In March I had the opportunity to listen to Native American activist, scholar and writer Elizabeth Cook-Lynn speak about her life and her work. I found the presentation fascinating and very insightful.
To give all the hopeful writers in her audience a sense of hope and relief, Cook-Lynn shared that she was 40 when her first book was published and has since published 12 books.
Cook-Lynn grew up not far fom where I did–albeit separated by several decades. The bluffs and the river she spoke and writes about lovingly are the same bluffs and river I camped by and explored as a child. I feel a similar reverence to the landforms of my youth.
She grew up enamored by language and “the use of language.” She worked hard as a child to learn to speak English well despite her grandmother’s displeasure. This was evident as she spoke with no trace of an accent, but Sioux words rolled smoothly off her tongue.
Cook-Lynn, who believes that America’s contribution to literature is the short story, read a four-part short story The Clearest Day. The story, set on the final day of a Wacipi (pow wow), is a series of vignettes about the people involved in the traditional song and dance of the Wacipi and the river that has been a part of their lives’ for generations.
Cook-Lynn was engaging and the lecture gave me a better perspective on being Native American in contemporary America.