Cheyenne and Arapaho Novelist Tommy Orange Wins $25K PEN/Hemingway Award for “There There’

“We are the memories we don’t remember, which live in us, which we feel, which make us sing and dance and pray the way we do, feelings from memories that flare and bloom unexpectedly in our lives like blood through a blanket from a wound made by a bullet fired by a man shooting us in the back for our hair, for our heads, for a bounty, or just to get rid of us.”  Tommy Orange, There There


Notes:

  • Séan Hemingway [Ernest’s grandson] To Present Award During Ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, April 7, 2019
  • There There is also Amazon’s Best Book of 2018

Critically-acclaimed debut author Tommy Orange is the winner of the 2019 PEN/Hemingway Award for his novel There There (Knopf, 2018), PEN America announced today. Honoring a distinguished first novel, Tommy Orange will receive $25,000 underwritten by the Hemingway Family and the Hemingway Foundation, as well as a month-long Residency Fellowship valued at $10,000 at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, a retreat for artists and writers.  Séan Hemingway, the grandson of the American writer Ernest Hemingway, will present the prestigious literary award to Tommy Orange on Sunday, April 7, during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

Orange’s There There illuminates the lives of urban Native Americans, and explores their struggles with identity and authenticity. This year’s judges—authors Cristina Garcia, Dinaw Mengestu, and Scott Simon—called There There a “devastatingly beautiful novel, as acutely attuned to our current cultural and political condition as it is to the indelible legacy of violence that brought us here.”  The judges added that “The breadth and scope of this novel are matched only by the fierce and relentless intelligence that Orange brings to his characters, who despite tragedy, heartbreak and loss, reside in a remarkable world of hard-earned grace.”

“Orange’s novel is striking in its range and depth, and it is exceptional for a debut novel to disrupt and expand the landscape of American fiction the way that There There has,” said Literary Awards Program Director Nadxieli Nieto. “It is exactly this kind of groundbreaking work that the PEN/ Hemingway Award honors.”


“She told me the world was made of stories, nothing else, just stories, and stories about stories.” Tommy Orange, There There


Tommy Orange is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, and was born and raised in Oakland, California. He received his MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), and was a 2014 MacDowell Fellow and a 2016 Writing by Writers Fellow. Orange joins other notable PEN/Hemingway winners and honorees including Marilynne Robinson, Edward P. Jones, Jhumpa Lahiri, Colson Whitehead, Jennifer Haigh, ZZ Packer, George Saunders, Ha Jin, Yiyun Li, Teju Cole, and Ottessa Moshfegh—a four-decade lineage of literary excellence founded in 1976 by Mary Hemingway, the widow of Ernest Hemingway, to honor her late husband and draw attention to debut novels. (See the complete list here.)

The two PEN/Hemingway runners-up are Akwaeke Emezi for Freshwater (Grove) and Ling Mafor Severance (Macmillan). Two writers will receive Honorable Mention: Meghan Kenny for The Driest Season (W.W. Norton) and Nico Walker for Cherry (Knopf). Runners-up and Honorable Mentions each receive a Residency Fellowship at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming.


“Opal and Jacquie’s mom never let them kill a spider if they found one in the house, or anywhere for that matter. Her mom said spiders carry miles of web in their bodies, miles of story, miles of potential home and trap. She said that’s what we are. Home and trap.”  Tommy Orange, There There

This feature is courtesy of PEN America. Book cover illustrations courtesy of Knopf.


The PEN/Hemingway Award Ceremony will take place at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library on Sunday, April 7, from 2 to 3pm and is free and open to the public. Renowned novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen will be the keynote speaker.  Those interested in attending should call the library at (617) 514-1643 or register online at www.jfklibrary.org to reserve a seat.

The PEN/Hemingway Award Ceremony is supported by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, the Hemingway Family, and the Friends of the Ernest Hemingway Collection.

The Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library spans Hemingway’s entire career, and contains ninety percent of existing Hemingway manuscript materials, making the Kennedy Library the world’s principal center for research on the life and work of Ernest Hemingway. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis described Mary Hemingway’s gift of Ernest Hemingway’s papers to the Kennedy Library as helping “to fulfill our hopes that the Library will become a center for the study of American civilization, in all its aspects.”

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.  

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is one of fourteen presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and is supported, in part, by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, a non-profit organization. The Kennedy Presidential Library and the Kennedy Library Foundation seek to promote, through educational and community programs, a greater appreciation and understanding of American politics, history, and culture, the process of governing and the importance of public service.


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“Survivance” … the task of refusing erasure

SurvivanceMichael Watson ~ After a couple of days of warmth and rain, today is seasonably cold. Next week is forecast to be very warm again, an unnerving scenario as we rely on the snow pack for our summer water supply.

Climate change is a complex issue, not so much because there is doubt that it is human caused and accelerating, but because it affects people unevenly. Here in Vermont folks are divided about the issue. Many are appreciative of our much briefer and milder winters. Others lament the loss of tourism jobs, the declining maple forests, and the increasing number of failed drinking water wells.

Much of the divide in opinion can be linked to whether a person lives their life inside or outside. City folk tend to lament cold, snowy, inconvenient weather. Those who spend most of their days outside are more likely to have a keen sense of the problems and losses that come with global climate change.

Those about to assume leadership of the United States deny climate change. They also reject ideas of diversity,  stewardship, and mutual responsibility and community. But you already know this. What you may not know is that many idolize Andrew Jackson. Jackson defied the Supreme Court and stole the lands and farms of Naive people in the Southeast, sending The People on a Trail of Tears. He is so hated in Indian Country that many Native people refuse to use twenty-dollar bills.

Somehow, a few families managed to avoid deportation. I like to imagine they lived up in distant hollows or in the dense forested swamps of the river bottoms.

My father’s family identified as Native, although they refused to tell us younger ones what tribes we hail from. (They did instill in us a deep sense that governments can’t be trusted.) They grew up in Indiana at a time when being Native could cost you your farm, or your life. My understanding is that after my grandfather left the family, my grandmother moved the farm to a rocky, inhospitable, spectacularly beautiful location overlooking the Ohio River. She correctly assumed they would be safe there. My dad and his siblings walked downhill to school, then back up to home. Once, dad took me to see the homestead, in what is now a state park. It took us almost two hours to hike up. (No doubt my Polio body slowed us down.)

A few years ago I was introduce to the idea of “survivance.” The term was apparently a legal term in the Eighteenth Century,  but was adapted for Native use by Jerald Vizenor, a much venerated Native Studies scholar who is no longer here in physical form. The term refers to active survival, a continued presence even as we are supposed to have been erased from the land.

I like to think of survivance as the task of refusing erasure. Beyond that, it is the art of living well in the face of hatred and genocide. I imagine the concept of continuing to live well while under threat might be applicable to the situation of many of us in 2017. (My wife, Jennie, a Jewess, contends that the term applies perfectly to folks who resisted the Holocaust, and I suspect she is right.) Survivance implies asking important questions and making difficult choices. When does one openly resist? When does one hide or, if possible, pass? How do we find and nurture joy, family, and community in the face of hatred?

For me, there is an even more fundamental definition of survivance: the task of nurturing and protecting the soul in the face of those who would obliterate it. We need to save our souls, (individual, cultural, and collective) from those who would destroy them, for soul loss is excruciatingly painful and may impact many generations. (Make no mistake, Jackson and his ilk wanted nothing less than the destruction of the Native soul; those who idealize him now want nothing less than the destruction of all that is “Other”.)

Perhaps we can learn something about survivance from those who came before us. There is much to be said for living on land no one else desires, holding ceremony in the deep night, and pretending to be one of the majority. There is much to gain from building coalitions, going to court, and telling our stories to a larger audience. There is much to be won from making, and sharing, art, music, and literature. My guess is that we will need to draw from all these, and more, during the years to come.

© Michael Watson
Excerpt from the January issue of The BeZine and published here with Michael’s permission.

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If you have time enough to follow only one blog, make it Michael’s:

MICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World and Journey Works)  is a contributing editor to The BeZine, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, a psychotherapist, educator, and an artist of Native American and European descent.

Michael lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he recently retired from his teaching position in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there.  He also had wonderful experiences teaching in India and Hong Kong, which are documented on his blog, Dreaming the World. In childhood Michael had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

CELEBRATING AMERICAN SHE-POETS (18): Joy Harjo, Crazy Brave

Joy Harjo (b 1951), Mvskoke (Creek) Poet, Musician, author and key player in the second wave of the Native Merican Renaissance (literary efflorescence)

Joy Harjo (b 1951), Mvskoke (Creek) Poet, Musician, author and key player in the second wave of the Native American literary efflorescence

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 Crazy Brave (Norton & Company, 2012), Joy Harjo’s eminently engaging memoir, flows like a long prose poem. It is rich and well-built on a foundation of tribal mythologies, a strong sense of her ancestry, her difficult childhood and youth and salvation found in poetry and music. From her birth to a handsome much-loved fire-spirit father who inherited Indian oil money, allowing him to indulge a passion for cars, and her beautiful water-spirit singer-mother whose voice was stilled by a bully of a second-husband, Harjo tells the story of girl who survived a physically and emotionally abusive step-father, crushing poverty and the greater cultural obscenities to become one of our most influential poets and a formidable advocate for justice for Native Americans and liberation for women.

I was entrusted with carrying voices, songs, and stories to grow and release into the world, to be of assistance and inspiration. These were my responsibility.”

*****

I can’t imagine the human being who wouldn’t relate to Joy Harjo’s history, but those who have come from “broken” homes, poverty and a family of mixed ethnicity will most especially appreciate it and perhaps find some healing and strength in the pages of Crazy Brave. That Joy Harjo survived so much to become a decent loving person leaves the rest of us with no excuse; and any writer, poet or musician will take to heart the dreams and visions of that long journey to find hope and creative voice in poetry.

Joy Harjo, a member of the Mvskoke tribe was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, an area where the Native American trail of tears ended, an area to which the indigenous peoples were removed – forced to relocate –  as people of European descent moved into their original home places. The removed were the Five Civilized Tribes – Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Mvkoke and Seminole  – who were living as autonomous nations in what is now the American Deep South.

“I fought through the War Between the States and have seen many men shot, but the Cherokee Removal was the cruelest work I ever knew”. Georgian soldier who participated in the removal

*****

When the World as We Knew It Ended
It was coming.
We had been watching since the eve of the missionaries in their long
and solemn clothes, to see what would happen.
We saw it
from the kitchen window over the sink
as we made coffee, cooked rice and potatoes
enough for an army.
We saw it all, as we changed diapers and fed
the babies. We saw it,
through the branches of the knowledgeable tree,
through the snags of stars, through
the sun and storms, from our knees
as we bathed and washed the floors …
The conference of the birds warned us as they flew over
destroyers in the harbor, parked there since the first takeover.
It was by their songs and talk we knew when to rise,
when to look out the window

excerpt from When the World Ended in How We Became Human, New and Selected Poems (W.W. Norton & Co., 2004)

*****

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Joy Harjo’s poetry and music are influenced by her ethnic heritage and her feminist and social concerns as well as by her love of word and sound and her education in the arts. Largely autobiographical, her poetry is informed with descriptions of the Southwestern landscape and the mythologies, symbols and values of the Mvskoke people. Hers is the sort of writing that sits with you to become part of your own bone and marrow, which is the way of good poetry and good story. A poet of the people but also a critically-acclaimed poet, her many awards include the Wallace Stevens Award of the Academy of American Poets, The William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America and the American Indian Distinguished Achiement in the Arts Award. She is the recipient of several grants and is a teacher, musician (saxophone) and singer.  She has published some fourteen books and ten music albums.

It was a dance,
her back against the wall
at Carmen’s party. He was alone
and he called to her – come here, come here
that was the firs time she saw him
and later she and Carmen drove him home
and all the way he talked to the moon,
to the stars, to someone riding

excerpt from There Was a Dance, Sweetheart in How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems (1975-2022) (W.W. Norton & Co., 2004) © Joy Harjo

If you are reading this post from email, you will likely have to link though to this blog to enjoy the video. Joy Harjo’s Eagle Song, poem and music:

© review, Jamie Dedes; poems, Joy Harjo, photographs courtesy of Ms Harjo

The BeZine, Nov. 2015, Vol. 2, Issue 1, “At-risk Youth,” Table of Contents with Links

15 November 2015

paint-prints-of-youths-handsWelcome to our first issue that is focusing on at-risk youth. Our mission today in our topical section is to share stories and poems that cause us to think about youth in a different way. Who are at-risk youth? Where are they?

Often, they seem invisible to the world until they are splashed across the news in dramatic headlines. We can all remember the photos of dead children washing up on the seashore…refugees fleeing Syria. And in the US, just a few days ago, a young boy, age 8, killed a 1 year old. Why? Because he was the babysitter in charge and she would not stop crying. I am often appalled at the reactions we have to children with extreme behaviors. What skills do we expect an 8 year old to have?

Sigh.

And so, we, at The Bardo Group, have written of the children of the world that are marginalized and at-risk for a wide range of disasters. This is a special topic for me. I run the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition which provides chaplaincy and mentoring to incarcerated youth. I have included three pieces in this edition that are close to my heart. One, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani. This poem is the first one I wrote in reaction to the stories I heard in detention. I wanted to put the parents, and God, on trial. And so I did. I wasn’t happy with the answer I received! And yet, it gave me so much hope. The second piece, an essay titled Mentoring At-Risk Youth, tells you a little more directly about who I am and what I do. Last, is the poem, A True Story. You may guess that it is a true event and you would be correct! It happened this year and it made me very angry.

St. Augustine says, ““Hope has two beautiful daughters – their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”

Hope, anger and courage have driven me to move through the pain and challenge of working with these particular youth.

A small collection from people I work with that all explore what it is like to work with incarcerated youth. They are all new to the BeZine so let’s give them a resounding welcome! Justin Almeida offers an essay, Finding Life in Detention. Lisa Ashley, MDIV, has a poem, at risk youth, that names what is really at risk when you work with youth in detention—your heart is at risk!  And Natasha Burrowes drops the mic in Untitled.

Closely related to Natasha’s discussion of who is really at risk is Charles Martin’s, at risk… It is a great question. Who is really at risk when we allow our children to be the victims of poverty, crime, and other forces? Is it really just the child? Or is there something larger?

Incarcerated youth, across the board, have increased rates of trauma when compared to other youth. The ACES test (Adverse Childhood Experiences) scores incarcerated youth as having a 92 out of 100. I think I would be a bowl of jello if I had that high of a trauma score. Christina Conroy explores living through a traumatic childhood in her autobiographical poem, Legacy. Also writing autobiographically is Kimberly Wilhelmina Floria in Validating Myself. It made my heart grow two more sizes! Also cracking my heart is Jamie Dedes’ Heading Home autobiographical poem regarding suicide. Sometimes, I wish I knew what that special something is that manages to give children resiliency. Heart breaking. Or I wish I had a magic wand that would right the world’s wrongs.

Also writing from experience is Trace Lara Hentz’s essay, Angel Turned Inside. Lara was introduced to us by Team Member Michael Watson and is new to these pages. Her essay explores the tragedy that was the movement westward in the US and the use of adoption as a weapon against American Indians and First Nations. I am aware of this tragic history because of my knowledge of church history which is horrifyingly replete with church support of taking children from their families and putting them into orphanages.

Knife Notes—a Poem, from Michael Dickel, explores the relationship between the past and the future for Joe. I am especially moved by the truthful reflection of how kids who are hurting treat each other.

“It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.” That is a quote from Washington state’s constitution. Unfortunately, we simply fail our children. John Antsie’s article, Education, Common Sense … and The Future, explores two simple things regarding education-one thing to change and one thing to hope for.

One thing that the youth I work with almost unanimously face is addiction issues. Jamie Dedespiece, scag dancing, explores in vivid, concise imagery the relationship between addiction and poverty.

With “Thinking Continually of Those at Risk,” by Priscilla Galasso, you will be surprised at where she starts and where she finishes! She speaks a truth that resonates, “We can so easily provide food, shelter, and opportunity to our youth with the systems we have devised, but those systems have become mine fields where kids are sabotaged on the journey.”

Sometimes we attempt to sabotage journeys with needless judgment regarding what makes a real parent. John Nooney explores his experience of adoption and the sometimes senseless absorption of people asking, “Have you found your birth-mother?” in his essay, Some Thoughts on Adoption.

In my research of how to interrupt the school to prison pipeline, I have found two interesting statistics. One, children who miss 24+ days of Pre-K or Kindergarten are more likely to become incarcerated. And two, children who personally own five books of their own have better life outcomes than those who do not. I have also recently run across an article pointing towards the importance of librarians in achievement for children. Corina Ravenscraft points out the importance of libraries in These Hallowed Halls of Hope.” Libraries are, indeed, an oasis of peace in a concrete jungle.

One thing is trite but true, it does indeed, take a village to raise our children.

Thank you for moving through my rambling reflections with me. I hope that your heart is moved to consider how we support and work with those who are at-risk.

Shalom & Amen!
Terri Stewart

Theme: At-Risk Youth

Lead Features

Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani, Terri Stewart
Untitled, Natasha Burrowes
Validating Myself, Kimberly Wilhelmina Floria
at risk, Charles W. Martin

Poetry

Legacy, Christina Conroy
At-risk Youth, Lisa Ashley, MDIV
A True Story, Terri Stewart
Heading Home, Jamie Dedes
Knife Notes—a poem, Michael Dickel
scag dancing, Jamie Dedes

Essays/Features

Mentoring At-Risk Youth, Terri Stewart
Finding Life in Detention, Justin Almeida
Education, Common Sense … and The Future, John Antsie
These Hallowed Halls of Hope, Corina Ravenscraft
Thinking Continually of Those at Risk, Priscilla Galasso
A Teenager Who Fled Syria, NPR and World Vision
Rapid Re-Housing Best Available Crisis Intervention for Homeless Families and Youth, National Alliance to End Homelessness

Special Features: Adoption

November is National Adoption Month in the United States

Some Thoughts on Adoption and “real” parents v adoptive parents, John Nooney
Angel Turned Inside, The Fight for Native American Families, Trace Lara Hentz

General Interest

Poetry

How Can I Justify My Life If I Do Not Justify His Own?, K. A. Bryce
Second Light Network Celebrating Anthologies of Women Poets, Jamie Dedes

Photo Essay

Some Early Seasonal Cheer, Corina Ravenscraft

Photo Story

The Secret Object I Keep Hidden in My Underwear Drawer, Naomi Baltick

Essays

Deportment for the Soul, Sue Vincent

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BIOS WITH LINKS TO OTHER WORKS BY OUR CORE TEAM AND GUEST WRITERS

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MISSION STATEMENT

Back Issues Archive
October/November 2014, First Issue
December 2014, Preparation
January 2015, The Divine Feminine
February 2015, Abundance/Lack of Abundance
March 2015, Renewal
April 2015, interNational Poetry Month
May 2015, Storytelling
June 2015, Diversity
July 2015, Imagination and the Critical Spirit
August 2015, Music
September 2015, Poverty (100TPC)
100,000 Poets for Change, 2015 Event
October 2015, Visual Arts (First Anniversary Issue)