Friday, May 2, 2014

Making a Place for Our Story in this World

I awoke this morning to news from my friend Linda Rodriguez that Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir has won a Gold Medal from the Independent Publisher Book Awards (fondly known as IPPYs).   

This is really an honor and a blessing!  I mean that in every possible way: for a small press book like Bad Indians, being seen and acknowledged is difficult, and the IPPYs are extremely wonderful for the way in which they bring attention to a book that might otherwise have gone relatively unacknowledged by folks outside the small press zone.   

My publisher, Heyday, and I have entered Bad Indians in as many awards as we could find.  Locating awards the book might be eligible for hasn’t been easy, because it crosses so many borders - memoir, documentary, poetry, prose, collage, art – in addition to Heyday often being seen as a regional small press.  So this award is as much a testament to Heyday’s willingness to publish a book so difficult to categorize as it is to the contents of the book.

The IPPY website  notes some of the benefits of IPPY recognition:

As one of the oldest, most established independent book awards in operation, the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs) are well known and respected in the book industry. Our winners are:
  • Featured in a series of articles at our website which had over 80,000 unique visitors in the past year
  • Advertised at Publisher's Weekly website for one month totaling 100,000 impressions
  • Advertised in three Publisher Weekly's Tip Sheet emails (65,000 opt-in subscribers) direct emails
  • Advertised in Publisher Weekly's Daily (36,000 opt-in subscribers) direct email
  • Advertised at Shelf Awareness website for one week totaling over 200,000 impressions
  • Promoted in press releases sent to over 2,000 publishing industry media outlets
  • Given two free passes, valued at $300, to the IPPY gala held during BEA in New York City.
  • Sent a Winner's Celebration Packet that includes a starter set of book seals, an official winner's certificate, and a medal.
  • Listed in results that are permanently archived on back to 2001
  • Featured in an average of 50 articles per year internationally 

I couldn’t beg, borrow or steal this kind of publicity – and you better believe that I am going to head for the IPPY awards ceremony held during the Book Expo America in New York at the end of May to take full advantage of that. 

Bad Indians took me ten years to complete, and is now in more university courses than I can count.  The word of mouth testimonies and the passionate advocates Bad Indians has found in professors, writers, students, California Indians, Indians in general, has been phenomenal.  The community of this book, which has always consisted of my family, my ancestors, my mother, father, sisters, brothers, tribal members, has grown to include many more, all participating in telling the horrific story of Missionization and those 'bad Indians' who survived Missionization.  My gratitude is deep and growing, dear friends.  Thank you for your faith in this story’s importance. 

Isabel Meadows (who spoke Spanish, English, and several Indian languages) said, after telling J.P. Harrington the sad story of how Carmel Indians were dispossessed of land and left to die:  Ojalá que uno de los ricos del Carmelo les pudiera comprar un buen pedazo de tierra siquiera pa vivir, pa poner su rancheria comoantes, pa refivir su idioma, y pa hacer cuento otra vez en el mundo … I hope that one of the wealthy people of the Carmelo will be able to buy them a good piece of land, at least, to live on, to put their ranchería like before, to revive their language, and to make their story again in the world.”  (see footnote at end)

I like to think that Isabel is clapping her hands right now, maybe even firing off a shot or two from that pistol that she was known to carry around in her skirts as she traveled through the dangerous Spanish/Mexican territory around Carmel and Monterey that once belonged to her mother’s ancestors. 

Isabel, the ricos still haven’t lined up to give land back to your people, but your stories lead the way for California Indians to make our story again in the world, and for Indians and allies to give our story a place in this world.  I'm not sure you ever expected that to happen.  On the other hand, you left us plenty of bread crumbs to follow back to the story, now didn't you?

I think you would be proud, Isabel.  Nimasianexelpasaleki.  Oh, nimasianexelpasaleki!

footnote:  (In his dissertation, RECOGNIZING INDIANS: PLACE, IDENTITY, HISTORY, AND THE FEDERAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THE OHLONE/COSTANOAN-ESSELEN NATION (2010), Philip Laverty writes about this passage, “I would translate the phrase ‘…pa hacer cuento’ differently [than Yamane, who translates it as ‘to be counted again in the world.’] First, “cuenta’ means ‘count’ (and Harrington usually notes “sic” in the case of incorrect gender use) whereas ‘cuento’ means ‘story.’ ‘Contar’ is the verb ‘to count,’ but it also means ‘to relate’ or ‘to tell.’ ‘Hacer’ is not ‘to be.’ ‘Hacer cuento’ is commonly used to mean ‘to tell a story,’ or, perhaps better, ‘to make up a story.’ Consequently, I would translate the phrase as ‘to make their story again in the world’ or ‘to make their history again in the world.’”)


  1. Congratulations on your achievement.
    Your cousin Richard Miranda.

  2. Congratulations on your achievement. Your cousin Richard

  3. Thank you, Richard! Give my best to your mom and dad! Love, Deborah

  4. Absolutely deserved. I read this cover to cover in my hotel the day I purchased at the California Indian conference. I went from crying to laughing to anger to joy ...truly feeling each story and seeing shadows of my own within thise pages. Best book I have read in doubt. So happy for you. Thank you for sharing of yourself and your family.
    ni huna numuac mi yuk


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