This week, AWM Program Director Allison Sansone talks to National Book Award finalist David Treuer about his book The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, a sweeping history of Native American life from the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 to today. This conversation was originally recorded live at the American Writers Museum.
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“The astounding thing isn’t the degree to which the United States government, and before them other colonial powers, tried to rub us out. That’s not astounding, that’s not even terribly interesting. What’s astounding are the ways in which we’ve managed to survive.”
“That’s the messed up thing: writers of color are supposed to speak about cultural truths, while white writers get to talk about universal truths. Updike writes about love, but Toni Morrison only writes about the Black experience.”
“We have a really vigorous presence on social media, if you didn’t know. We used to use all the different parts of the buffalo and now we use all the different parts of the computer.”
“Really the book is about the ways in which history is not a dry set of details and events from the past. The book is really about the ways in which history, and in particular federal Indian policy, lives through us in the makeup of our character. History is expressed in our lived experiences, oftentimes unconsciously.”
“We are such a fundamental part of how America understands herself. We are fundamental to all the myths the country tells about itself, to itself. And yet people don’t have any kind of sustained interaction with us…We’re everywhere in the mind, but almost no place in everyone’s lived lives.”