Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma begins Sept. 3: “Coming and Going in Oklahoma Indian Country”

Cover of 'Crazy Brave'

Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma (LTAIO) offers more than your average book club. The Oklahoma Humanities Council sponsors the reading program throughout the state, bringing readers together to discuss books on a theme, with the assistance of Humanities scholars as facilitators. At each session, a Humanities scholar will make a 35-45 minute presentation on the book in the context of the theme. Small group discussions follow the presentation so everyone can talk about the book.  

Copies of the books are available to borrow on a first-come/first-served basis, but because of demand, we ask that only those who plan to fully participate in our sessions borrow books. You are also welcome to attend sessions with your own copies of the books or borrow only the titles you need. 

Books may be checked out ahead of the fall series during regular business hours Monday-Thursday at OKCU’s Dulaney-Browne Library (the five-story building just southwest of Walker Center at NW 25th & N. Florida).  Go to the second floor and look for Room 207 just to the left of the elevators. 

About This Theme: 

Oklahoma is a relatively young entity. It was born in 1907 from Native lands that had been set aside by the United States government for the massive warehousing of Native peoples relocated from other regions. Then it was settled by immigrants hungry for land and opportunity, and by African freedmen and slaves who arrived with European immigrants, native peoples, or on their own. As Joy Harjo writes, “This ongoing story continues to unfold in this land we call ‘Oklahoma.’ Our imagination is infused by all forms of life here, from stones, to mountains and rivers, and skies, and we are given much to sustain us from the physical gifts of this earth. What is Indian Oklahoma is Oklahoma. We are all in this dynamic and ever-changing story together. It is your story, our story, and my story.”  

For this series newly appointed U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo has chosen a selection of books by Oklahoma Native writers who “make story and song trails that lead to and from the collective memory field of Oklahoma.” They are among the best of contemporary native literature. For each of these writers, being from Oklahoma is central to their identity, to their voice, to why and how they write. All are Oklahoma-born (except for one), and all continue to have close ties to the state. Each of these writers is from one of the so-called “Five Civilized Tribes,” southeastern tribes who were forced from their homeland to Oklahoma on the “Trail of Tears” where we promised to live in perpetuity in these new lands, with no U.S. interference. We know how that promise played out, and the story continues to unfold in contemporary cultural and political reality here in Oklahoma.  

For Oklahoma City University’s adoption of the theme for the Fall 2019 season, all the presenters are home-grown Oklahomans of Native descent, whose professional and personal perspectives will help us think through our reading of these works on both cultural and artistic levels. 

Harjo writes that “the act of writing, publishing, readers reading, then retelling the story or remembering the song [is] how we take care of the generations who follow, how we take care of each other, how we contribute to what is now known as Oklahoma. Our words, stories, songs, and art are how those who follow will know who we are and are how they will remember us.” 

The Books: 
All sessions begin at 6:30 PM in Walker Center Room 151 (NW 26th & N. Florida)

Sept. 3 Eddie Chuculate, Cheyenne Madonna (2010) 

Chuculate, of Muscogee Creek and Cherokee heritage, studied writing at the Institute of American Indians Arts and has received the prestigious O’Henry Prize for short fiction. This collection of stories link together with a theme: someone leaves a known world and returns to a changed world, whether they are a high school kid living with grandparents and hanging out in the summer, or a world famous Indian artist returning to hardscrabble memories. Chuculate’s “a kind of journalist of the soul as he investigates the broken heart nation of Indian men–no romantic savage junk, and no temporary life preservers.” Presented by Russ Tallchief (Osage), M.A., OKCU Office of Student Diversity & Inclusion

Sept. 17 Joy Harjo, Crazy Brave (2012) 

Harjo, also of Muscogee Creek and Cherokee heritage, is one of the most revered living Oklahoma writers. Known mostly for her poetry, her critically acclaimed memoir took her fourteen years to write, “because I spent much of that time running from where the book naturally wanted to begin: with my chaotic childhood in Tulsa.” As she describes her own memoir, “the stories within it intimately occupy Oklahoma . . . from within primarily a domestic sphere in low to middle class neighborhoods in the Tulsa area, Tahlequah, and then to Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico. The memory field, however, roams about poetically in time even as the story unfolds chronologically. Memory is not just in the past; it occupies the present even as it shapes the future.” In it she works to understand her own story through the stories of her family’s generations. Presented by Rachel Jackson (Cherokee), Ph.D., OU Dept.  of English

Oct. 1 Joe Dale Tate Nevaquayah, Leaving Holes (2011) 

Winner of the 2012 Oklahoma Book Award for poetry, Joy Harjo calls this book a “challenging text, and one of the most brave” in the series. Nevaquayah draws from the very different influences of his Yuchi and Comanche heritages to create poems with varied textures and tones. A poet herself, Harjo urges that “poetry is to listen as you read, as if you are listening to a song. Listen with your heart, follow the rhythm, images, and always the sound sense. Do not back away with fear of getting the exact meaning correct. In poetry you need time to mull over the small world the poem makes. Poems are often the convergence of many memories, many kinds of memories. We are convoluted human beings and poetry mirrors the complexity.” Presented by Jeanetta Calhoun Mish (Delaware/Cherokee), Ph.D., OCU Red Earth MFA & Oklahoma State Poet Laureate

Oct. 15 Linda Hogan, The Woman Who Watches Over the World (2001) 

Chickasaw writer-in-residence, Hogan offers a collection of short personal essays that she calls “a native memoir.” She takes on the authority of the watcher, someone who witnesses history from a vantage point, then speaks and/or sings it. Like every writer in this series, Hogan juggles with historical trauma against the unspeakable awe of what it means to be human in the beautiful lands of this state, of this planet. Hogan believes that “memory is a field of healing that has the capacity to restore the world, not only for the one person who recollects, but for cultures as well.” Presented by Blue Clark (Muscogee Creek), Ph.D., OCU School of Law & Prof. Emeritus of History

Oct. 29 LeeAnne Howe,  Choctalking on Other Realities (2013) 

With humor and wisdom, Choctaw novelist and scholar Howe turns to the travel essay in this collection, to develop a type of writing she calls tribalography: “the process of render(ing) all of our collective experiences into a meaningful form…whether it is fiction, poetry, a play, or history. American Indian writers and storytellers create tribalography to inform ourselves and the non-Indian world about who we are.” Wherever she roams in life and in these essays, Howe brings it all back to Oklahoma, where she was raised and then worked as a young mother in a diner near the airport before becoming a writer. For her, time and experience converge, and “The Choctaw origin story and Walmart are hanging out somewhere near each other together.” Presented by Joshua Nelson (Cherokee), Ph.D., OU Director of Film & Media Studies & Prof. of English