The Souls of Others
In The Souls of Others, Shann Ray composes a multi-genre memoir made of poetry, essays, scientific thought, psychology, philosophy, and theology. Ranging from the Northern Cheyenne reservation in southeast Montana to the killing fields of South Africa, the Philippines, Colombia, and WW2 Prague, The Souls of Others asks ultimate questions of the heart of humanity, the dark shadows of our unknowing, and the nature of the soul. Through an intimate look at Ray’s family, his brotherhood with men of likeminded existential and physical realities, his relationship with his beloved wife Jenn, and the devastating truth of how, individually and collectively, we are often asked to eat our own humiliation, Ray’s narrative unveils an uncommon understanding of the human condition. In these essays, truth, beauty, goodness, justice, and mercy, though hard won, attend the inner life and our lives with others with grace and courage.
“Expansive and luminous… heartbreaking.”
– Debra Magpie Earling
The Souls of Others is a powerful essay collection by American Book Award winner Shann Ray. Ray depicts the American west as both magnificent and destitute. The mountains are alive. The people are gritty and resilient. Nature offers its bounty but never gives it with ease. Ray, having spent part of his childhood on the Northern Cheyenne reservation, expertly paints a place of family, sorrow, and a connection to Mother Nature that so many Americans have lost.
– Unsolicited Press
This is a multi-genre memoir, combining genres of essays, interviews, academic research, memoir, and poetry. The book opens with a paean to basketball, and I love the joy and grace of how he describes the sport — makes me ache with nostalgia for the squeak of sneakers on the hardwood. But there are so many deaths among his friends on the Rez, and he doesn’t shy away from describing how they’re stabbed, drown, shot, and wrecked. He’s haunted by the private past with the death of his friends, and the public past with genocide against the Cheyenne, and he also brings up his Czech heritage to contrast the American genocide with European genocide.
Ray’s broken and remade relationship with his father made me weep, and I love the relationship he depicts with his wife — listening to her tender, wise counsel. And the book really focuses on stories of forgiveness — forgiveness for a mother, for fathers, for murderers. In spite of all this, I think the book is shot through with hope. With optimism. For what is possible in our relationships and what might be possible in our collective future. If you’d like to meditate on the deepest part of our human soul, buy this book and dwell on it.
– John Matthew Fox of BookFox