Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land (Hardcover)
A powerful, poetic memoir about what it means to exist as an indigenous woman in America, told in snapshots of the author’s encounters with gun violence.
Goop Book Club Pick • “Essential . . . We need more voices like Toni Jensen’s, more books like Carry.”—Tommy Orange, New York Times bestselling author of There There
Toni Jensen grew up around guns: As a girl, she learned to shoot birds in rural Iowa with her father, a card-carrying member of the NRA. As an adult, she’s had guns waved in her face near Standing Rock, and felt their silent threat on the concealed-carry campus where she teaches. And she has always known that in this she is not alone. As a Métis woman, she is no stranger to the violence enacted on the bodies of indigenous women, on indigenous land, and the ways it is hidden, ignored, forgotten.
In Carry, Jensen maps her personal experience onto the historical, exploring how history is lived in the body and redefining the language we use to speak about violence in America. In the title chapter, Jensen connects the trauma of school shootings with her own experiences of racism and sexual assault on college campuses. “The Worry Line” explores the gun and gang violence in her neighborhood the year her daughter was born. “At the Workshop” focuses on her graduate school years, during which a workshop classmate repeatedly killed off thinly veiled versions of her in his stories. In “Women in the Fracklands,” Jensen takes the reader inside Standing Rock during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests and bears witness to the peril faced by women in regions overcome by the fracking boom.
In prose at once forensic and deeply emotional, Toni Jensen shows herself to be a brave new voice and a fearless witness to her own difficult history—as well as to the violent cultural landscape in which she finds her coordinates. With each chapter, Carry reminds us that surviving in one’s country is not the same as surviving one’s country.
About the Author
Toni Jensen teaches in the MFA programs at the University of Arkansas and the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is a 2020 recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and her work has been published in Orion, Catapult, and Ecotone. She is Métis.
“Carry explores the static and kinetic energies of the American gun—its ability to impose its terrible will from a locked box on a shelf or the hands of an active shooter. Jensen explores the gun’s tragic impact with heartfelt prose and deep intellect—on politics, on history, on Black and Indigenous bodies, on women’s bodies, and on children behind closed doors. Carry unfurls America’s long rap sheet. It is full of difficult and vital news, delivered right on time.”—Terese Marie Mailhot, New York Times bestselling author of Heart Berries
“Carry is a book about how the body holds the story of everything that has happened to us in the world. Toni Jensen brings us into the lines and fractures, the desires and violences, the visceral truths of culture and history written into our very bones. By telling stories that thread through land and body, Carry reimagines what might come on the journey from suffering to beauty: voice. This is a body history song.”—Lidia Yuknavitch, bestselling author of Verge
“Carry is a powerful and illuminating book on race and survival. Jensen has taken her anguish and carved it into a treasury of art. Her prose is ardent and raw. Carry celebrates her powerful Native American voice.”—Brandon Hobson, National Book Award finalist and author of Where the Dead Sit Talking
“Carry is a gorgeous and brutal memoir about navigating the violent, white-supremacist American capitalism run amok on stolen land. Written in elegant and deeply lucid prose, Carry weaves interdependent narratives of girlhood, motherhood, poverty, family, men, and guns into a study of the language of injustice, an untidy and profound unearthing of personal and cultural histories long ignored, long denied, yet very much alive in the Indigenous body. Toni Jensen’s vision is a gift.”—Claire Vaye Watkins, Story Prize–winning author of Gold Fame Citrus
“[A] debut memoir from a Native author enmeshed in the American way of violence, alienation, and death . . . [Jensen’s] on-the-ground reports from the Bakken shale country, near the Standing Rock Reservation and its pan-Native protests against resource extraction, are illuminating, and her visceral reaction to the thought that students on her campus are now allowed to carry concealed weapons—even after so many school shootings—makes for a powerful rejection of a culture that has always been grounded in violence and intimidation.”—Kirkus Reviews