“A writer of unnerving originality, harrowing precision, and searing conscience, Joseph Rathgeber captures in a heart-quaking minuteness of detail the rages and graces of two generations of Ramapough Lenape Indians surviving at the margins of twenty-first-century northern New Jersey. Mixedbloods will enthrall and consume you.”
—Gary Lutz, author of Stories in the Worst Way and The Divorcer
“Mixedbloods is incredible. It lights fires, kicks open cell doors, saves its own life because no one else will. Joseph Rathgeber has written a pure, tense novel about people pressed against a wall, who refuse to be crushed to death, who begin to tear down that wall instead.”
—Bud Smith, author of Teenager
“A compelling and stunning debut novel, Mixedbloods tells the story of Exley DeGroat, a Ramapough Lenape teenager. Joseph Rathgeber takes us back and forth in time in order to explore the history of a persecuted people. Through vivid language and relentlessly musical yet gritty prose, Rathgeber describes a polluted land, underneath which exists a warren of abandoned mines. This is a tragic and gripping tale of prejudice, precarity, and how heartless corporations view indigenous peoples as disposable. This book is both terrifying and beautiful.”
—Maria Mazziotti Gillan, American Book Award-winning author of All That Lies Between Us
“Mixedbloods is brilliant. The style is intense and unrelenting, and the narrative is powerful, moving, heartbreaking, and important. The devastation of a community and their struggle to find some way to get justice is beautiful and vital. It is the kind of book we need right now.”
—Nathan Oates, author of The Empty House
Cover Design by Linda Huang
Cover photograph by Lee Sutton
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About the Author:
Joseph Rathgeber is an author, poet, high school English teacher, and adjunct professor from New Jersey. His story collection is The Abridged Autobiography of Yousef R. and Other Stories (ELJ Publications, 2014). His work of hybrid poetry is MJ (Another New Calligraphy, 2015). He is the recipient of a 2014 New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship (Poetry) and a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship (Prose). He is a member of the National Writers Union UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO, Federation of Adjunct Faculty AFT Local 6025, and the NJEA.
Cops don’t respond to calls on Stag Hill. Neither does the fire department. The Ramapough Lenape, a destabilized people—origins uncertain, debated and mythologized—are struggling to survive in the face of an ecological devastation visited upon them by the neighboring Ford plant, which has dumped paint sludge in abandoned mines for decades. The EPA hasn’t delivered on its promise of a cleanup, and the woods in which they hunt and play are toxic. Exley DeGroat is an apathetic Ramapough teenager trying to define himself and his people, wrestling with the revenants of his past and the horrors of his present. Mixedbloods is a story of identity, of a cultural history under attack, and destructive—often violent—behavior. It documents a class struggle between the rich and poor, but also between the organic and the inorganic, and thus between the forces of life and the forces of death.