Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

D’Arcy McNickle’s novel was produced at a time when ethnic sensitivity and multiculturalism were gaining considerable prominence in literature. As part of Harper and Row’s Native American Publishing Program, Wind from an Enemy Sky was published along with books by such other Native American writers as Heyemeyohsts Storm, James Welch, Adolf Hungry Wolf, Duane Niatum, Simon Ortiz, and Nas’ Naga.

Other Native American novelists were also making headway in the 1970’s. N. Scott Momaday’s The Way to Rainy Mountain (1976) appeared two years before McNickle’s novel. In 1978, the same year the Wind from an Enemy Sky was issued, the University of Minnesota Press published one of Gerald Vizenor’s earliest books, Indians and Whites in the New Fur Trade. As early as 1936, McNickle himself had published The Surrounded, which was widely considered the finest Native American novel prior to World War II. McNickle’s Runner in the Sun: A Story of Indian Maize appeared in 1954, followed in 1973 by Native American Tribalism, published by the Oxford University Press.

A decade before Wind from an Enemy Sky, a flood of African American writing spawned a renewed interest in minority literatures. Native American, Chicano, feminist, and gay and lesbian literature began to share with African American literature the prominence that the social upheavals of the 1960’s had generated. The trend would continue in succeeding years, as the works of minority writers became accepted parts of the academic canon. As an early pioneer of the Native American novel, D’Arcy McNickle has benefited from this reappraisal, receiving belated recognition as an important voice in American fiction.