Friday, December 26, 2014

2nd Annual Diversity Month Day 26: Author Interview w/ Joseph Bruchac +Kindle Fire 6" and Book Giveaway!

It is with great pleasure to introduce our next guest. He might just be the most decorated author we've gotten the chance to interview for Diversity Month. He has so many awards and honors, not to mention titles, that in his 30+ years as an author is inspiration to all writers.

He's one of the most prolific authors of Native American/American Indian ancestry(honorable mentions are also Cynthia Leitich Smith and Sherman Alexie, for those of you who need a start!)and has always created a door for characters of Native American/American Indian ancestry.

We featured him during our "Diversify Your Steampunk" event last April with a guest post.

But it just seems even more appropriate to interview him for our Diversity Month. You probably know him already...

Introducing Joseph Bruchac!

We're so happy that you can join us with a more formal introduction. For those of us who are just learning about you, what can you tell us about Joseph Bruchac, the writer? 
I'm a writer and traditional storyteller whose work often reflects his background as a person of mixed Native and European ancestry (Abenaki, English, Slovak--and more distant roots from the Mohawk, Mohican, and Nipmuc nations). I grew up in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains and still live in the same house where I was raised by my maternal grandparents. I've spent much of my life outdoors and am still most relaxed when I'm in the forests and mountains of my home country. Although I do enjoy being with people and sharing stories.

I'm a strong believer in peace and conflict resolution and you'll find that in many of the things I write, even when the topic is war--as in my novels about the Civil War and the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II. I also do not think it a contradiction that I've been involved in combat sports since my teens--first wrestling in high school and at Cornell University where I was the varsity heavyweight and then many different martial arts, especially Indonesian pentjak silat (for 37 years with a 5th degree black belt and Master rank) and Brazilian jiu jitsu (for the last six years with purple belt rank). I'm still in the dojo five days a week on average, training, teaching, and grappling.

I've written in pretty much every genre and for every age, from pre-k to adults, starting off with poetry (I've been published in hundreds of literary magazines and anthologies and won a National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellowship for poetry) and going on to folk tales, novels, plays, short stories, biography, screen plays, and songs. At present I've had more than 130 books published and I'm now working on eight more. I write and read all kinds of things, including "serious" novels, biography, detective novels, fantasy and speculative fiction and think some of the best books out there those classified as YA.

I've had some interesting life experiences. A B.A.l from Cornell University, Master's degree in Creative Writing from Syracuse and a Ph. D. in Comparative Literature from the Union Institute, followed by  three years of teaching in Ghana, West Africa, running a college program in a maximum security prison for eight years, and traveling to every state in this country and many other parts of the world. As an editor, I published a poetry magazine called THE GREENFIELD REVIEW for fourteen years and still publish books, primarily poetry and traditional stories, by Native American authors through the Bowman Books imprint of the Greenfield Review Press.

I was married to my wife Carol for 47 years until she passed away three years ago. She was my co-editor, my best friend and best critic,  and her support made me who I am today. The two of us had two sons Jim and Jesse. Both are grown men with families of their own and they are also writers and storytellers. Plus both of them are martial arts teachers and take pleasure in tapping out their feeble old father. We often write books, travel and perform together. All three of us work together in projects involving the preservation of Native culture, Native language renewal, teaching traditional Native skills, and environmental education.     

It's amazing that all of your books feature Native Protagonists and while we wholly support authors who include Native American/Amerindian characters, we always try to make the effort of showing the most support to Authors of color from these backgrounds. What do you get the most out of sharing with the world myths,tales and legends featuring Native American culture?

One correction: not all of my books feature Native protagonists. For example, I have a sword-play and sorcery fantasy novel DRAGON CASTLE (Dial, 2011) that takes place in ancient Slovakia.
 I think that what I most get out of sharing Native cultures is offering, in an authentic and respectful manner, the humanity and wisdom of the many and diverse Native American cultures whose traditions have often been either little known or misrepresented. I love to share what I love.

What do you find to be the most important when it comes to the representation of Native American protagonists?

American Indian people should be accurately drawn and shown to be as fully human as any people. I feel it is my responsibility to show them as they are, not as stereotypes--either positive or negative--or as one dimensional characters. Also, Native people should not just be pictured in the past, but in the present day. Or the future. I believe that as long as human beings survive, Native Americans will be there--even if they are nowhere to be seen (thus far) in THE WALKING DEAD.

What kind of research goes into the novels that you written?

A lot. Let me put that another way: a whole lot. My research often lasts years. When I am interested in a particular story, I immerse myself in it as deeply as possible. I do not just rely on written material (although when I am writing about historical events, I always go first to primary sources) but also (especially!) on the people to whom the story belongs. In the case of my novel CODE TALKER it meant meeting and listening to actual Navajo Code talkers, sharing my unpublished manuscript with the Navajo Code Talkers Association, such Dine (Navajo) historians as Harry Walters, and fluent speakers of the Dine (Navajo) language.

With your most recent YA novel, "Killer of Enemies", you incorporated Steampunk elements. What was the story behind adding the Steampunk tendencies?

 I just really enjoy the whole Steampunk genre and it seemed to me as if certain of those elements perfectly suited my main character.

In ten words or less, what can you tell us about the Killer of Enemies Series?

Dystopian future with monsters without electricity with gritty heroine.

Seeing as how representation is so important, who are some people(can be authors) of Native Ancestry that you looked up to growing up?

Jim Thorpe (the Sac and Fox man named the World's Greatest Athlete) Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse (Lakota Leaders), Sacajawea and the men of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Hiawatha (the real one, not Longfellow's character who was actually the Anishinabe culture hero Manabozho and not one of the founders of the League of the Iroquois). 

Interestingly enough, I seem to have either written books about most of them or they've appeared in books I've written. None of the above were authors. While growing up there were virtually no books on the shelves for young readers that were written by American Indians with the exception of Arthur C. Parker, an author of Seneca descent, who did write some books for younger readers but whose work I only discovered as an adult. Though there have been quite a few Native American writers since the 16th century and the Inca writer Garcilaso de la Vega), the great renaissance in Native American writing began in the last 1960s when I was already in college.

What are some of your pet peeves in terms of writers exoticizing Native culture?

Maybe the fact that there are so many of them? I constantly still find books written about Indians that are by people who are non-Native and clearly know little or nothing about Native American culture and, in all likelihood, have never had a substantive conversation with anyone of Native ancestry. 

Such writers often present Native people with deadly seriousness, often as illiterate victims, and usually in the romantic past. Or we are all medicine men or medicine women, wise shamans, dream-speakers, whose primary task seems to be to initiate wide-eyed white people to take their place. (Oh Great Spirit, gimme a break!). 

Or, in some cases, they pretend to be Indian and write best-selling first-person books that real Native people read and find ridiculous. (Such as the recent "autobiography" THE BLOOD RUNS LIKE A RIVER THROUGH MY DREAMS.) They do not show the complexity of actual Native life nor do they include the sense of humor that is everywhere in Indian Country. It would be impossible for them to write a book like Sherman Alexie's brilliant ABSOLUTELY TRUE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN.
Where can readers stay posted on all your updates, new releases and everything related to Joseph Bruchac, the author?


Post a Comment

Thanks for leaving awesome comments!We appreciate and reply to everyone!