Native American Author Spotlight: Sherman Alexie

The Native American Renaissance opened doors for many Native American authors to flourish. Authors like these are now able to publish stories about their own experiences and continue to bring awareness to the issues that plague the modern Native American. In this post-renaissance period, we find Sherman Alexie.

Sherman Alexie was born in 1966 and grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. There, he lived around Spokane culture, but was never really accepted by his community. In infancy, he developed a condition that lead to surgery. This caused him to be in and out of the hospital for much of his adolescence and left his head larger than usual. He was constantly teased and not able to participate in many of the activities that are considered a rite of passage for young Native American male’s due to the side effects of that condition. This did not stop him from being academically successful.

He excelled during his high school career, leading him to receive a scholarship at Gonzaga University. After switching his major multiple times, the only place he seemed to find solace was in his literature classes. After a couple of years, he left Gonzaga and transferred to Washington State University. There, he found Alex Kuo, a respected poet that served as a mentor for Alexie. In these classes, he was able to begin writing and publishing his own works.

The themes of these works encapsulate the life of a contemporary Native American person living on a reservation. Despair, poverty, and alcoholism are riddled in this community and directly affects the characters in his stories. Through irony and dark humor, Alexie paints the picture of life as a modern Native American and the challenges they face on a reservation.

While being successful in his literary career, he has also dabbled in film. He created the first all-Native American movie, Smoke Signals, which got top honors at the Sundance Film Festival. Much like his books and poems, this is a story that reflects on the many struggles that Alexie encounted during his time on the reservation.

Alexie now lives in Seattle, Washington and is still active in the literary community. He most recently published a memoir titled You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me which sheds light on his trials and tribulations at the Spokane Indian Reservation.

Have you ever read any of Alexie’s work? Are there any other Native American authors that you think we should know about? Leave a comment or visit us at Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to tell us!

Native American Author Spotlight: Zitkala-Sa

Though the Native American Renaissance was a time that developed awareness for the Native American community and their struggles, there were other extremely influential Native American authors before this movement. These people preserved the oral history of the Native American community by writing and publishing it for readers. This helped to convey the rich and diverse cultures in the Native American community. One of the most well-known of these authors was Zitkala-Sa. She was not only a published author, but an advocate for the Native American community. Her story, like the many of the other authors, is one of trying to bridge the gap between two worlds.

Zitkala-Sa was born in the Yankton Sioux Agency on February 22, 1876. She lived there for eight years and was raised in the culture of the Yankton people. However, like many of the Native American children during the late 19th century, she was recruited and taken to the White’s Manual Labor Institute. This was a boarding school created for Native American people that was supposed to teach them, but the educational quality of the school was so poor that many could only acquire low paying positions. There, she was able to learn English, reading, and the violin. She excelled and was able to take her efforts to achieve bigger goals.

Against her family’s wishes, she enrolled at Earlham College until 1897, when she was forced to leave due to ill health and monetary issues. In 1899, she began teaching at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.  She was uncomfortable with the harsh discipline and curriculum of the school, but it provided her the opportunity to focus on writing and starting her literary career. She was able to publish a few short stories and essays in monthly magazines that described her struggle of retaining her Native American roots in a world that was so against it. She also wrote the first American Indian opera, The Sun Dance Opera. But Zitkala-Sa is most well known for her anthologies of Native American stories she curated by writing down the oral history of different Native American cultures. These are called Old Indian Legends and American Indian Stories.

Though she was well known for these anthologies, she was also a political activist for the Native American people.  She worked in the Society of American Indians (SAI) as a secretary and moved to Washington D.C. to be a liaison between SAI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). She also founded the National Council of American Indians in an effort to unite the tribes so that they could gain full citizenship rights.

She continued writing political articles and books that influenced Native American civil rights reform until her death in 1938. She was an artist, an author, and an activist for her community. Check out some of her work this month to celebrate Native American Heritage Month!

What are your thoughts on Zitkala-Sa? Leave a comment or visit us at Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to tell us!

Native American Author Spotlight: N. Scott Momaday

June 2001: N. Scott Momaday during the Saint Malo Book Fair in France. (Photo by Ulf Andersen/Getty Images)

The late 1960s to 1980s are regarded as the Native American Renaissance in literary history. During this time, many literary works by Native Americans in the United States were published. This lead to national awareness of Native American writers and the development of Native American Studies departments at many notable universities. This widely celebrated movement’s creation is usually attributed to N. Scott Momaday, the spotlight Native American writer for this week.

Though born in Oklahoma, Momaday was raised in Arizona on the reservation. There, he was able to learn and experience the myriad of Southwest Native American cultures. He then went on to attend the University of New Mexico and complete his graduate schooling at Stanford University with a PhD in English.

After graduation, Momaday wrote and published his first book, House Made of Dawn, in 1968. This book later won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction and is regarded as the beginning of the Native American Renaissance. Much like many of the other Native American authors, Momaday’s most well-known story is of one about someone at a crossroads of cultures, that of their Native American heritage and modern America.

Through this, Momaday was able to advocate for Native American education and representation in the arts. He has supported the Native American community through writing introductions and reviews for many Native American authors, bringing attention to Native American heritage, and even making himself available to talk to students from reservations who are entering university.

He continues to work in academics. He has been a visiting professor for many universities; he even was the first professor to teach American Literature in Moscow, Russia. He is currently the Regents Professor of the Humanities at the University of Arizona. Momaday continues to be a part of the Native American community as a member of the Kiowa Gourd Clan. Has this post inspired you to read Momaday? Check out one of his books today in honor of the Native American Heritage Month!

What are your thoughts on the Native American Renaissance? Do you have any other Native American author suggestions? Leave a comment or visit us at Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to tell us!

Native American Author Spotlight: Leslie Silko

Reading stories from other cultures is essential to understanding our diverse world. During the month of November, we celebrate National Native American/Alaskan Native Heritage Month. For the next four weeks, we will be spotlighting four different influential Native American authors. Today, we will be highlighting the works of Leslie Silko.

Leslie Silko was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico on March 5, 1948. She was raised in a family of Laguna Pueblo, white, and Mexican ancestry on the Laguna Pueblo reservation in New Mexico. Much like the characters in her stories, Silko’s upbringing left her at a crossroads between cultures. This caused her to not feel fully accepted by either the Laguna Pubelo people or white people because of her mixed background.

After graduating from the University of New Mexico, she went on to pursue law school but found that it wasn’t the right environment for her to make an impact for her community. She realized that her efforts for Native American justice would be better invested in storytelling and writing. Through her writings, she has created a dialogue about the struggles of the modern Native American and other issues that the Native American community faces.

All of these themes and personal experiences are encapsulated in her most well-known book, Ceremony. This is a story of a war veteran with mixed Laguna and Anglo heritage. The protagonist meets a tribal wise man who teaches him Laguna folklore and traditional ceremonies that help him heal the psychic wounds caused by war. This is a story of contrasting cultures, mental illness, and transformation through his Native American roots. It is critically acclaimed and has given Silko the title of the “first female Native American novelist”. She later received many accolades for this book including the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award.

She is still alive today and has most recently written a memoir called The Turquoise Ledge in 2010. She teaches currently at the University of Arizona at Tucson. Check out one of her books this month!

What are your thoughts on Ceremony? Have a favorite Native American author? Leave a comment or visit us at Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to tell us!

Books of Fright

Halloween has arrived, and what better way to get into the spooky spirit by reading scary books! Here are some stories that are sure to send shivers up your spine, and have you looking over your shoulder everywhere you go. Happy reading!

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow-Washington Irving

Ichabod is a teacher and choirmaster at the little town of Sleepy Hollow. When Ichabod woos a rich man’s daughter, he must lay low because Brom, who is also in love with the rich man’s daughter, is after him. When Ichabod is invited to a party, he comes across the Headless Horseman, and must flee, terrified for his life.

House of Leaves– Mark Z. Danielewski

In this maze of a book made up of unconventional format, such as unusual page layouts with some pages only containing a few words, House of Leaves tells the story of three family members: a blind old man, a young apprentice at a tattoo shop, and a crazy woman. The family faces unexplainable changes in their home, and eventually come face to face with the darkness at its core.

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary– M.R. James

This collection of eight short stories captures the suspense and horror which defines good ghost stories. The wit and erudition of these eight classics keeps the reader on their toes, and teaches them be wary of every creak in the night. After all, you can never be sure about what lurks behind you.

Dracula– Bram Stoker

Jonathan Harker, a London lawyer, travels to Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase an estate in England. Initially impressed by Dracula’s politeness, Harker is soon wary of Dracula’s ability to communicate to wolves in his huge castle. He quickly realizes he is a prisoner in Dracula’s castle, and must find a way to survive this demonic creature of the night.

The Shining– Stephen King

Jack Torrance is hired as a caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, eager for a fresh start, and ready to reconnect with his family and work on his writing. As winter begins to set in, the Overlook Hotel grows more sinister. Danny Torrance, Jack’s five-year-old son, is the only one to notice as the hotel’s horrific past begins to consume them all.

The Tell-Tale Heart– Edgar Allen Poe

This story is told through a nameless, mysterious narrator, who does not sound half as sane as he claims. As we hear about the murder he had committed, there is a beating that grows louder and louder, echoing in the mind. It’s the still-beating heart of the victim under the floorboards, where our nameless narrator buried the dismembered body.

Coraline– Neil Gaiman

When her family moved into their new home, Coraline Jones knew things were weird. But weird doesn’t describe a mysterious door with a brick wall behind it. Weird definitely doesn’t describe the mysterious tunnel that takes its place. When Coraline goes through, she finds herself in another house, one just like her own. But this perfect world is hiding something dark and sinister, and Coraline might be too late to stop it.

A Stranger in the House– Shari Lapena

Newlyweds Karen and Tom Krupp happily live in upstate New York, but one day, Karen gets into an accident and loses her memory. When they return home, Karen notices things in the house have been moved. Nothing is quite right, and she realizes someone’s been in the house. This psychological thriller makes you doubt everything you know about your own life.

The Night Circus– Erin Morgenstern

This circus appears with no warning; no announcements or advertisements to display it, and it disappears as quickly as it comes. Only open at night, the circus tents hold amazing sights within, but the Night Circus holds a dark secret., and the performers must pay the price.

Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep– Jack Prelutshy

Instead of bedtime stories, read a dozen horrific poems to keep you up at night. Ranging vampires to ghouls, these poems cover a variety of creepy stories that will scare even the bravest individual.

Favorite Book Series: Science Fiction, Double Feature

Science fiction and fantasy are the gateway into expressing some of our most creative and imaginative ideas. It’s exciting, intriguing, and a possible look into the what could be and what we want to be. We here at the University Press love to delve into those fascinating and surreal worlds. Here are some of our favorite sci-fi and fantasy books that you should add to your reading list! Leave us a comment, visit us on facebook, or follow us on twitter to share your thoughts about what other sci-fi and fantasy books everyone should be reading!

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States and is now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men in its population.

The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate, and wry, Offred reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment’s calm facade, as certain hierarchies now in existence are carried to their logical conclusions.

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of 10,000 planets. Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. Somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them. And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win.

 

World War Z – Max Brooks

The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the record that preserves these horrifying accounts.

 

A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin

Sweeping from a harsh land of cold to a summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, A Game of Thrones tells a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. Here, an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne. A child is lost in the twilight between life and death, and a determined woman undertakes a treacherous journey to protect all she holds dear. Amid plots and counter-plots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, allies and enemies, the fate of the Starks hangs perilously in the balance, as each side endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: The Game of Thrones.

 

Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut

Cat’s Cradle is Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical commentary on modern man and his madness. An apocalyptic tale of this planet’s ultimate fate, it features a midget as the protagonist, a complete, original theology created by a calypso singer, and a vision of the future that is at once blacklyfatalistic and hilariously funny. A book that left an indelible mark on an entire generation of readers, Cat’s Cradle is one of the twentieth century’s most important works—and Vonnegut at his very best.

 

 

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other. This fantasy novel delves into a post-apocalyptic world with no government, no society, and not a lot of hope. With a very eclectic writing style and captivating storyline, Cormac McCarthy brings us to a new and different world from the one that we all know.

 

If You Liked “Floods and Fires,” You’ll Love These!

Dan Leach’s book Floods and Fires is a prime example of Southern Literature. If you enjoy Southern Literature, you’re certain to enjoy reading these novels and short stories written by authors who inspired Dan Leach! Here are a few book recommendations that capture the true essence of Southern Literature! Happy reading!

Nothing Can Stay Gold by Ron Rash

Ron Rash’s Nothing Can Stay Gold is a collection of fourteen short stories set in Appalachia, including “The Trusty”, which first appeared in The New Yorker. Taking place in various time periods, ranging from the Civil War to present day, the stories focus on the unforgettable lives of those whom have been haunted by violence, hope, and fear in Appalachia. Like Fire and Floods, these short stories cover a variety of topics such as family, tragedy, love, and trust, and you won’t want to put them down.

 

 

Calloustown by George Singleton

Calloustown is the seventh collection from Southern short story specialist, George Singleton, who was an inspiration to Dan Leach. In Calloustown, George Singleton explores the inhabitants of the small town in South Carolina, mostly through the perspective of an older male who often references his wife. Singleton explores families, religion, politics, and various other stories that range from deeply affecting to wildly absurd in the fifteen short stories that make up novel.

 

 

Facing the Music by Larry Brown

In Larry Brown’s first book, Facing the Music, he writes ten short stories about love. Love is often seen as a wonderful, cherished feeling, but in Brown’s short stories, he writes about the darker side this emotion brings. Brown writes how love can remain graceful, even if there maybe hardships involved, such as violence and drinking. Facing the Music’s brutally honest stories capture the struggles many loved ones experience and makes the reader stop and think about true meaning of love.

 

The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides follows the forty-year story of Tom Wingo and his talented, but troubled, twin sister Savannah. Tom and Savannah struggle to overcome their family’s dark and tragic legacy into which they were born.  The Prince of Tides is considered one of Pat Conroy’s best novels as he describes the beauty of low country South Carolina, all the way to upstate New York. Conroy captures the burden that family can often cause but which is the true essence of love and struggle.