In this episode, we’ll discuss the life and work of indigenous author and orator William Apess. In 1829 Apess published his memoir A Son of the Forest, which describes his journey to reclaim his Pequot identity after being taken away from his family and forced to work as a servant for white families. The memoir also details Apess’s decision to become an ordained Methodist minister. In Christianity, Apess found an argument for social justice that fueled his fight for Native American rights. In 1836, he courted controversy in a speech that hailed both George Washington and Wampanoag chief King Philip as fathers of the nation.
For this episode we are joined by scholar Drew Lopenzina, a professor at Old Dominion University and author of Through an Indian’s Looking-Glass: A Cultural Biography of William Apess, Pequot. You can read his full bio below.
Drew is interviewed by Nate King, Digital Content Associate at the American Writers Museum. This conversation originally took place November 13, 2023 and was recorded over Zoom.
Drew Lopenzina is Professor of English at Old Dominion University who teaches in the intersections of Early American and Native American literatures. He is the author of three books, The Routledge Introduction to Native American Literature (Routledge Press 2020), Through an Indian’s Looking Glass: A Cultural Biography of William Apess, Pequot (University of Massachusetts Press 2017), and Red Ink: Native Americans Picking up the Pen in the Colonial Period (SUNY Press 2012). Through an Indian’s Looking Glass has been described by the journal Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) as a “tour de force.” The journal American Studies calls Red Ink “an impressively thorough and often compelling study” that “extends the bounds and enriches our understanding of Native American Literary history.” Lopenzina’s essays appear in the journals Early American Literature, Native American and Indigenous Studies, American Quarterly and many others. Although he currently lives in Norfolk, Virginia, Lopenzina hales from Western Massachusetts and his studies focus on the presence of Indigenous peoples in the colonial Northeast.