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Spirit Car

Spirit Car

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Journey to a Dakota Past

Author Diane Wilson

Minnesota Historical Society Press (August 1, 2009)

A child of a typical 1950s suburb unearths her mother’s hidden heritage, launching a rich and magical exploration of her own identity and her family’s powerful Native American past.


One day I realize that my entire back seat is filled with relatives who wonder why I’m not paying more attention to their part of the family story. . . . Sooner or later they all come up to the front seat and whisper stories in my ear.

Growing up in the 1950s in suburban Minneapolis, Diane Wilson had a family like everybody else’s. Her Swedish American father was a salesman at Sears and her mother drove her brothers to baseball practice and went to parent-teacher conferences.

But in her thirties, Diane began to wonder why her mother didn’t speak of her past. So she traveled to South Dakota and Nebraska, searching out records of her relatives through six generations, hungering to know their stories. She began to write a haunting account of the lives of her Dakota Indian family, based on research, to recreate their oral history that was lost, or repressed, or simply set aside as gritty issues of survival demanded attention.

Spirit Car is an exquisite counterpoint of memoir and carefully researched fiction, a remarkable narrative that ties modern Minnesotans to the trauma of the Dakota War. Wilson found her family’s love and humor—and she discovered just how deeply our identities are shaped by the forces of history.

Also of interest:
Beloved Child: A Dakota Way of Life

Author information

Diane Wilson, director of Dream of Wild Health Farm, is also the author of Beloved Child: A Dakota Way of Life. She is a Mdewakanton descendent; her mother was enrolled on the Rosebud Reservation.

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Winner of the 2007 Minnesota Book Award in the Autobiography, Memoir, & Creative Nonfiction category

Reading Group Guide prepared by the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library

Reading and discussion guide

Reading and Discussion Guide

  • This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
  • 232 pages
  • 18 b&w photos
  • 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • ISBN: 9780873517652

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