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  • Conversations with LeAnne Howe by Kirstin Squint
  • Nicole Dib
Kirstin Squint. Conversations with LeAnne Howe. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2022. 202 pp. Hardcover, $99.00; Paper, $25.00.

Conversations with LeAnne Howe features a wide range of interviews with Choctaw writer LeAnne Howe, whose literary works include the novels Shell Shaker (2001) and Miko Kings (2007), and the verse drama Savage Conversations (2019). Lovingly collected by editor Kirstin Squint, whose study of Howe's literary prowess also appears in LeAnne Howe at the Intersections of Southern and Native American Literature (2018), [End Page 91] these interviews are expansive in topics covered while providing a remarkable glimpse into Howe's thoughts on Native American, and particularly Choctaw, literary worlds and worldviews. While readers of Howe's fiction and nonfiction will not be surprised to see that these interviews cover subjects such as humor, language and linguistics, the Native South, and politics both international and US-centered, they will also be moved by the insights they reveal on topics such as red-Black convergences in higher education, her use of pseudonyms, and what it takes to be an actor.

The interviews collected in Conversations with LeAnne Howe took place between 2002 and 2020; Squint explains in the book's introduction that aside from a 2007 interview on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, the collection includes every interview with LeAnne Howe that had been published before. The book includes a chronology as well—created by Howe for this collection—which traces the author's history with her characteristic playfulness through a timeline of personal events, literary publications, and her awards and achievements. Following the chronology, the fourteen interviews are published in chronological order, starting with Golda Sargento's 2002 interview originally published on the Aunt Lute Books website, and ending with Jen Shook's 2020 interview, "'An American in New York': LeAnne Howe" (2019), which, along with one of Squint's own interviews with Howe is original to this collection.

Humor in the face of challenging life experiences and difficult conversations around race, indigeneity, and history is a running theme throughout the interviews. In "The Native South, Performance, and Globalized Trans-Indigeneity: A Conversation with LeAnne Howe," for example, Howe's recap of an all-white audience's cooler reception to her play titled Indian Radio Days (2000) considers how "Mainstream audiences at that time didn't feel they could laugh because we were supposed to be the 'stoic Indians'" (51). Reflections such as these represent the mix of anecdote, analysis, and personal author history that makes up the collection's interviews, which further demonstrates Howe's own accomplishments as a fiction writer, playwright, literary and cultural historian, and pure and simple storyteller. The interview form, then, is particularly reflective of Howe's own theory of tribalography: her famous explanation of Indigenous storytelling that emphasizes connection, consensus, and "bringing things together" that Native storytellers have a proclivity for. As Squint points out in the introduction, half of the interviews [End Page 92] in the collection invoke tribalography in some way, which echoes the generative nature of that theory while serving as a marker of its significance for the scope of the interview as a genre. The connections that Howe weaves as part of her answers to topics like the Black-white binary construction of the US South speak to this, as we see in the "Interview with LeAnne Howe and Robbie Ethridge" (2012). There, her answers to the question about the challenges that Native Southern Studies writers and scholars face revolve around "willful amnesia," another term she deploys to encapsulate a long history that is further supported by her illustrative example of the way the University of Illinois faced backlash for banning their culturally appropriative mascot. The history that Howe summons in her answers, and her ability to teach readers about incidents both inside and out of the academy, make these interviews valuable for students and scholars without detracting from the sheer pleasure that comes from reading a master storyteller's more informal—yet still narrative—responses.

These interviews also offer a sampling of Howe's literary interests beyond the novels she is most famous for, and the theory...

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