“False Star”
by Sterling HolyWhiteMountain
from the March 20, 2023 issue of The New Yorker

It’s great to see Sterling HolyWhiteMountain’s fiction again in The New Yorker. While still young and without (that I can find) a story collection of novel published, he has had several more stories published in places like Guernica and The Paris Review. I’m afraid I am not able to comment much more as I still have not read anything other than “Featherweight” when it was published in 2021. I thought it was excellent, and I’m glad to have another to read this week.

Here is how “False Star” begins:

As we know, there is a long and storied history of a certain kind of dealing on the part of Uncle Sam with his indians, and so there have also been times when America wakes up after a long weekend of terror only to rediscover its morals and decide a renewed effort is in order, and though I would not go so far as to say these efforts have been particularly . . . genuine . . . what did come from one such gesture was this thing people in my part of indian country—which is, indisputably, the best and most beautiful part, the Blackfeet Reservation—called a claim check, which in the end was money you might get when you turned eighteen. The check came from a land claim, settled with the Feds decades before I was born. As far back as I could remember, I had heard discussion of claim checks. There was something elemental about it: the talk circled round in a seasonal way. People joked about being claim-check rich and then later laughed about being claim-check broke. They bought claim-check cars, got claim-check drunk, and some got claim-check married. That’s how it was for us for a long time, until the money ran out. The Feds are never more careful with limits and end dates on their moral awakenings than they are with us, such is the concern that we might steal the whole country right out from under them. Then we were back to where we were before, a bunch of broke skins way out on the Northern Plains, teasing one another. So this is a story about how I got my part of the money, how I spent it, and the people in my life at that time, such as Big Man, who raised me, and of course June, who I loved before any other, and who has been gone now longer than any of us had the chance to know her when she was alive.

Please share your thoughts below, and I hope you’re having a good start to a new week.

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