Treuer’s family background uniquely suits him for this method of storytelling. His father, a white man, worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the administrative body through which the federal government most directly deals with the tribes. His mother, who is Ojibwe, is a judge. Treuer descends, memoir-style, into “the soupy, complicated, comforting trouble of family” but their positions also allow him to examine the judicial and administrative systems within his tribe up close. He attends a day in court presided over by his mother, Judge Margaret Seelye Treuer. There, in a “low-slung, graceless structure” in Northeastern Minnesota, he watches as she passes judgement on 11 cases, all related in some way or other to alcohol or drug abuse. Treuer subsequently delves into the prevalence of alcoholism and drug addiction on the reservations, the factors leading to it, and the sad stories that result. Under U.S. law, the maximum penalty his mother can impose on anyone is one year in jail and a $5,000 fine, and in some cases jurisdiction automatically passes to the federal courts. Treuer thus launches into a compelling treatise on tribal judicial systems, which are held greatly in check by the U.S. government—tribal courts have no jurisdiction over non-Indians, for example, even if they commit crimes against Indians on the reservation—despite the supposed sovereignty of the tribes.