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ROBERT J. CONLEY. Wil Usdi: Thoughts from the Asylum: A Cherokee Novella

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ROBERT J. CONLEY. Wil Usdi: Thoughts from the Asylum: A Cherokee Novella. University of Oklahoma Press. Trade paperback, 140 pages, $14.95, oupress.com.

Cherokees adopted William Holland Thomas when he was a teenager, and the man known as Wil Usdi (Little Will) would go on to become an important figure with the the Eastern Band of the Cherokees in North Carolina. Yet he spent his last years in a mental institution, and that’s where Owen Wister Award recipient Robert J. Conley opens his novella as Usdi reflects on his life with disconnecting stories while suffering from dementia. Conley, who died last year, was a master of dry wit and satire, and his final fictional work is full of both. It’s also poignant, powerful – and a wonderful testament to Conley’s literary legacy.