Deborah A. Miranda is an enrolled member of the Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen. Her mixed-genre book Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir, received the PEN-Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award, a Gold Medal from the Independent Publishers Association, and was short-listed for the William Saroyan Literary Award. Her most recent poetry collection is Raised by Humans; previous collections include The Zen of La Llorona and Indian Cartography. An unpublished manuscript, Altar for Broken Things, is looking for a publisher. Miranda is Professor of English at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia where she teaches literature and creative writing.
This session will demonstrate ways to create richly layered memoir via multiple genres and visual storytelling. Our lives and those of our ancestors leave traces in the human archive that include much more than photographs. Documents like immigration records, religious institutions, letters, newspaper clippings, government forms, song lyrics, even fingerprints, prison records, school assignments, local histories or ethnographic notes—can all be “mined” for creative inspiration, expanding and enriching the narrative of your family.
Many of us come to writing through a love of reading: the strike of literary lightning, a certain line or phrase that stays with us for years. As we continue to grow as writers and participate in the community, our creative process evolves, being shaped and informed by the relationships we have with the works of others.
How do we summon creative power in the face of our personal and/or global demons? How can we speak of beauty when our world seems full of loss, grief, climate change, and political turmoil? Thich Nhat Hanh says that the work of meditation is to transform “compost into flowers”; that is also the work of poetry. This generative workshop will help you to re-see your demons as a form of poetic compost.
Linda Hogan says, “History is our illness.” I’m reminded of this when I think of the legacies that Missionization and colonization have left us: diabetes, substance abuse, obesity, depression, domestic violence, racism. Who needs a colonizer anymore—we can do ourselves quite a bit of damage without outside help! Bonnie Duran and Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart call this Postcolonial Stress Disorder, or Historical Trauma. Our personal histories are shorter versions of the tribal histories we have endured [ . . . ] it is impossible to ignore the fact that certain commonalities run through Native lives and identities that come directly from the colonized experience.
– for John T. Williams, and all Indians living on the street
On Broadway or 1st Ave, on Capitol Hill or Pioneer Square, the Indians gather in doorways or benches or grassy bits of park. They sleep, sell Small Change, tell stories, carve little totem poles, share cigarettes, wait for the bars to open – for the shelters to open – for the soup kitchens to open wait for the world to open.
I came to finding my voice through the pain and suffering of those I love most - how do I deal with that? What do I do with that knowledge? – author and environmental activist Terry Tempest Williams
When writing about the California Missions became the focus of my scholarship and poetry, the question Terry Tempest Williams speaks of was precisely the dilemma I began to face.
My “successes” in life (tenured teaching position, house, car, children’s college funding, health care, publications) exist, in large part, due to the fact that I write about and research California Indian history and experiences.
---. "Toulumne." World Literature Today, May 2017.
My father walked out of San Quentin after eight years and somehow ended up at the Tuolumne River. My father’s forty-four-year-old body was hardened, callused, scarred, and tattooed with eight years of fighting to breathe, to stay unbroken, or at least alive. He woke up nights in a cold sweat, fists coiled, pumped with adrenaline. Far into old age, he told me, he lived in fear that his release was a mistake, and guards would show up to take him away, lock him back up.
But how did he get from San Quentin to the Tuolumne River, and why? Well, he didn’t mean to make that trip. As to why . . .