Her work and portrait is featured in Tending the Fire: Native Voices and Portraits (University of New Mexico Press). Her work also has appeared in News From Native California (Heyday Books), The Huffington Post, Narrative Inquiry In Bioethics and Voices Confronting Pediatric Brain Tumors (Johns Hopkins University Press), and in numerous other books, anthologies and literary journals online.
Born in California in 1953, with roots in Colorado and Oklahoma, she is the granddaughter of mixed-blood Cherokee, Lenape, Seneca sharecroppers, and a banjo player and she grew up in a verbal tradition rich with storytelling.
Author photos (left) by Lawrence K. Ho. Author photo (right) by Chris Felver
Growing up in a family of storytellers and music makers, I developed a listening habit. I also understand that the ancestors are grooming me to perform work while I’m on this earth. Writing is one of the ways I do it. I value the collective experience. It gives depth to the single story, and I'm often happiest when collaborating with other writers.
I’ve been writing and publishing for 30-plus years. Along the way I have also worked with American Indian Health with a program offering spiritual connection and Indian doctoring for Native Americans living with AIDS. As a director with Hospice and We Can Pediatric Brain Tumor Network. As a coordinator in South Korea with a family exchange program. At a Youth Crisis Shelter for homeless teens. As a volunteer with CASA as a Court Appointed Special Advocate with at-risk and foster youth in transition. In schools and within Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers mentoring core.
I have the lived experience as the mother of Korean adoptees, as the mother of a child with a brain tumor, and as a mixed-blood woman and grandmother with light skin privilege.
In my life a host of teachers have crossed my path, always showing up at the right time. For every success we have I believe it is important to remember how we got there. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all that I have without the steadfast guidance from teams of good people who gave their time to me, mentoring, shepherding, guiding and veering me along.
I owe an extraordinary debt to all of my teachers who have taught me many wise things about writing and publishing and life.
"I'm not a German person, I'm not a white person, I'm not a totally Native person. But somehow I can move between these worlds very easily." Louise Erdrich
For me, with my Cherokee, Lenape, Seneca, German ancestry, Erdrich’s words are a metaphor for my life. I’m traveling incognito, and at times my mixed heritage allows me to remain an outsider in my writing.
As a person of the world I wear the face of a woman with light skin privilege. My gray hair and wrinkled neck speak for me, show that I have lived many years. The placement of my eyes, small, deep-set above broad-boned cheeks, and my wherewithal attest that I’m a rough around the edges mixed-blood.
But what you cannot see is how the language of adoption gives me deep roots into Korean lifeways. While two of my children, Korean-born, explored what it meant to be Korean American, I sank in roots. My soul is connected and thirty years in the Korean community shaped and changed me.
Those thinking they know what to expect when they see my face will not identify me as mixed race, as Native, or as a member of an Asian blended family, or understand that my heart is also connected to Korean ethnicity.
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