So You Want to Write about American Indians? A Guide for Writers, Students, and Scholars

So You Want to Write about American Indians? A Guide for Writers, Students, and Scholars

So You Want to Write about American Indians? A Guide for Writers, Students, and Scholars

So You Want to Write about American Indians? A Guide for Writers, Students, and Scholars


So You Want to Write about American Indians? is the first of its kind-an indispensable guide for anyone interested in writing and publishing a novel, memoir, collection of short stories, history, or ethnography involving the Indigenous peoples of the United States. In clear language illustrated with examples-many from her own experiences-Choctaw scholar and writer Devon Abbott Mihesuah explains the basic steps involved with writing about American Indians. So You Want to Write about American Indians? provides a concise overview of the different types of fiction and nonfiction books written about Natives and the common challenges and pitfalls encountered when writing each type of book. Mihesuah presents a list of ethical guidelines to follow when researching and writing about Natives, including the goals of the writer, stereotypes to avoid, and cultural issues to consider. She also offers helpful tips for developing ideas and researching effectively, submitting articles to journals, drafting effective book proposals, finding inspiration, contacting an editor, polishing a manuscript, preparing a persuasive résumé or curriculum vitae, coping with rejection, and negotiating a book contract.


So you want to write about American Indians. Tens of thousands of books and essays about Indigenous people are already on the library shelves, and at the rate they are being published it appears that many more are on the way. That’s a lot of writing, but surprisingly all this investigation and imagining has only scratched the surface of the complexity of Native America. Perhaps your thesis, dissertation, book, novel, or essay will be unique and will assist in educating America about how tribes lived–and still live–and can offer solutions to the myriad problems tribes face.

This is not a book that offers detailed instructions about grammar, plot development, or writing mysteries. Many readers already know how to find information in libraries, how to outline essays and books, and how the publication process works. These readers may find some of the information here similar to what they have learned from basic English courses and from their own publication experiences. Others are familiar with how to approach tribes for permission to write about them and how to conduct interviews.

Still, I am consistently asked questions about how to write, where to find ideas, how to submit a proposal to tribes, and how to submit essays and book manuscripts to journal editors and book publishers. Even writers with many published books and essays are curious about how others find and organize data. I certainly am. Many more are frustrated by the processes of submitting their work and peer review, and they want to know how they can make their experiences smoother. Therefore, I have tried to incorporate the most common questions and concerns that I repeatedly hear regarding writing and publishing about American Indians. Some readers will notice that I have missed a few aspects of the business, but I hope all readers will find some useful tips.

This book contains a chapter on writing fiction. The field of American Indian literary criticism has exploded, and today there are hun-

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