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The title, Mikawadizi Storms, comes from an Ojibwe phrase (miikawaadizi) meaning she is beautiful.
The plot draws energy from a conflict between those who would dig an open pit mine in scenic Mikawadizi Hills and those who oppose them. The former include the KAMS (Keep American Mining Strong) consortium and its principle member, Gready Metals. The latter include La Roche Verde Indian Nation. As the book’s preface reveals, a similar conflict is underway in Wisconsin, USA, pitting Gogebic Taconite against a slate of environmental groups led by the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, over an open-pit iron-ore mining project in Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills. Mikawadizi Storms is not, however, a report on the Wisconsin conflict. It is purely a fictional piece (magical realism, in fact) that draws on the energies such conflicts generate and uses those energies for literary, not political, purposes.
The novel is organized into 45 chapters, each named for a separate character (almost), and each telling the story of someone entangled in the main conflict. Each chapter begins with an illustration (mainly character portraits) drawn by the author. In effect, the novel’s narrative mainstream is created from 45 smaller narratives that cluster around it, as an image might be drawn by coloring the spaces around it. One character (Evie Arnold, freelance journalist) appears in many of these clusters. She agrees to report on the conflict and so touches the lives of many who are more engaged in one side or the other. Her life is the thread that binds much of the narrative together.
Through this structure (mini-narratives creating a larger story), the novel explores personalities and values associated with the mining conflict. As in real life, smaller stories make up larger ones, and, in the end, personalities and idiosyncrasies of individuals project onto a larger screen.
A third of the way through the story, another character tells Evie, “If you claim you don’t have an opinion you’re being disingenuous; that, or you don’t give a shit. Either way, nobody cares what you have to say about it.” In fact, Evie doesn’t treat the two sides in this values contest evenhandedly; she comes to support, and eventually adopt, ideals represented by the anti-mine group. The same might be said of the novel itself. That’s good, because the magic that fuels the magical realism resides there.
Here’s the video trailer.