In August 1969, two teenage Ojibwe cousins, Sher and Kris, leave their northern Minnesota reservation for the lights of Minneapolis. The girls arrive in the city with only $12, their grandfather’s WWII pack, two stainless steel cups, some face makeup, gum, and a lighter. But it’s the ancestral connections they are also carrying – to the land and trees, to their family and culture, to love and loss – that shapes their journey most. As they search for work, they cross paths with a gay Jewish boy, homeless white and Indian women, and men on the prowl for runaways. Making their way to the Minnesota State Fair, the Indian girls try to escape a fate set in motion centuries earlier.
Set in a summer of hippie Vietnam War protests and the moon landing, Carnival Lights also spans settler arrival in the 1800s, the creation of the reservation system, and decades of cultural suppression, connecting everything from lumber barons’ mansions to Nazi V-2 rockets to smuggler’s tunnels in creating a narrative history of Minnesota.
“Carnival Lights is a heartbreaking wonder of gorgeous prose and urgent story.” — Mona Susan Power, author of The Grass Dancer, a PEN/Hemingway Winner