Shann Ray | American Copper

Ray's debut novel mines the uneven and often brutal history of the West.

Books & Writers


Shann Ray, American Copper

Montana-grown author Shann Ray’s debut novel, American Copper, fulfills the promise of his enigmatic stories (American Masculine) and poems (Balefire). Like those earlier works, he reaches deep into the human psyche where loss and love coexist.

From the heartbreaking Sand Creek Massacre, when a 700-man force of Colorado militia murdered a sleeping village of Cheyenne, to the ruthless ambitions of a copper baron, who sacrifices family to power and wealth, Ray mines the uneven and often brutal history of the West.

Evelynne, a poet whose fortitude “was like the mountain,” is fiercely loved and obsessively sequestered by her vigilant father, and shattered by her brother’s death. William Black Kettle, descendant of the peace chief who survived Sand Creek, is intelligent and charismatic, “an agile runner, ken of horses, kin to speed”; and the massive Zion, who bloodies men and calms animals, is “a chimera of two persons, the man of violence at odds with the angel of peace.” Their stories unfold and eventually entwine in an allegorical tale of uncommon grace and unsettling violence.

Sherman Alexie describes American Copper as “tough, poetic and beautiful” and Debra Magpie Earling calls it “heartbreaking, heart pounding and not to be missed.”

Ray, who teaches at Gonzaga University, grew up in Montana and spent part of his childhood on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. His story collection, American Masculine, won the American Book Award, the High Plains Book Award and the Bakeless Prize.

– Kristi Niemeyer

Shann Ray will make appearances at the Clark Chateau in Butte, Friday, Feb 5th, 2016, at 7 pm; and the Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Saturday, Feb 6th, 2016, at 4 pm. For more information visit