers love.

Chuculate successfully weaves a unique plot. The text’s realistic character descriptions, fast-paced plot and unexpected outcomes keep the text a mystery until the end.

Although the plot’s outcomes are sometimes sad, Chuculate’s eloquent story relates a message of hope. The text is hopeful for a new beginning, for a new chance of self-discovery and for the possibility of achieving a person’s dreams and goals. “Cheyenne Madonna” is a shocking and evocative read not soon forgotten.


On campus

What: “Cheyenne Madonna” reading by author Eddie Chuculate

Where: Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore

When: Thursday, Sept. 30, 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

How much: free

Learn more: nai.nd.edu