Hardcover, 288 pages
Paperback, 279 pages
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Listen to an MP3 audio file of Shelton Johnson reading from Gloryland
Born on Emancipation Day, 1863, to a sharecropping family of African and Indian blood, Elijah Yancy never lived as a slave, but his self-image as a free person is at war with his surroundings: Spartanburg, South Carolina, in the Reconstructed South. Exiled for his own survival as a teenager, Elijah walks west to the Nebraska plains and, like other rootless young African-American men of that era, joins up with the U.S. Cavalry.
The trajectory of Elijah’s army career parallels the nation’s imperial adventures in the late nineteenth century: subduing Native Americans in the West and quelling rebellion in the Philippines. Haunted by the terrors endured by black Americans and by his part in persecuting other people of color, Elijah is sustained only by visions, memories, prayers, and his questing spirit—which ultimately finds a home when his troop is posted to guard the newly created Yosemite National Park in 1903. Here, living with little beyond mountain light, cold rivers, campfires, and stars, he becomes a man who owns himself completely, while knowing he’s left pieces of himself scattered along his life’s path like pebbles on a creek bed.
Novelist Shelton Johnson wove Elijah's story from his own family's past, and from the threads of history he found while researching the role of buffalo soldiers in Yosemite. His narrator's voice—poetic, rhythmically cadenced, ranging freely through time—makes this novel a literary meditation on finding a self and a spiritual home, while unveiling a little-known chapter of America's past.
Shelton Johnson has worked for the National Park Service since 1987 and currently serves as a ranger in Yosemite National Park. He has presented his original living-history program about a buffalo soldier at venues around the country and has received many honors and awards for this work. He and his wife and son live just outside Yosemite.
Audio excerpt produced by Three Moon Bay LLC and edited by Rhythmlake Media.