Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson

I wanted to immerse myself and be preoccupied with nothing

Sequoyah, pg. 58

With his single mother in jail, Sequoyah, a fifteen-year-old Cherokee boy, is placed in foster care with the Troutt family, Literally and figuratively scarred by his mother’s years of substance abuse, Sequoyah keeps mostly to himself, living with his emotions pressed deep below the surface. At least until he meets seventeen-year-old Rosemary, a troubled artist who also lives with the family.

Sequoyah and Rosemary bond over their shared Native American background and tumultuous paths through the foster care system, but as Sequoyah’s feelings toward Rosemary deepen, the precariousness of their lives and the scars of their pasts threaten to undo them both.

He took a chance and started doing what he wanted to do. I learned a lot from that.

Harold to Seqouyah, pg. 90

Good books read like poetry; and Where the Dead Sit Talking is as poetic as they come.

Hobson uses this book to speak to people who may be (i) disconnected from the heritage; (ii) at war with their own mind; and/or (iii) trying to make sense of their life and role in the world. Sequoyah’s coming-of-age tale is not one that will mirror most peoples’ but the feelings he has to come to terms with are very real – and very relatable.

I thought I was familiar with mental spirals until I read Sequoyah’s story – where just being a little different can get you into trouble and that trouble can exacerbate the problems you barely know how to handle to begin with. Social issues are adjacently addressed but the core of the story is so intangibly brilliant and human that no words can do it justice.

I’d be wrong to not mention how dark the book is – there were times where I thought I wouldn’t be able to stomach it (despite the hours of true crime I’ve consumed). Pushing through though, the darkness serves a purpose. In fact, I’d argue that it shines a light on the obstacles we all have to overcome at some point in our lives: loss – the most prominent among them.

Deviating from the abstract ideas this book gave me, Where the Dead Sit Talking provides insight into Native American history and culture while also demonstrating that, no matter who you are or where you come from or what your parents have done, our paths are paved by our own footsteps. Being uncertain about where we’re going is okay. Being different is okay. And loving the stranger things is okay too.

I drank its ink like it was sustenance so, of course, I have to recommend it. Seeing as today is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples – it’d be a great time to pick it up.


Dr. Brandon Hobson is the author of the forthcoming novel, The Removed, as well as the novel, Where the Dead Sit Talking, which was finalist for the 2018 National Book Award, winner of the Reading the West Award, and longlisted for the Dublin International Literary Award. He has won a Pushcart Prize, and his fiction has appeared in such places as McSweeney’s, Conjunctions, American Short Fiction, NOON, and elsewhere. Hobson is an assistant professor of English at New Mexico State University and also teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. He is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation Tribe of Oklahoma.

Photo and synopsis retrieved from Bookshop

Author bio retrieved from brandonhobson.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.