Book Group

Winter Book:

Temperance Creek

It’s hard to think that it’s been almost eight years since Pam Royes published Temperance Creek: A Memoir, and harder yet to think that it’s been near fifty years since she rode into Hells Canyon with a restless Vietnam vet from Eastern Oregon named Skip, and they set off on their life adventure.

This January’s exhibit at the Josephy Center is The Livestock Art Show. We needed a book that celebrated livestock—and livestock handlers—to read along with the art show. We’ll leave it to the artists to render the livestock visually, but this book reminds us that it is farmers, ranchers, cowboys, cowgirls, sheepherders, camp cooks, and good neighbors spread across some of the most spectacular country in North America that we are privileged to call home that tell their stories—and ours.

When I first read Pam’s book, I was sent back to my own early entry into Wallowa County, to grange potlucks, the county fair, Bill Wolfe’s Hereford bull sales and my own simple attempts to raise a few sheep. I was also sent back to that time in our country when we were struggling our way out of a horrible war in Vietnam, and looking for ways to heal conflicts between fathers and sons, urban and rural, black and white.

This time I’ll be measuring the book differently. I’ll think about Grace Jordan’s Home Below Hells Canyon, another journey into some of the same wild country taken in the troubled times of the Great Depression. I’ll be thinking about my first boss in the County, Chuck Gavin, the Wyoming cowboy and WW II vet who fought off that war’s wounds and the “John Barleycorn” he met in hospitals to become a respected Extension Agent. (And first took me to a Wolfe bull sale and taught me to keep my arm down during the auction.)

Along with being a love story and a story of ridiculous landscape and adventure, Temperance Creek is a story of two people, their critters, workmates, and their children, as they settle into a life with livestock in Wallowa County.


Tuesday, February 6 – Noon
Josephy Center
Featuring Author Pam Royes


“The Lost Journals of Sacajewea” by Debra Magpie Earling

I have just finished reading Debra Magpie Earling’s novel, The Lost Journals of Sacajawea. From the first line—“In my seventh winter, when my head only reached my Appe’s rib, a White Man came into camp…”—I was drawn in to this imagined account of the girl who became the wife—or victim—of Charbonneau, who assisted Lewis and Clark and lives on in the many stories told about the captains and their journey.

We see her today as a woman married to Charbonneau and guiding Lewis and Clark, but in her novel, Debra imagines the life Sacajawea had to have lived up to the time of Charbonneau and Lewis & Clark. The life she had to have lived in order to have arrived at Mandan, encountered Charbonneau and the Corps, made the Journey with the Corps of Discovery.

“The Forest Lover” by Susan Vreeland

In her acclaimed novels, Susan Vreeland has given us portraits of painting and life that are as dazzling as their artistic subjects. Now, in The Forest Lover she traces the courageous life and career of Emily Carr, who, more than Georgia O’Keeffe or Frida Kahlo, blazed a path for modern women artists.

Overcoming the confines of Victorian culture, Carr became a major force in modern art by capturing an untamed British Columbia and its indigenous peoples just before industrialization changed them forever. From illegal potlatches in tribal communities to artists studios in pre World War I Paris, Vreeland tells her story with gusto and suspense, giving us a glorious novel that will appeal to lovers of art, native cultures, and lush historical fiction.

“Rough House” by Tina Ontiveros

Tina Ontiveros was born into timber on both sides of the family. Her mother spent summers driving logging trucks for her family’s operation, and her father was the son of an itinerant logger, raised in a variety of lumber towns, as Tina herself would be.

A story of growing up in turmoil, rough house recounts a childhood divided between a charming, mercurial, abusive father in the forests of the Pacific Northwest and a mother struggling with small-town poverty. It is also a story of generational trauma, especially for the women—a story of violent men and societal restrictions, of children not always chosen and frequently raised alone.

Ontiveros’s father, Loyd, looms large. Reflecting on his death and long absence from her life, she writes, “I had this ridiculous hope that I would get to enjoy a functional relationship with my father, on my own terms, now that I was an adult.” In searingly honest, straightforward prose, rough house is her attempt to carve out this relationship, to understand her father and her family from an adult perspective.

“Brothers on Three” by Abe Streep

In conjunction with Josephy’s “Native Sport” exhibit in place for the month of April in our gallery. From journalist Abe Streep, the story of coming of age on a reservation in the American West and a team uniting a community.

March 11, 2017, was a night to remember. On that night, in front of the hopeful eyes of thousands of friends, family members, and fans, the Arlee Warriors would finally bring the high school basketball state championship title home to Montana’s Flathead Indian Reservation. The game would become the stuff of legend, with the boys revered as local heroes. The team’s place in history was now cemented, but for starters Will Mesteth, Jr. and Phillip Malatare, life would keep moving on―senior year was only just beginning.

“The Book of Hope” by Jane Goodall

In a world that seems so troubled, how do we hold on to hope?

Looking at the headlines―the worsening climate crisis, a global pandemic, loss of biodiversity, political upheaval―it can be hard to feel optimistic. And yet hope has never been more desperately needed.

In this urgent book, Jane Goodall, the world’s most famous living naturalist, and Douglas Abrams, the internationally bestselling co-author of The Book of Joy, explore through intimate and thought-provoking dialogue one of the most sought after and least understood elements of human nature: hope. In The Book of Hope, Jane focuses on her “Four Reasons for Hope”: The Amazing Human Intellect, The Resilience of Nature, The Power of Young People, and The Indomitable Human Spirit.

“Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler

The visionary author’s masterpiece pulls us–along with her Black female hero–through time to face the horrors of slavery and explore the impacts of racism, sexism, and white supremacy then and now.

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

“Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” by David Grann

This astonishing story is a deeply disturbing portrait of a sad chapter in American History. At one time, an oil boom in Osage County, Oklahoma made it the richest per capita county in the nation. But, as author David Grann describes it, it was also the scene of drastic crimes perpetrated against Osage women and families–and the first big breakthrough case of J. Edgar Hoover’s new FBI.
In 1920s Oklahoma, many members of the oil-wealthy Osage Nation were dying untimely and suspicious deaths. The widespread crimes against the Osage and the inability to identify those responsible led to the establishment of what is now known as the FBI. 

“The Way to Rainy Mountain” by N. Scott Momaday

The Way to Rainy Mountain is a blend of history, folklore, and poetic memoir and was published in 1969. It takes the reader through author N. Scott Momaday’s own journey of discovering his Kiowa background and identity. The journey is told in three separate voices: The first voice, the ancestral voice, tells about the Kiowa by using oral traditions and myths; the second voice is a historical commentary; and finally, the third voice is Momaday’s poetic memoir of his experiences. All three voices together teach about the Kiowa’s origin, beliefs, traditions, morals, and conflicts. Not only does the journey recounted in this book help Momaday better understand his ancestry, it also teaches about the Kiowa tribe’s history. The uniqueness of this text, however, has been an issue for some readers; they claim it is confusing to follow. Others find it easier to understand by rading each individual voice consecutively instead of alternating from one voice to another as the book is written. The Way to Rainy Mountain continues to be an entry point to Kiowa history and a way to open discussions about what constitutes any history of a people.

“Murder at the Mission: A Frontier Killing, Its Legacy of Lies, and the Taking of the American West” by Blaine Harden

From the New York Times bestselling author of Escape From Camp 14, a “terrifically readable” (Los Angeles Times) account of one of the most persistent “alternative facts” in American history: the story of a missionary, a tribe, a massacre, and a myth that shaped the American West.

In 1836, two missionaries and their wives were among the first Americans to cross the Rockies by covered wagon on what would become the Oregon Trail. Dr. Marcus Whitman and Reverend Henry Spalding were headed to present-day Washington state and Idaho, where they aimed to convert members of the Cayuse and Nez Perce tribes. Both would fail spectacularly as missionaries. But Spalding would succeed as a propagandist, inventing a story that recast his friend as a hero, and helped to fuel the massive westward migration that would eventually lead to the devastation of those they had purportedly set out to save.

“Fire in Paradise: An American Tragedy” by Alastair Gee & Dani Anguiano

The harrowing story of the most destructive American wildfire in a century.

There is no precedent in postwar American history for the destruction of the town of Paradise, California. On November 8, 2018, the community of 27,000 people was swallowed by the ferocious Camp Fire, which razed virtually every home and killed at least 85 people. The catastrophe seared the American imagination, taking the front page of every major national newspaper and top billing on the news networks. It displaced tens of thousands of people, yielding a refugee crisis that continues to unfold.

Fire in Paradise is a dramatic and moving narrative of the disaster based on hundreds of in-depth interviews with residents, firefighters and police, and scientific experts.

“The Yellow House: A Memoir” by Sarah Broom

A book of great ambition, Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House tells a hundred years of her family and their relationship to home in a neglected area of one of America’s most mythologized cities. This is the story of a mother’s struggle against a house’s entropy, and that of a prodigal daughter who left home only to reckon with the pull that home exerts, even after the Yellow House was wiped off the map after Hurricane Katrina.

The Yellow House expands the map of New Orleans to include the stories of its lesser known natives, guided deftly by one of its native daughters, to demonstrate how enduring drives of clan, pride, and familial love resist and defy erasure. Located in the gap between the “Big Easy” of tourist guides and the New Orleans in which Broom was raised, The Yellow House is a brilliant memoir of place, class, race, the seeping rot of inequality, and the internalized shame that often follows. It is a transformative, deeply moving story from an unparalleled new voice of startling clarity, authority, and power.

“Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory” by Gregory Nokes

In Breaking Chains, Greg  tells the story of the only slavery case adjudicated in Oregon’s pre-Civil War courts–Holmes v. Ford. Through the lens of this landmark case, Nokes explores the historical context of racism in Oregon and the West, reminding readers that there actually were slaves in Oregon…

Drawing on the court record, Nokes offers an intimate account of the relationship between a slave and his master from the slave’s point of view. He also explores the experiences of other slaves in early Oregon, examining attitudes toward race and revealing contradictions in the state’s history. Oregon was the only free state admitted to the union with a voter-approved constitutional clause banning African Americans and, despite the prohibition of slavery in the state, many in Oregon tolerated it and supported politicians who advocated for slavery, including Oregon’s first territorial governor.

“Indian Horse” by Richard Wagamese

Saul Indian Horse is a child when his family retreats into the woods. Among the lakes and cedars, they attempt to reconnect with half-forgotten traditions and hide from the authorities who have been kidnapping Ojibway youth. But when winter approaches, Saul loses everything: His brother, his parents, his beloved grandmother–and then his home itself.

Alone in the world an placed in a horrific boarding school, Saul is surrounded by violence and cruelty. At the urging of a priest, he finds a tentative salvation in hockey. Rising at dawn to practice alone, Saul proves determined and undeniably gifted. His intuition and vision are unmatched. His speed is remarkable. Together they open doors for him: away from the school, into an all-Ojibway amateur circuit, and finally within grasp of a professional career. Yet as Saul’s victories mount, so do the indignities and the taunts, the racism and the hatred–the harshness of a world that will never welcome him, tied inexorably to the sport he loves.

“But Not Jim Crow: Family Memories of African American Loggers in Maxville, Oregon” by Pearl Marsh and “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin

Pearl Marsh went to school in Wallowa grades 1-6, and once did an in person Brown Bag on “Growing Up Black in Wallowa” here at the Josephy Center. James Baldwin says everything that Robin DiAngelo says in “White Fragility”, and more. And the man can write! It is beautifully written and not long. Both books address the huge issue of racism in our time.


“Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World”, by Laura Spinney, is a gripping account of what she thinks is the major event–more destructive of human life and profound in its impacts than the war stories and rise and fall of communism–in the 20th Century.

If WW I killed 17-20 million, and WW II 60 million souls, the Spanish flu is thought to have infected one in three people on the earth, and killed between 50 and 100 million, all in a shorter period than either of the major wars. But there are no monuments to the flu in London or New York; “the Spanish flu is remembered personally, not collectively. Not as a historical disaster, but as millions of discrete, private tragedies.”

We’re still in the middle of our Pandemic–not sure if we are still in a first wave or have moved on to the second (there were at least 3 with the Spanish flu). Like the 1918 version, ours is especially devastating on the poor, and in our country, Brown and Black people. Like the Spanish, our flu is wrapped up with something else major–a war in 1918; an election in 2020.

This important book, our 5th, “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people.’ … a necessary book for all people invested in societal change through productive social and intimate relationships.” It’s called White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism.

The New York Times best-selling book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality.


Our 4th book was Louise Erdrich’s new novel, “The Night Watchman.”  If you like historical fiction, this was it: the history in this case is only 75 years old, as the novel is based on the experiences of Erdrich’s grandfather, who fought against the Eisenhower “Termination” policy for his Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe in North Dakota.  I was born across the border, in Minnesota in 1942, lived there until 1952, and visited many times in the 50s and 60s.  I knew nothing of lives and issues.

As Rich’s mentor, Alvin Josephy, said, “When our history books don’t outright lie about Indians, they omit them.”



Our book in April was The Beadworkers, by Beth Piatote.  Some of you met her and heard her read at Summer Fishtrap–maybe even bought the book.  I’m still thinking about “Antikoni” and plan to reread in anticipation of this event.

Beth is going to join us at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 30, so read now and save your questions for a lively discussion on April 30.  We will use Zoom. The author, Beth, will be on the call from her Bay Area home!




Our second book was Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants” as recommended by local medicine woman Jane Glesne.

This is writer Robin Kemmerer’s prayer that we look through scientific classification and dissection to indigenous knowledge of plants–and all of mother earth, For her, the earth–all of it–is gift, and we human beings are bound up in it in what can and should be reciprocal relations of gratitude and care. Sweetgrass grows lush when we harvest it. People took away different lessons–“I’ll look at the world I tramp in with new eyes”; “we shouldn’t worship growth”; “how can I live more sustainably?”; “this book will get passed on–and we will send copies to friends and children.” And all of us got bound up in this discussion of the “Thanksgiving Address” of the Onondaga, which puts gratitude and sharing the gifts of earth at the center of our lives.

Our first book was “The Real All Americans, The Team that Changed a Game, a People, a Nation,” by Sally Jenkins. Before getting to Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Football team, the book describes the end of the Indian wars in the West and the beginnings of the boarding school system, two historically transformative events for Indian people, and I believe for all Americans.

We had three wonderful discussions, meeting at Josephy and having people chime in virtually.