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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Great Writers from our First Nations, written by Kim Sigafus and Lyle Ernst. Second Story Press, 2012. $10.95 ages 10 and up

""I heard an elder speak of the importance of our languages and our culture. He said that our words are powerful, our stories are elastic, our languages are music; they dance, they move, and they are medicine for our people. He said they are a spirit within themselves, and we are only the channel that brings them to life. I write because I know what he said is true." (Nicola Campbell)

This is the latest in the series from Second Story Press called A First Nations Book for Young Readers. It is written in familiar form, and provides short biographical information about ten First Nations writers throughout North America.  The writers profiled are honored in the writing community for their voices and the contributions they make.

In alphabetical order they are:

Sherman Alexie, a Spokane and Coeur d'Alene Indian who lives in Seattle and has had his works published since the early 1990s. He is a poet, a writer of fiction, a film maker and the recipient of numerous awards and honors. I love this quote attributed to him in an information box that accompanies his short biography:
'If one reads enough books, one has a fighting chance. Or better, one's chances of survival increase with each book one reads."

Recently I read Louise Erdrich's newest book in The Birchbark House Series. I will tell you all about Chickadee (Harper, August 2012) soon. I have long admired her work and have read some of her adult stories. I would love to visit her bookstore in Minneapolis, called Birchbark Books. She is a prolific writer of aboriginal stories.

"Today she lives in a quiet Minneapolis neighborhood that is part of a vibrant urban American Indian community...she remains modest, describing herself as a woman from a small Midwestern town who loves words and gets more pleasure from walking in the woods than going on a cross-country book tour."

Others included are Joseph Boyden, N. Scott Momaday, Marilyn Dumont, Tomson Highway, Joseph Bruchac, Maria Campbell, Nicola Campbell and Tim Tingle. Each short chapter offers clear information and perspective for the career choices made, photos, informational sidebars and a partial list of their work to date.

In the last entry which profiles Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle, he gives advice to those who want to write:

"Learn to listen. Keep your eyes and ears open to everything around you. Listen to how people talk. Learn how to become part of the scene and step out of the scene and observe. Write what you know. But don't limit your experience to what you know now."  Great advice for every one of us!

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