The Beadworkers

Beth Piatote

fiction contemporary short stories
adventurous challenging reflective medium-paced

208 pages | first published 2019

Beth Piatote's luminous debut collection opens with a feast, grounding its stories in the landscapes and lifeworlds of the Native Northwest, exploring the inventive and unforgettable pattern of Native American life in the contemporary world

Told with humor, subtlety, and beautiful spareness, the mixed-genre works of Beth Piatote's first collection find unifying themes in the strength of kinship, the pulse of longing, and the language of return.

A woman teaches her niece to make a pair of beaded earrings, while ruminating on a fractured relationship. An eleven-year-old girl narrates the unfolding of the Fish Wars in the 1960s, as her family is gradually drawn to the front lines of the conflict. In 1890, as tensions escalate at Wounded Knee, two young men at college, one French and the other Lakota, each contemplate a death in the family. In the final, haunting piece, a Nez Perce/Cayuse family is torn apart as they debate the fate of ancestral remains in a moving revision of the Greek tragedy Antigone.

Formally inventive, witty, and generous, the works in this singular debut collection draw on Indigenous aesthetics and forms to offer a powerful, sustaining vision of Native life in the Americas.

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emotional 83%
reflective 83%
challenging 33%
funny 33%
hopeful 33%
informative 33%
sad 33%
dark 16%
inspiring 16%
tense 8%


medium 75%
slow 25%

Plot- or character-driven?

Character: 60% | A mix: 40%

Strong character development?

N/A: 44% | Yes: 44% | It's complicated: 11%

Loveable characters?

It's complicated: 44% | Yes: 44% | N/A: 11%

Diverse cast of characters?

Yes: 100%

Flaws of characters a main focus?

Yes: 70% | It's complicated: 30%

Average rating