FORTHCOMING ANTHOLOGY: “Strange Attractors” on University of Massachusetts Press

August 22, 2017

Delighted to have my nonfiction work COYOTE ON HOLY MOUNTAIN including in the forthcoming anthology STRANGE ATTRACTORS, edited by Edie Meidev, on University of Massachusetts Press. 

I wrote this the manifesto that accompanies my odd text – part of my ongoing effort to decolonize nonfiction! And I love me a harangue. To read the piece, wait for the book!

POLICING THE REAL IN LITERATURE

The definition of nonfiction has long been hegemonic – ruled and policed by dominant Western European, English-language, and Anglo-American sensibilities that conceptually fence off “reality” from fabrication. An insidious form of narrative colonialism is inherent in this concept of nonfiction. Under whose authority is reality governed?  What institutions and individuals possess the power to define reality for all humanity, for all writers, and for all cultures? In an increasingly global and intersectional community of text-based self-expression, it is imperative to ask these questions, and exercise caution when we are tempted to give ourselves the authority to impose a single cultural or literary norm onto all members of humanity.

In my own hybrid home cultures of African-American, Irish-American, Litvak Jewish, and Native American, reality can and does include spirits and ghosts, shapeshifters, animals who become human, humans who become animals, visions, visitations, and conversation with the unseen. Such fluidity is a valid reality, not only for myself, but for the majority of cultures throughout the majority of human history.

The colonialist perspective is to insist that anything lying beyond reach of the codes of nonfiction are not realities – they are, in fact, fanciful and fabricated fictions to be filed under “fabulism” or “fairy tale” or “myth” or “fable”. Such forms, too, are valid. But a classist, racist, and perhaps more subtlety bigoted assumption asserts that the fortified fences that enclose traditional Anglo-American nonfiction must be maintained, with all nomads and unauthorized life forms be kept out. This fence excludes the majority, and imprisons the minority. It is no longer acceptable to guard this fence and segregate all interlopers to other genres.

My work hopes to speak to something far more potent: the complete decolonization of nonfiction. This demands an end to the exile and ghettoization of thousands of writers currently excluded and policed from the colonialist definition of nonfiction: an end to who polices what is real, and to whom. Let the guards at the gate change!

My nonfiction work includes a man who is also a coyote which, in my reality,  is neither myth nor allegory.  As the Native trans writer Max Wolf Valerio, has written about policing the real in literature: “Only a non-Indian would say that [such a reality cannot exist]. Someone who doesn’t know, who hasn’t been raised to see that life is a continuous whole from flesh to spirit, that we’re not as easily separated as some think. I knew that.”

I dedicate this piece to those on Nambé Pueblo who cared for me when I needed a home. My hope is that our greater literary community will realize each of us comes from a nonfictive reality and that none of us have the authority to stand as prison guards, police, or conquistadors of the terra incognita of literature.