Shapes of Native Nonfiction: Collected Essays by Contemporary Writers

Univ. of Washington. Jun. 2019. 224p. ed. by ed. by Elissa Washuta & Theresa Warburton. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780295745763. $95; pap. ISBN 9780295745756. $29.95. LIT
Editors Washuta (creative writing, Ohio State; My Body Is a Book of Rules) and Warburton (English, Western Washington Univ.) have pulled together a groundbreaking collection of 27 mostly previously published critical essays and creative nonfiction meant to challenge non-Native scholarly and academic assumptions about how and what Native authors write. The selections eschew straightforward autobiography and fiction in favor of dazzling experiments in nonlinear narrative and content that contests “a voyeuristic obsession with tragedy as the ultimate possible contribution of Native literatures to the broader field.” Contributors include Ernestine Hayes, Billy-Ray Belcourt, Eden Robinson, Terese Marie Mailhot, and Deborah Miranda, with the most memorable pieces being Stephen Graham Jones’s “Letter to a Just-Starting-Out Indian Writer—and Maybe to Myself”); Tiffany Midge’s “Part One: Redeeming the English Language (Acquisition) Series,” a clever, funny, political meditation on etymology; Bojan Louis’s unconventional travelog, in which he admits “we’re proud of the things we don’t know”; and Adrienne Keene’s powerful and pointed “To the Man Who Gave Me Cancer.”
VERDICT It’s not hard to imagine this work as a staple of creative writing course syllabi for years to come. A must for any library.

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