This is part of a series called Outspoken Authors put out by PM Press. All of them include the title novella, a novella-length piece, and an interview with the author. Although the price of this edition is a little high for what is basically a novella and a political essay, it's an extremely good novella, and interestingly-written politics and history..
Emma, the narratrix, is a young woman of African, Lakota, and Ojibwa descent living in post-climate change Minnesota with her parents. Every year she visits her grandmother in Fort Yates, and her grandmother tells her stories of the mammoths, and of her own grandmother: Rosa Red Mammoth, who went by her Euramerican last name, Stevens. Rosa and the grandmother are the women who saved the mammoths.
The grandmother tells the story of the mammoths, the Lakota stories about the mammoths, and the story of Rosa and her descendants, down to the grandmother herself. Rosa, a Native American educated at a white college, travels to Siberia to collaborate with the Nobel-winning scientist Sergei Ivanoff on the eve of the Russian Revolution, and later returns to work with the last surviving American mammoth herd. Rosa's long and extraordinary life is at first dedicated to saving the mammoths, then to bringing them back from extinction. Towards the end of her life, Rosa takes her granddaughter - Emma's grandmother - under her wing and her protegé inherits her mammoth samples.
This doesn't necessarily sound very interesting, and I tend to hate nested stories, but the writing is very good without drawing attention to itself and pulls you right along as if it were your own grandmother telling stories about your interesting relatives. I am reminded of the manga series Nana, by Ai Yazawa, which is a story about two roommates with the same name. Boring, huh? But it's one of my favourite mangas of all time, combining the world of Japanese rock stars with family secrets, a portrait of friendship, and masses of love polygons, all with beautiful angular Ai Yazawa art.
This is the story of the mammoths, from their prime to their death and resurrection! Drama, alienation, capitalists, Indians, circuses, politics! Family sagas and the story of a region! Reader, read and wonder! Huzzah!
Also included is the 2nd update of the author's Wiscon 2004 GoH speech. Arnason talks a lot about world happenings and leftist politics, proving her nonsectarian erudition by also quoting conservatives and princes. Then Terry Bisson interviews Arnason about her life, providing an interesting other perspective on her philosophy. (I guess if you're a conservative, you'd probably disagree with most of the last 2 parts, but I'm not, so I don't have to.)
This was a very satisfying book, although the last 2/3 might not be everyone's cup of tea. But hey, Arnason doesn't limit her reading to her political allies, so why should you? There is also a selected bibliography, so you can go out and acquire Arnason's other works, such as her Tiptree-winning novel or other novels, or any of her numerous short stories.