‘Sinister Graves’ Discovers Ojibwa Detective Becomes His Own Wife – Twin Cities

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As Aboriginal people, we knew that to survive we had to create, recreate, produce, reproduce. The effect of denying our existence is that many of us have become invisible. The systematic disruption of our families by the abduction of our children has been effective in silencing our voices… However, not everyone can calm this desire, this inner rise which says to sing, write, draw, move, be. We can sing our hearts out, tell stories, paint our visions. We are able to create a more human reality. To live, we must make our own mirrors. – From Marcie Rendon’s artist statement on her writing.

Marcie Rendon debuts her new Cash Blackbear mystery, “Sinister Graves,” at the Rain Taxi Twin Cities Book Festival on October 15, 2022 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. (Courtesy of Soho Press)

Cash Blackbear grows up and becomes his own wife in “Sinister Graves,” the third entry in Marcie Rendon’s series featuring 19-year-old Blackbear, an Ojibwe woman who became emotionally closed off after a cruel childhood in foster homes .

Rendon will debut “Sinister Graves” at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 15 at the Twin Cities Book Festival at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

A registered member of the White Earth Nation in Minnesota, Rendon imbues her novels with compassion for Indigenous women who are missing or killed and never found. Cash’s tenacity, commitment to justice and vulnerability honor these women.

“Money is every Indigenous woman who is resilient in the face of historical trauma,” says the author.

Cash is an intriguing character, a 5-foot-tall swimming pool hustler and farmhand, who was rescued by Sheriff Wheaton as a child. She helps the Sheriff solve crimes because she “knows things”, sometimes sensing what will happen in the future or getting murder vibes from a corpse.

Rendon featured Cash in 2017 in “Murder on the Red River,” winner of the Pinckley Award for First Novel and Friends of the St. Paul Public Library’s One Book/One Minnesota in 2021. Cash’s second adventure, “Girl Gone Missing” (2019), was nominated for the Sue Grafton Memorial Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

Cash lives in Fargo where, in the first book, she helps the sheriff investigate the death of an Indian. In “Girl Gone Missing”, Cash is a freshman at Moorhead State College and works with Wheaton to find one of her missing classmates.

“Sinister Graves” finds Cash still in college. She lives alone in her small apartment, smokes too much (we are in the 1970s) and drinks a lot of beer at the Casbah, the neighborhood bar. She still has not ended her uninteresting affair with a married man.

When the Red River overflows, the body of an unidentified Indian woman floats into town. The only clue to her identity is a small piece of paper in her bra that references a hymn in English and Ojibway.

This clue leads Cash to a small church on the prairie, where she is greeted by the handsome, seemingly compassionate preacher and his uptight wife. Not far from the house, Cash and his Indian friend Geno find the unmarked graves of two children. Above them hovers a huge dark cloud.

“‘It was the biggest jibay I’ve ever seen.’ Geno took a sip of his coke.

Cash raised an eyebrow in a question.

‘Jibay. Phantom. Ghost dead.’

‘Dead ghost? What are you doing man, dead ghost? What do you know of them?

‘Know how to stay away.’ ”

Tenacious Cash does not stand aside. After the sheriff and Geno head southwest where Geno will be an art student, Cash is alone in her visits to the pastor and his wife. The pastor says his wife, who sometimes acts strangely, is devastated by the loss of two children. There’s another dead woman and a crying baby in the parsonage. None of this makes sense to Cash as she delves deeper into what’s going on in the little church.

Cash also befriends other Indian students, including a woman his age who is as good at billiards as Cash. Growing up in foster homes where she was treated like a servant, Cash never cared about clothes. She’s just wearing a clean T and jeans. But when her pool partner makes ribbon shirts to wear to a pool tournament, Cash smoothes the soft silk and begins to realize she can care what she’s wearing. And when she’s in someone’s tidy little apartment, she looks around and thinks maybe she could put a few things on their walls and make their house cozier.

This book ends with Cash in the scariest situation in this series, with the dead ghost hovering.

In 2024, Rendon will celebrate the release of ‘Stitches of Tradition’, which chronicles a young girl’s journey to womanhood through the bond she shares with her nookomis (my grandmother) as they sew skirts in ribbon for ceremonies celebrating the women around them, illustrated by Ojibwe Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley.

Rendon’s other public readings of “Sinister Graves”:

  • 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 18, Once Upon a Crime, 604 W. 26th St., Mpls.
  • 7 p.m. Monday, October 24, SubText Books, 6 W. Fifth St., St. Paul
  • 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 1, Birchbark Books, 2115 W. 21st St., Mpls.
  • 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2, Next Chapter Booksellers, 38 S. Snelling Ave., St. Paul

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE TWIN TOWNS BOOK FESTIVAL

Sponsored by Minneapolis-based Rain Taxi Review, the free festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, October 15 at the Progress Center and Fine Arts building at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

There will be an all-day showroom with used books and records for sale, tables for publishers and book-related organizations as well as author events for all ages on the buildings’ stages Progress and Fine Arts.

Marcie Rendon is not the only one to launch a new work.

Dessa’s “Tits on the Moon” is the latest in Rain Taxi’s series of collections, released by Rain Taxi in association with Doomtree, the hip hop collective and label of which Dessa is a founding member. This is a special festival finale with a 5 p.m. ticket at the Palais des Beaux-Arts. Attendees can pick up a $5 ticket at the Progress Center’s Rain Taxi kiosk between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on the day of the festival.

The Minnesota Author Mashup includes 35 poets, novelists and nonfiction writers celebrating a publication this year. As an extension of the Mashup, the festival asked writers Abby Jimenez, Raymond Luczak and Chris Martin to give an overview of the books they admire. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., attendees can meet small groups of local authors to discuss whatever is on their minds.

The authors, clockwise from top left, John Coy, Sharon Gibney, Sun Yung Shin and Diane Wilson will launch their book
The authors, clockwise from top left, John Coy, Shannon Gibney, Sun Yung Shin and Diane Wilson will launch their book “Where We Come From” at the Twin Cities Book Festival on October 15, 2022.

“Where We Come From,” a children’s book written by four Minnesotans, is getting a lot of attention. Writers John Coy and Shannon Gibney will be at the festival with co-writers Diane Wilson and Sun Yung Shin appearing in a pre-recorded chat. In the book, the authors explore where they each come from – literally and metaphorically – as well as what unites us all as humans.

Among the presenters will be Vanessa Torres and Gary Eldon Peter, talking about growing up Minnesotan; a fiction showcase with Phong Nguyen, Robin McLean and Akil Kumarasamy; a mid-level showcase with Anika Fajardo, Brian Farrey and Kristin F. Johnson; and a poetry showcase with Major Jackson, Brenda Hillman and Stephanie Burt.

The festival has a website that offers author biographies and schedules for readings and round tables. At the festival there is a lot of information about the programs and how to navigate between the two buildings. There is plenty of free parking.

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