“At its heart, Subduction is all about stories — the stories that constitute personal, family and cultural identity and, perhaps more important here, the stories that people tell, about themselves and to themselves, to make life meaningful and livable.”
“The title of the book refers to the geological phenomenon of one tectonic plate sinking under the influence of another, during which both subsumed and overriding plates are wracked by distortion and disruption. In Young’s novel, the answer to which is which is left beautifully unclear.”
— The Paris Review (staff pick)
“The convergence of Claudia and Peter in Neah Bay is the primary fault line of Subduction, the brilliant debut novel from Seattle writer, educator and investigative journalist Kristen Millares Young. But the ripple effects are many, and the book accomplishes something that only the best literature can: It asks the reader to wonder, and to reflect, and to ask crucial questions about society and identity. And it does so in a deeply entertaining and moving story.”
“Gorgeously, toughly written, this book dares to be open-ended yet leaves readers with a satisfying sense of how life really unfolds. Cultural clash matters here, but personal differences and desires even more. For any fiction reader looking beyond the obvious.”
— Library Journal, starred review
“In this utterly unique and important first novel, Young examines themes of love, intrusion, loss, community and trust against a backdrop of a Makah reservation in the Pacific Northwest.”
— Ms. Magazine (named SUBDUCTION a top 2020 Feminist Book)
“Subduction is a gritty novel in which floundering people find hope and understanding where they least expect it.”
— Foreword Reviews (five star review)
“It wasn’t through luck, or through basic attunement to the human condition, that Kristen Millares Young, a non-Native writer, created characters that rang so true for me, a Cowlitz (Indigenous, though, I must be clear, non-Makah) academic. She achieved this effect by putting time into making relationships…Subduction is the result of deep listening to others and to the writer’s own process, and of letting something take as long as it takes.”
— The Rumpus (conversation with Elissa Washuta)
“Kristen Millares Young’s first book is about family ties, bent but not broken, and what time forgets and forgives.”
“Part anthropological study, part philosophical interrogation, and all parts brilliant (actionable) storytelling: an examination of what happens when immigrants become settlers, and native land dwellers become itinerant travelers.”
— Seventh Wave Magazine (conversation with Joyce Chen)
“In Young’s lyrical and atmospheric debut, two damaged outsiders, estranged from their families and cultures, struggle to discover where they really belong.”
“Subduction explores legacy, cultural identity and consent through the sexual entanglement of two people trying to salvage their lives from wreckage of their own making.”
— The Believer (conversation with Robert Lopez)
“Cultural differences and boundaries fall away to a human story of need and loss and recovery…Subduction is a marvelous collision of people and their emotional landscapes, and much like the geologic action the title refers to, this activity is messy, violent, and natural—as natural as all humans are beneath their wants and needs, their masks and their cultures.”
“It’s a book, like its name suggests, about powerful frictions. About sex and race and culture and nature and memory. About the past sliding beneath the present, until every so often things start to tremble. But it’s also about stories—who tells them and how.”
“It is also an homage to the resiliency of place-based people. Transcending the cultural facets of this unique story, one can’t help but share in a collective feeling of hope after reading this novel. Not blind, ecstatic, hope, but real confidence that as one life fades away another, possibly better, version of ourselves is possible. We are also reminded, in this remote and mystical corner, that the living, breathing world around may hold all the answers we need.”
“She is an exceptionally eloquent and intelligent person. I think you’re going to enjoy this conversation.”
“Subduction is her debut novel, but it’s clear from reading it that Young is already a master of the craft.”
“Young sets her story — featuring betrayal, murder, ancient legacies and steamy bad-idea sex — on the Makah Indian Reservation at Neah Bay, where a Latina anthropologist has fled her own culture to embed herself in another. Young’s poetic language evokes this damp Northwest place so vividly that moss seems to sprout from the pages.”
“Young’s prose feels effortless.”
“Her fiction is well-observed and immersive, as you can see in this excerpt.”
— The Stranger
My debut novel Subduction is a lyric retelling of the troubled history of encounter in the Americas. Subduction is forthcoming from Red Hen Press on April 14, 2020.
Fleeing the shattered remains of her marriage and treachery by her sister, a Latina anthropologist named Claudia takes refuge in Neah Bay, a Native whaling village on the jagged Pacific coast. Claudia yearns to lose herself to the songs of the tribe and the secrets of a spirited hoarder named Maggie. Instead, she stumbles into Maggie’s son Peter, who, spurred by his mother’s failing memory, has returned seeking answers to his father’s murder. Claudia helps Peter’s family convey a legacy long delayed by that death, but her presence, echoing centuries of fraught contact with indigenous peoples, brings lasting change and real damage.
Through the brutal and ardent collision of these two outsiders, Subduction portrays not only their strange allegiance after grievous losses but also their shared hope to find community on the Makah Indian Reservation. An intimate tale of stunning betrayals, Subduction bears witness to the power of stories to disrupt – and to heal.
I am grateful for the thoughtfulness of this conversation in The Rumpus with Elissa Washuta, one of the earliest readers of SUBDUCTION and a writer whose work I teach, and this Seventh Wave Magazine interview by Joyce Chen, who asked me “about the importance of staking a claim in our own histories, the power of oral storytelling, and what it means to truly break out of the systemic pressures that often guide our career and life trajectories.”
You can also read about Subduction in The Millions, where Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum and I exchanged ideas about storytelling, motherhood, civic engagement and the canon.
In February of 2020, this New Books Network podcast featured Subduction via my hourlong conversation about cultural tension, entanglement and healing with New Books of the American West host Ryan Tate.
Please check out Subduction‘s details and advance praise for which I’ll remain forever grateful:
“The brilliance of Subduction only suggests the wonders to come. It is a good day for us when Kristen Millares Young puts pen to paper. Highly recommended.”
—Luis Alberto Urrea, winner of the American Book Award, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of The House of Broken Angels, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, The Devil’s Highway and Nobody’s Son, among many others.
“In this commanding novel, Kristen Millares Young captures the brutality of an anthropological gaze upon a Makah community. Her complex, exquisitely shaped characters embody the calamity of intrusion and the beauty of resilience.”
—Elissa Washuta (Cowlitz), author of My Body is a Book of Rules and Starvation Mode
“Young beautifully and vividly renders the Pacific Northwest, particularly the unique world of Neah Bay. Subduction is at once a thought-provoking meditation on the geography and geology of the natural world and a generous exploration of the natural shifts and movements that shape her characters.”
— Jonathan Evison, New York Times bestselling author of Lawn Boy and The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, among others.
“With dreamlike, salt-water-laced prose that feels born of the Salish Sea, Kristen Millares Young’s Subduction lyrically examines relationships strained and forged by place and belonging. Intelligently addressing womanhood, community, lust, and loss, this is a novel as deep as it is intoxicating, as intricate as it is powerful. Like Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, Subduction is a novel to be celebrated for both its poetry and wisdom.”
—Sharma Shields, author of The Cassandra, winner of a Washington state Book Award for The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac.
“Kristen Millares Young’s Subduction is the powerful debut novel from a writer that comes to us fully formed. This book is as unforgettable as it is timely, a story that keeps us riveted from beginning to end, written with abundant grace and lyric intensity. Beautiful, smart, and urgent. Read this book now.”
—Robert Lopez, author of Good People, Kamby Bolongo Mean River, Part of the World, All Back Full and Asunder.
“Kristen Millares Young’s Subduction is a taut, atmospheric tale that gave me what I hope for in a novel: characters that I can care about with stakes that really matter. This is an enormously impressive debut. I’ll eagerly await more from this writer.”
—Steve Yarbrough, PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist, winner of a Richard Wright Award and a California Book Award, author of The Unmade World, The Realm of Last Chances, The End of California, Prisoners of War.
“‘Love is a kind of home,’ Kristen Millares Young writes in Subduction. But in the world of this beautifully written novel, home is also a place of secrets, murder, and loss. A tale of taking and giving, resistance and surrender, Subduction raises troubling, provocative questions about our struggle to belong.”
—Samuel Ligon, author of Miller Cane, Wonderland and Safe in Heaven Dead
“Subduction will give you a sense of life lived in the most remote corner of the lower 48, the Makah reservation in Washington State. The ever-changing Pacific Ocean, the emerald forests, the geoduck clams, and the scruffy seascoured dwellings are merely the foundation of Kristen Millares Young’s suspenseful, atmospheric first novel. The characters leap off the page and into your heart. I wanted to swallow the story whole, and I was happy to know it would take time to savor it. An auspicious debut!”
—Patricia Henley, National Book Award Finalist, author of Hummingbird House
“Set in the Pacific Northwest, Subduction is a lyrical forest of storytelling rooted in indigenous voices and invaded by those who would steal the tongues and hearts of the ones they love while bartering and betraying the idea of belonging to a land, a birthright, and a family. When you read Kristen Millares Young’s words, you understand how it is we can steal, can betray, can love.”
—Shawn Wong, author of Homebase and American Knees
“Subduction introduces a welcome new voice in Kristen Millares Young, here telling a taut, fraught story of two people who meet and engage in circumstances that surprise. Both have lived but are seeking to live yet more fully, even as they’re beset by their pasts. Whether the way to such realization is with the other is a core part of this vividly written story. Set on Makah Nation land, part of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Subduction is a searching exploration of historic legacies in the present day. The result: a book of reckoning, full-heartedly told.”
—Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company
© 2019 Kristen Millares Young.