All My Sins Are Relatives
“W. S. Penn borrows from the American Indian oral tradition to create a tough and sometimes lyrical investigation of mixed-race identity. All My Sins Are Relatives juxtaposes memoir, history, literary analysis, opinion and storytelling in a way that Penn sees as particularly Indian.”—New York Times.
“[Penn] masterfully melds the history and traditions of the Nez Perce with that of his family, not only when they coincide in obvious ways—as in the story of Penn’s ancestor Chief Joseph—but also in explaining his father’s inability to stay at his job until retirement, his sister’s dreamy obliviousness to pain, his own digressive writing style, and the perennial cynicism that has allowed him to survive in a hostile world. Insightful and elegantly written.”—Kirkus. “Well-crafted literary essays.”—Publishers Weekly.
In All My Sins Are Relatives Penn finds in his own family three generations trying to come to terms with their differences and their Indianness. Within its pages, Penn describes learning the depths of his love for his grandfather, to whom he dedicated this book. “As arrogant as youth can be, I was often too busy silently grading his grammar to pay real attention and see what he was giving me.” Among the gifts was an awareness of what a story could tell, what it could conceal, and what it could never tell.
W. S. Penn, an urban mixblood, is an associate professor of English at Michigan State University and the author of The Absence of Angels.