Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir

Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir

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by Deborah A. Miranda

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This beautiful and devastating book�part tribal history, part lyric and intimate memoir�should be required reading for anyone seeking to learn about California Indian history, past and present. Deborah A. Miranda tells stories of her Ohlone Costanoan Esselen family as well as the experience of California Indians as a whole through oral histories, newspaper clippings,…  See more details below


This beautiful and devastating book�part tribal history, part lyric and intimate memoir�should be required reading for anyone seeking to learn about California Indian history, past and present. Deborah A. Miranda tells stories of her Ohlone Costanoan Esselen family as well as the experience of California Indians as a whole through oral histories, newspaper clippings, anthropological recordings, personal reflections, and poems. The result is a work of literary art that is wise, angry, and playful all at once, a compilation that will break your heart and teach you to see the world anew.

From "Bad Indians":
�If we allow the pieces of our culture to lie scattered in the dust of history, trampled on by racism and grief, then yes, we are irreparably damaged. But if we pick up the pieces and use them in new ways that honor their integrity, their colors, textures, stories�then we do those pieces justice, no matter how sharp they are, no matter how much handling them slices our fingers and makes us bleed.�

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this powerful memoir, poet Miranda (Indian Cartography) dispenses with a chronological telling of her relationship to California’s Spanish missions, sharing transcripts of recordings made by her relatives, her poetry, mission history, and pieces of her own wrenching childhood. The legacy of violence that began at the missions in the late 18th and early 19th century stretches into the author’s relationship with her own children, a testament to how it was handed down through brutalized and marginalized generations.
VERDICT This is intense but important reading, especially for those whose American history class discussions of Native Americans began and ended with the Mayflower. For readers of memoir, and history from a point of view too-often unheard.—Kate Sheehan, Middlebury, CT

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
Miranda (English/Washington and Lee Univ.; The Zen of La Llorona, 2005, etc.) blends narrative, poetry, photos, anthropological recordings and more into a mosaic of memory of her own life and that of her people, the California Indians. "The arc of leather, sharp edges of cured hide, instrument of punishment coming from two hundred years out of the past," writes the author about yet another beating of her brother by her violent, alcoholic father. She ties this personal violence to the historical violence of the padres of the California missions, who, through beatings, torture, rape and enslavement, decimated and broke the California Indians. Miranda rails against turning this saga into a "Mission Fantasy Fairy Tale," and through history, contemporary accounts and newspaper clippings, she reveals the brutality behind the myth. And what of the legacy of this brutality? Was her father, from whom she inherited her Indian blood, blindingly violent as the only way he knew how to survive? To survive the padres' past, need the victims become destroyers? Neglected, abandoned, terrorized, raped (by a neighbor) as a child, Miranda slowly found her way through writing and through the work and hope that the surviving California Indians might rebuild in creative new ways their lost lives. This is not a linear narrative; present and past weave together, historical account leaves off for poetry and lyrical fantasy, the personal and political collide. This is confusing at times and does not always work, but such weakness is overcome by the bold beauty of Miranda's words. A searing indictment of the ravages of the past and a hopeful look at the courage to confront and overcome them.
American Indians in Children's Literature - Beverly Slapin
Some childhood memories, some faded photographs, some snippets of stories written down word for word by an anthropologist, some paragraphs from old textbooks. A lesser author might have crafted a novel spanning the generations, a linear novel, maybe a chapter for each character. But Deborah didn�t and wouldn�t do that; it would have dishonored her ancestors. Rather, she looks at what is�the pieces, the shards of a broken mirror�and interprets, imagines, wonders.
Quarterly West Review - Natanya Pulley
For those suspicious of memoir's lofty goal to capture and contain memories, Bad Indians is a relief. Deborah A. Miranda�s mosaic of short essays, poetry, personal explorations, oral histories, tales, newspaper clippings, anthropological recordings, and photos (to name a few!) seeks to gather the stories of a people�s past while respecting the elusive nature of chronicling generations. This is not your ordinary memoir.
author of Ceremony and The Turquoise Ledge - Leslie Marmon Silko
Essential for all of us who were taught in school that the �Mission Indians� no longer existed in California, Deborah Miranda�s Bad Indians is a fascinating book that combines tribal histories, family histories, family tape recordings, and the writings of a white ethnologist who spoke with Miranda�s family, together with photographs, old reports from the mission priests to their bishops, and newspaper articles concerning Indians from the nearby white settlements.
author of the Pulitzer Prizenominated Rounding the Human Corners and a faculty member for the Indigenous Education Inst - Linda Hogan
For so long, Native writers and readers open books of our tribal history, archaeology, or anthropology and find that it is not the story we know. It does not include the people we know. It does not tell the stories of the heart or the relationships that were, and are, significant in any time...From the voice of the silenced, the written about and not written by, this book is groundbreaking not only as literature but as history

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Product Details

Heyday Books
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6.12(w) x 8.82(h) x 0.59(d)

Meet the Author

Deborah A. Miranda is an enrolled member of the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation of California, and is also of Chumash and Jewish ancestry. The author of two poetry collections�Indian Cartography, which won the Diane Decorah Award for First Book from the Native Writer�s Circle of the Americas, and The Zen of La Llorona, nominated for the Lambda Literary Award�she also has a collection of essays, The Hidden Stories of Isabel Meadows and Other California Indian Lacunae, forthcoming from the University of Nebraska Press. Miranda is an associate professor of English at Washington and Lee University and says reading lists for her students include as many books by �bad Indians� as possible. Visit Deborah Miranda's blog,

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Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
DCJ89 More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book, inspirational!