- “Walk-in-2-Worlds”An Interview with Diane Glancy
In her award-winning collection of creative nonfiction, Claiming Breath (1992), Diane Glancy writes, “I was born between 2 heritages and I want to explore that empty space, that place-between-2-places, that walk-in-2-worlds” (4). From childhood on, Glancy experienced cultural conflict between her English-German mother and Cherokee father. At the outset of the following interview, Glancy meditates on both the sense of distance she sometimes feels between herself and her Cherokee heritage and the role writing plays in her own journey to deeply engage her culture and her faith. Through her countless volumes of fiction, poetry, plays, short stories, and essays, she demonstrates that “the wholeness of writing . . . emerges from the fragments” (Claiming Breath 9). Glancy pieces together past and present, exploring her cultural heritage alongside her religious identity, unearthing voices of long ago through historical fiction, and meditating on the centrality of land and travel to both her culture and her writing.
One of Glancy’s central concerns as she writes about her cultural heritage is the role of education in Native American life. For example, she transformed her novel Flutie (1998), a study of how education builds confidence and strengthens identity formation for a young American Indian woman, into a film titled The Dome of Heaven (2011). Her own impressive record of service as a professor underscores the value she places on education in the Native experience. Glancy earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri and an mfa from the University of Iowa after attending the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is professor emeritus at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she taught Native American literature and creative writing for nearly twenty years. She held the Richard R. L. Thomas Chair in Creative Writing at [End Page 106] Kenyon College from 2008 to 2009, and from 2012 to 2014 she served as visiting professor at Azusa Pacific University in California.
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Throughout her career she has won two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a Minnesota Book Award, an Oklahoma Book Award, an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, an Expressive Arts Grant from the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, dc, an Artist Innovation Grant from the Kansas Arts Council, and a Sundance Screenwriting Fellowship. Most recently, [End Page 107] Glancy was honored with the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas.
Despite these successes, Glancy has had difficulty finding a place for her voice among contemporary American authors in general and among Native American authors specifically. She locates the source of this difficulty in resistance to her strong identification as Christian and her choice to represent both Native and non-Native voices in her writing. While Christianity is widely practiced among American Indians, James Treat notes in Native and Christian that these two identities are “both ambiguous and contested” (2), especially within the historical context of Christianity’s involvement in colonization and assimilation. Treat describes the difficulty that faces many Native American Christians: “A variety of complex and interconnected historical, social, and cultural factors have quieted native Christians in many tribal and religious contexts and have made it particularly difficult for native Christian women to publish their spiritual convictions” (3). Through her writing, Glancy works to surmount these obstacles, articulating her own Native Christian voice. In the interview, Glancy notes that fellow Native Americans often see her devotion to Christ as a betrayal of her heritage, and publishers expect her to write works that highlight Native culture rather than Christianity. While many of her novels, poems, and plays do so, Glancy is committed to giving voice to Christians, whether or not they are Native American. To that end, she recently published Uprising of Goats (2014), a collection of stories written from the perspective of women of the Bible; One of Us (2015), a novel exploring the emotional and spiritual response of a congregation when one of its members commits murder; and...