50 pages 1 hour read

Oscar Hokeah

Calling for a Blanket Dance

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2022

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Summary and Study Guide


Calling for a Blanket Dance, published in 2022, is Oscar Hokeah’s first novel. Hokeah, a citizen of both the Cherokee Nation and the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, holds a BFA in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and a master’s degree in English with a concentration in Native American literature from the University of Oklahoma. He works with Indian Child Welfare Services in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Calling for a Blanket Dance examines generational trauma, resilience, identity development, and the importance of family bonds in both Kiowa and Cherokee communities. In his representations of the complexity of familial and communal bonds, Hokeah draws upon his years of experience working with at-risk Indigenous youth. Calling for a Blanket Dance is also a prize-winning text: It was the winner of the PEN America/Hemingway Award for a debut novel and was a finalist for the Aspen Words Literary Prize and the LA Times Book Prize/Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction in 2023.

This guide refers to the 2022 paperback edition published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

Content Warning: The source text and this guide include depictions of violence, self-harm, substance use and misuse, anti-Indigenous racism, and dated terminology for Indigenous peoples.

Plot Summary

Calling for a Blanket Dance is a polyvocal novel, told through the voices of 12 different narrators, each of whom is part of the extended family of the protagonist, Ever Geimausaddle. The first chapter, narrated by Ever’s grandmother Lena, tells the story of Ever’s parents and his birth. Lena warns her daughter Turtle not to marry the troubled Everardo, but Turtle does not listen. She and Everardo give birth to a son, Ever, who is witness to his father’s brutal beating at the hands of border agents while driving back from a visit to his grandparents in Chihuahua, Mexico.

The second chapter, narrated by Ever’s grandfather Vincent, tells the story of Vincent’s end-of-life decision to embrace sobriety and his quest to teach his grandchildren about their Kiowa heritage. The third chapter, narrated by Lena’s nephew Hayes, focuses on the now 10-year-old Ever, who has become an angry, withdrawn child as the result of his father’s propensity for violence and his family’s instability and financial precarity. In this section of the narrative, Turtle leaves Everardo and begins the process of moving into a subsidized, Cherokee home.

The fourth chapter, narrated by Ever’s aunt Lila, focuses on Ever’s adolescence and his fractured relationship with Everardo. The fifth chapter, narrated by Ever’s cousin Quinton, depicts the teenage boys’ struggles with substance misuse, but also the importance that they place on family bonds and the ways that they are able to provide financial assistance to their mothers.

The sixth chapter, narrated by Ever’s mother Turtle, tells the story of her daughter Sissy’s teenage pregnancy, Sissy’s commitment to being a good mother, and Ever’s early days in the US Army. The seventh chapter, narrated by Sissy, focuses on both Sissy and Ever. Sissy, a young mother, successfully completes a nursing program and obtains a good job at a nursing home. Ever marries Lonnie, who has a meth addiction, and the couple has three children.

The eighth chapter, narrated by Quinton’s father Hank, revisits the now 27-year-old Ever who now works security at powwows and devotes the rest of his time and energy to his children, who live with him because of their mother’s continued instability and problems with addiction. The ninth chapter, narrated by Ever’s cousin Araceli, tells the story of Ever and his second wife Jimena, who lose their baby to a congenital disorder.

The 10th chapter, narrated by Ever’s adopted son Leander, tells Leander’s troubled backstory and shows Ever’s continued efforts to heal from his own generational trauma, to help other boys to heal through his work with at-risk Indigenous youth, and to provide a loving home for his children. The 11th chapter, narrated by Vincent’s niece Opbee, depicts Opbee’s quest to retrieve a set of sacred, healing quilts made by Lena for Ever’s family. Chapter 12, narrated by Ever himself, finds Ever and his children (including Leander) finally settled in their own Cherokee home.