Ray’s debut foray into fiction is a stark mirror of reservation and rural Montana life, tragedies large and small woven with glimmers of love and beauty. Ray says he is captivated by people’s struggles to find balance. In one recent interview he said “I think everybody’s pretty pre-broken, and the idea of coming to a wholeness is something that’s so earned, it’s got so much grace in it.” Indeed his characters are alcoholic, sometimes violent and philandering, always stumbling, seeking and giving forgiveness. His stories are at once dark, lonely and lovely.
Though Ray grew up on the Northern Cheyenne reservation, he graduated from Park High where he and his brother were basketball stars (he went on to play for Pepperdine in college and pro-ball in Germany). Ray credits those two experiences with enriching his writing, “gain(ing) the much needed perspective of living as a minority in the Cheyenne culture that faces societal pressures with courage and dignity. Basketball and the inherent nuances of leadership in environments of intensity…became a significant life passion.”
Dave Eggers calls Ray’s writing “lyrical, prophetic and brutal,” while Sherman Alexie praises the book as “tough, poetic and beautiful.” Ray, who has a Ph.D, in psychology from the University of Alberta, teaches leadership and forgiveness studies at Gonzaga University. He is also the author of Forgiveness and Power in the Age of Atrocity, and has been published in magazines including McSweeney’s, Poetry International and Narrative, among other venues.
Ray is a Bakeless Prize winner and the recipient of both a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and the Before Columbus Foundation’s 2012 American Book Award. American Masculine was included by Kirkus Reviews on their list of the Best Fiction of 2011.
Ray’s reading is free, open to the public, and will be followed by a signing.