Carnival Lights: A Cultural Journey Through Darkness

From the award-winning Native American author and speaker Chris Stark comes a new novel that connects the lights of the modern American culture to the shadows of the ancient native reservations. Starks’ Carnival Lights (Modern History Press, 2021) tells the engaging story of cultural survival.

The novel follows the journey of two teenage Ojibwe girls who leave their northern Minnesota reservation for the lights of Minneapolis and encounter a range of characters and situations as hey transition culturally as well as geographically. Making their way to the Minnesota State Fair, the Indian girls try to escape a fate set in motion centuries earlier.

Carnival Lights Stark
Image @ Modern History Press

Stark sees her work as a survival story-the survival of not an individual or two, but of a culture and the history it embodies.

‘Carnival Lights’ is a story of the survival of Ojibwe culture, despite tremendous pressures to die, dissolve, assimilate. It’s a story of love, loss, strength, cultural resiliency, humor, and intergenerational trauma and love.

Themes of gender and ethnicity are central to Carnival Lights, but as Stark tells, the “Carnival” in the title is an overarching metaphor for US culture-lots of bling, lots of distractions, and fun-for-sale, but what lies under the bright night lights of a carnival? She says:

In the book, in contrast to the carnival lights, and the carnival-like atmosphere of urban life, with skies lit up for miles even at night, are the lights from the stars and how stars figure into Ojibwe culture.

Indigenous author Christine Stark has given multiple presentations at the United Nations on women’s survival and empowerment issues.

Reviewers’ Thoughts on Carnival Lights

Sarah Deer, Distinguished Professor, University of Kansas, and MacArthur Genius Award Recipient, calls the novel “simultaneously graphic and gentle.” Mona Susan Power, author of The Grass Dancer, a PEN/Hemingway Winner, praises the book’s vivid characters that create a heartbreaking wonder of gorgeous prose and urgent story. And William Kent Krueger, New York Times Bestselling Author, says it is beautifully woven and gut-wrenching in its effect.

Learn more about Chris Stark at her website