Best Book Editors

Red and White by Kenneth Weene

Book Blurb

During the years after the Civil War, Lonely Cricket, a Native American boy, strives to learn his people’s ways and traditions and to grow to manhood. This is a difficult task for any youngster, but Lonely Cricket is coming of age in a world that is changing. One in which Euro-Americans are determined to change Indians into reflections of the White world. Caught between the tales and traditions of his tribe and the ever-encroaching world of the White Man, Lonely Cricket must figure out how to live, whom to love, and most difficult of all who he really is. As Lonely Cricket battles to find himself, the twists and turns of his story reveal more about his background than he ever expected to know.

Best Book Editors Review

My first thought was to call this book “Charming” but it’s so much more than that. It makes you think about a way of life very different to most people’s. You feel the plight of the tribes—and it’s told in heartbreaking detail as the white man takes another piece of land and another virgin.

There is so much lore in this book and the stories within the story are captivating. We learn how the old tales are passed through the generations because most of the people still don’t write. We learn about their way of life, their skills and their crafts. And mostly we learn about the characters.

This isn’t brain-chewing gum that you read and forget. It does take a bit of effort on the reader’s part to connect with the characters and invest in the stunningly beautiful prose. However, that’s a positive. It makes you take in every word, rather than letting your brain do the reading while you reach for another snack. This isn’t that novel. It’s well worth investing in, and you’ll get so much more out of it than you put in.

It’s a very real exploration of identity, tradition, and change. The narrative is rich, and deep character development immerses readers in a very different world. My favourite character is Happy Turtle who learns about the cruelty of life outside the protection of her people. She see cruelty early, and wants to turn to her beloved brother. She misses him, but Lonely Cricket has gone into the world to find himself. She doesn’t know if she will ever see him again. But this is only the beginning as we follow Lonely Cricket’s path.

Through vivid storytelling and a brilliant depiction of the era, we read about love, resilience and change. This isn’t just writing, it’s a beautifully crafted novel. It’s powerful and moving.  Highly recommend for readers who want more than they’re used to.  


About Kenneth Weene

A New Englander by birth and disposition and trained as a psychologist and minister, Ken Weene has worked as an educator and psychotherapist.

Besides writing, Ken’s earlier interests included whitewater rafting, travel, and playing paintball.

Ken’s short stories and poetry have appeared in numerous publications. An anthology of his writings, Songs for my Father, was published by Inkwell Productions.

Three of Ken’s novels and a set of two short stories are published by All Things That Matter Press. Another novel, Broody New Englander, has just been published. His next book, a crime novel “Times To Try the Soul of Man,” will be coming soon.

Now in semi-retirement, Ken and his wife live in Arizona. There Ken has been able to indulge his passion for writing and enjoying life.

Mary Clark
5.0 out of 5 stars Telling the Complex Story of American History

Reviewed in the United States on 7 April 2021

Ken Weene has woven together the nuanced story of Lonely Cricket, a young member of the Ho-Chunk nation, with a sweeping epic of American history. With sensitivity, he gives us the details of the boy’s life, his Native parents’ lives, and those of the White settlers who live nearby. Red and White is an incredible achievement, telling the story through the events and behaviors of particular people, while with skillful style connecting them to the bigger picture. The locations are adeptly described, and the characters seem to be living people, authentic and historically accurate. He has brought a significant amount of study, research, and understanding to this work.

The crux of the novel is the identification of people with one group or another, which is exemplified in Lonely Cricket. He lives in a time of change as European Americans move west. Native people are killed, families separated, and tribes are broken up and removed from their traditional lands. Lonely Cricket is swept up in this turmoil. He holds to his identity, drawing strength from the stories of his father, Lame Bear, and the love he has for his sister, Happy Turtle.

The novel is interspersed with teaching stories, ostensibly those of the Ho-Chunk. Whether these are accurate I am not able to say. They appear to be respectfully given. The stories are building blocks of a moral and ethical life, or tell the particular story of a people.

Weene, I think avoids the pitfalls of a White author writing about Native Americans. Instead, he explores the intersection of different cultures and histories. The clashes and convergences create a range of perspectives which he handles well. At the same time, the main character’s experiences remain the center of the novel. The boy discovers his true birth parents, and that changes everything. Or does it?

To tell the complex story of American history we need more of this kind of work.


Julie Ann Weinstein
5.0 out of 5 stars Jaw Clamping, Nerve Spinning Novel-like Memoir Depicts Life Behind The Scenes In A Mental Asylum

Reviewed in the United States on 4 September 2010

This incredible novel is more than just a book about the insane. The characters in all their crazed out existences question what it means to be human and what happens when our greatest fears trap us from living. Set during the 1970s/1980s the book is reminiscent of the movies, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Girl Interrupted only with a more uplifting, thought provoking edge. Like its movie predecessors this novel pits the inmates against the staff, but therein lays the excellent dichotomy that author, Kenneth Weene has developed. In Memoirs of the Asylum some of the staff members will view the mentally insane as mere furniture objects, yet others will see their own vulnerabilities and frailties mirrored within the patients.

In the view of the narrator, the inmates are controlled by whatever means necessary including, excessive medication, shock treatments and even lobotomies so that the inmates are kept out of sight from society and to do this the staff must be willing and able to lie. Yet, neither inmates nor staff fits very well in this pre-ordained script. The characters in this novel tend to be a messy, vibrant lot, a point made in all its various discussions of excrement. For in our most smelly states in the view of the narrator, we are our much authentic selves. Here in the proverbial restroom there is no escape from our basic and most primitive selves.

This sense of no escape is a central theme in this novel. The more the patients and the staff try to escape from themselves the more they find themselves at each harrowing turn. While the book presents a virtual kaleidoscope of characters losing their minds and ultimately climaxing with a symphonic roar at the full moon as patients are united in their madness which culminates in a murder. This book is anything but gratuitous in its depiction of violence or madness. Each insane person is treated with the utmost care and humanity and in so doing that is the genius behind Weene’s writing and the authenticity of this story.

The character we know the most is the narrator who is at once an observer, and a patient suffering from schizophrenia, but more to the heart he is a character making sense of the loss of his best friend and suffering from immense grief. He is not the only mourner in this novel. Marilyn, the catatonic patient is alternately trapped between a variety of layers of grief for her mother, a lost love and lost dog. She is the silent hero. Her catatonic state has a transformative affect on the new medical resident, Dr. Buford Ambrose. He is at once fascinated, mesmerized and disgusted with her state of non-existence, what is essentially a waking death. Yet, this notion of not quite living is symptomatic of many of the inmates and even staff members. But it is Marilyn that has the most transformative effect on the patient, Alan who finds her captivating and representative of the ideal woman, one that is pure and unmoved by the world around her. Yet, her state is anything but un-removed. She is living in the crack in her room in ways she is afraid to do in the living world. It is there that she can face her own fears, her own tormentors over and over. Even though her mini-conquests occur in her mind and in silences they have the un-gluing effect on Dr. Buford Ambrose who questions his very fiber as he feels helpless and unable to cure her and unable to save his crumbling marriage. Yet at the same time he is growing to care for her. And in his near paternal love for her, a family is formed, one with both him and Alan as her dutiful suitor. Alan is the peeping tom, the crazy philosopher and the man who masturbates at will in front of any and everyone including circus elephants. And as Marilyn seeps into a deep stupor under the heavy cloak of meds, she is both the hero to herself as she faces her demons once and for all, yet physically is the victim of a rape. It is at their collective finest hours that Alan, though he is not the father chooses to be her husband and that Marilyn breaks through the walls of her existence and says in her own words to Dr. Arbrose, “The vacation is over. ” She welcomes impending motherhood. Though the fate of her life and of Alan’s and their child is up to the asylum, the readers are left with the sense that love and acceptance while it may not cure lunacy can dampen its severe decree.

C. Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars Each step in Deng’s journey opens our hearts and minds around difficult decisions he had to make.

Reviewed in the United States on 2 December 2022

Every book I have read about the young men the world called “The Lost Boys of Sudan” has been moving and powerful because each story was about their personal journey.
What stands out in Deng’s story is how he teaches us about the reasons he made life-changing decisions starting at the age of 9. As he tells his story, we are drawn in and learn how culture and tradition play a part in his thoughts and actions.
This is an excellent book for high schools and colleges to use in their curriculum.



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