... an intergenerational memoir of Shonda Buchanan’s large extended family of many diversities, loaded with the slippery complexities of myriad ethnic experiences. A woman-centered handing down of experiences and knowledge from mother to daughter, from aunt to niece, the story is as heartbreaking and sorrowful as it is joyful and empowering ... a story remembered and shared, shedding light on the continuity of a family through times of historical trauma and the bludgeoning of identities and human dignity ... With a writing style that moves with ease in and out of the poetic, the no-nonsense, the tragic and a kind of endurance that is earthily and spiritually human, Black Indian is a read both intriguing and satisfying.
[Buchanan's] work is keen and insightful as it covers her African, Indigenous, and white roots and the challenges and pride that they brought. Her portrayals of others are provocative and unvarnished, including those of her mother, Velma, and her aunts ... an emotionally draining memoir that is also resonant in its discussions of poverty’s destructive forces.
[Buchanan] furthers the important work she has done in her poetry, uncovering the hidden histories of families struggling to define their mixed black and Native American bloodlines to their own satisfaction. In a highly personal narrative that includes a large number of characters and vignettes, the writing is occasionally repetitive in its declarations and observations. Still, it is a unique account of the damage inflicted on blacks and Native Americans in the late 1800s ... While it often feels as if there is little hope, she tackles her difficulties with humor. Buchanan is strongest when she argues that complex federal policies are to blame for the fractured sense of identity she feels; she stumbles when she displays a lack of empathy for those enrolled Native Americans who hope to maintain a semblance of cohesion and culture after an era of genocide. Ultimately, the book will be enjoyable for readers who grapple with confusing aspects of their ancestry ... Intergenerational loss and a family’s collective identity crisis provide the backbone for a winding American tale.