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Eric Gansworth

Distinguished Visiting Writer 2017

About Eric Gansworth

Writer and visual artist Eric Gansworth, Sˑha-weñ na-saeˀ, (enrolled Onondaga) was raised at the Tuscarora Nation Territories in Western New York. Spanning novels, poetry, and memoir, his work includes If I Ever Get Out of HereExtra Indians (American Book Award), Mending Skins (PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Award), and others. In addition to writing, Gansworth is also an accomplished visual artist, with current exhibitions at Canisius College and the Iroquois Indian Museum. Gansworth recently served as NEH Distinguished Visiting Professor of Native American Studies at Colgate University in 2016, and was one of 15 writers chosen for inclusion in LIT CITY, a public arts project celebrating Buffalo’s Literary Legacy. Currently, he is a Professor of English and Lowery Writer-in-Residence at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. His next novel, Give Me Some Truth, is forthcoming from Arthur A. Levine Books.

More About Eric Gansworth

"What I Like about Eric Gansworth's If I Ever Get Out of Here." Debbie Reese, American Indians in Children's Literature (May 29, 2013). See also the Group Discussion of If I Ever Get Out of Here in Rich in Color.

"America--or any nation--celebrates moments and events in its history that show that nation in a good light. Noting those moments is important, but so is noting that there is not a single story within any nation. Not everyone celebrates those same moments. Some people have a different view of those moments. Take, for example, the celebration of United States Bicentennial. In the opening pages of his If I Ever Get Out of Here, Eric Gansworth's protagonist looks down the street at his elementary school. He imagines teachers getting ready to celebrate the U.S. Bicentennial, and notes that the teachers would be puzzled that the celebrations would not be a priority on the reservation. Knowing that Gansworth pokes at that celebration might turn you off. You might think that his book is an anti-American screed. Rest easy. It isn't. It also isn't one of those 'eat your veggies' kind of books... It is, however, a rare but honest look at culture and how people with vastly different upbringings and identities can clash. And dance. And laugh.

"A Dialogue with Contemporary Native American Fiction Writers: Eric Gansworth." Phoebe Farris, Cultural Survival (May 31, 2016). See also Eric's interveiw with Malinda Lo in Diversity in YA.

"I've written about young life for most of my career, but always from the vantage point of an adult looking back. The American Indian Children's Literature activist, Debbie Reese, and I became friends a number of years ago, after we'd been speakers at the same conference. Debbie asked me if I'd ever consider writing for young people. At the time, I didn't think writing for young people would be that different, as I read general audience novels when I was in junior high and high school. My young adult editor, Cheryl Klein, contacted Debbie, seeking Indigenous writers. Debbie then put us in contact and after some discussion, the right story eventually emerged. I think if a young adult is attracted to my work for younger readers, they might engage with my other novels, though they might find them more slowly paced. I tend to write pretty contemplative fiction. That's true for my young adult work too, but maybe more so for my other work."

"My Good Man." Eric Gansworth, Boston Review (Feb 01, 2005).

"“My Good Man”—that was what she called him. Good for what? was what most people asked, but all my ma would do was smile. He hung around a lot the spring and summer I was seven, and since he was strong enough to bring in a full kerosene can, she let him stay on through the winter. After a while, she willed the whole reservation to forget his real name. Everyone started calling him MGM, which eventually evolved into Gihh-rhaggs, the Tuscarora word for lion. He said it was because of his fierce growl, thick beard, and full head of hair. He never knew the fluidity of our language, since he didn’t speak it at all—that we might say “lion” when we meant “lyin’.”"

"Artery" and "While Hendrix Played a Solo: 'Burning of the Midnight Lamp'." Eric Gansworth. Taken from the poetry/photography collection From the Western Door to the Lower West Side (White Pine Press, 2009). Provided courtesy of Milton Rogovin Photography.

The garage's dark interior
lined high with shelves
of grease-filmed bottles
protects this man's lifeline,
a fusion of chemicals and dreams
coursing through the fuel lines,
keeping his carburetor clean.

"Vital Kinships: A Conversation with Eric Gansworth and Arigon Starr." Susan Bernardin, World Literature Today (May 2017).

"Comics prepared me for flexing both sides of my voice. While I compose differently, visual and verbal forms are all the same story to me, filtered through different facets. Maybe it’s close to performance artists like Laurie Anderson and Karen Finley and progressive bands like Rush and Pink Floyd. Long before music videos, both bands explored the synthesis of simultaneously presented images and songs. I also (being a weird kid) loved early German expressionist silent films. By the age of nine, I‘d seen Nosferatu and Metropolis multiple times. They relied on the visual with extremely economically written intertitles, closer to reading wampum belts than you’d think."