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Mary Sojourner to read from urgent new novel at CSN


Southwestern writer Mary Sojourner’s new novel, 29,  has a topical urgency. “One of the central themes is the Chemehuevi tribe organizing to stop an industrial solar-power plant from going in near their sacred Salt Song Trail,” she says. Inspired by the battle against a solar plant in the Mojave Desert, it has a particular resonance now, with the solar array in nearby Ivanpah Valley recently in the news.

Sojourner will give a writing workshop at 2 p.m., and a reading at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 15, both in room K-101 at the Charleston campus of CSN, free,

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In this excerpt from 29, Nell, a refugee from urban L.A., meets the resistance:

Seven people sat around a dining-room table loaded with casseroles, salads, pop bottles and pitchers of ice tea, three women and four men, nobody younger than forty-five, all Chemehuevi except for a lanky fire-eyed guy with tattoo sleeves. The broad-shouldered man pulled up extra chairs. “Mariah, Jenella. Good to see you.”

“You too,” Mariah said. “This is Nell. She’s a computer genius and a marketing shark.”

“Yes!” one of the women said. “We need you. I’m Alice. Give me the fry bread. I’ll warm it up. Grab a plate and let’s get going.”

The broad-shouldered guy said, “Nell, we’re all starting at the ground floor on this. Leonard’s going to catch us up.”  He nodded at a sturdy warm-eyed man. “Maybe we could go round and say names and why we’re here.”

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Leonard nodded. “I’m Leonard, I’m Nuwuvi, Chemeheuvi. That’s why I’m here.” The broad-shouldered man said, “Eddie. I’m a veteran. Viet Nam. I didn’t fight for America. I fought for this place right here.” The woman next to him grinned, “I’m Jenella. My mom taught me right, that’s why I’m here.”  

“This is not the first time our land has been threatened,” the thin man next to Jenella said. “Time and again, the white man has taken the best of our places and left us with next to nothing. I’m Jones and that’s the reason I’m here.” The white guy said, “I’m Jeff. I’m a wildlife biologist. The tortoises and everything that they need to survive are the reason I’m here.” Alice came in from the kitchen. “I’m here because my history teacher at the college has been educating us about how we Indians have got too much white man in our brains. I want my real self back.” “I’m here,” Mariah said, “because I have grandkids. This is for them.” She turned to Nell. “I’m Nell and I’m here because I’m a computer nerd and a marketing shark.”

(Editor's note: Scott Dickensheets no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)