What first drew me to Native American literature and studies was a Native American fiction class in my Master’s program. Before this class, I hadn’t read any Native authors outside of Sherman Alexie, Louise Erdrich, and the occasional anthologized Joy Harjo poem. In the spring semester of 2016, once I read Linda Hogan’s novel Solar Storms, I knew that I wanted to move on to a PhD and eventually teach Native American literature. Before this moment, I didn’t know if I was good enough or smart enough to get a PhD and I grappled with my positionality as a white woman who wanted to teach and study multiethnic American literature. But this literature made me eager to learn more, become a better ally, and specialize in Indigenous literature.

I re-read Solar Storms every year. The first time I read about Angel, a foster kid with an absent abusive mother, no family or sense of self, and overwhelming emotional baggage, I empathized with a character like I never had before. I loved the strong group of female characters that guided Angel, helped her work through intergenerational trauma, and led her to realize her role as an activist and healer. All of these characters are fierce Indigenous women warriors who fight for their pan-Indian community and their environment. As literary critics and scholars, we sometimes consider this mode of relating to a text as unsophisticated, but this kind of felt connection to worlds created by literature is why most of us got into what we do in the first place, I’d argue. It is usually our initial human connection to a text that allows us, and makes us want to, explore and analyze literature further. Linda Hogan’s writing is beautiful. Her prose is poetic and her poetry is simplistic. Her books are universal enough that anyone can open them and fall in love with her stories but they are also tribally specific and fulfill the niche of Indigenous literature created by Indigenous writers for Indigenous readers.

– Kasey Jones-Matrona (graduate student)