Birding While Indian: A Mixed-Blood Memoir

Thomas C. Gannon

Book cover for Birding While Indian: A Mixed-Blood Memoir
Book cover for Birding While Indian: A Mixed-Blood Memoir

Birding While Indian: A Mixed-Blood Memoir

Birding While Indian: A Mixed-Blood Memoir

Thomas C. Gannon

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"A fascinating search for personal and cultural identity." -Kirkus

Thomas C. Gannon's Birding While Indian spans more than fifty years of childhood walks and adult road trips to deliver, via a compendium of birds recorded and revered, the author's life as a part-Lakota inhabitant of the Great Plains. Great Horned Owl, Sandhill Crane, Dickcissel: such species form a kind of rosary, a corrective to the rosaries that evoke Gannon's traumatic time in an Indian boarding school in South Dakota, his mother's devastation at racist bullying from coworkers, and the violent erasure colonialism demanded of the people and other animals indigenous to the United States.

Birding has always been Gannon's escape and solace. He later found similar solace in literature, particularly by Native authors. He draws on both throughout this expansive, hilarious, and humane memoir. An acerbic observer-of birds, the environment, the aftershocks of history, and human nature-Gannon navigates his obsession with the ostensibly objective avocation of birding and his own mixed-blood subjectivity, searching for that elusive Snowy Owl and his own identity. The result is a rich reflection not only on one man's life but on the transformative power of building a deeper relationship with the natural world.

About the Author

Thomas C. Gannon is an associate professor of English and ethnic studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a lifelong birder and inhabitant of the Great Plains. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

Critical Reviews

"Since time immemorial, Native people have looked for signs from avian beings, and here, Thomas Gannon carries on those traditions in his wry chronicles about growing up and living on the Great Plains. This is a much-needed and much-appreciated addition to Native literature. Birding While Indian is all that and a bag of tobacco." --Tiffany Midge, author of Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese's

"Gannon takes us along on his journey through a part of the nation that is often ignored or misunderstood, and despite plenty of heartache and sorrow, he offers much-needed moments of levity. ... Whether recounting his encounters with a great horned owl, sandhill crane, wood duck, field sparrow, bald eagle, white stork, or snowy egret, the author is consistently engaging and thoughtful about his place in a world that we share with a wondrous assortment of other species. A fascinating search for personal and cultural identity." --Kirkus

"Lyrical and evocative ... Gannon's ruminations on his identity crisis hold undeniable power." --Publishers Weekly

"[Tracks] the devastating and far-reaching impacts of colonialism through an interweaving of history, philosophy, poetry and [Gannon's] personal experiences with birds." --Molly Adams, the Washington Post

"Birding While Indian provides a thoughtful contribution to Native American and environmental studies. It deserves to be widely read, particularly as we battle the twin global crises of structural racism and environmental collapse ... it's an honest memoir with sensitive nature writing, a testimony to the non-human world's ability to provide human solace." --Glen Retief, River Teeth

Publishing Information

Publisher: Mad Creek Books
Pub date: 2023-06-27
Length: 248 pages

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