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Wendy Murray Zoba

The Voice That Found Her

Native American novelist and poet Diane Glancy writes by listening.

Books by Diane Glancy mentioned in this essay:

Claiming Breath (Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1992).

The Closets of Heaven (Chax Press, 1999).

The Cold-and-Hunger Dance (Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1998).

Flutie (Moyer Bell, 1998).

Fuller Man (Moyer Bell, 1999).

The Only Piece of Furniture in the House (Moyer Bell, 1996).

Pushing the Bear (Harcourt, 1996).

The West Pole (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1997).

She would say that you start with nothing. Then you poke a hole in it and step inside. Then it becomes something. That is where you begin.

In high school she stood in front of a class and refused to speak. It wasn't because she didn't have anything to say. Voices inside her were clamoring to get out. But that classroom was not the place. The teacher threatened to fail her.

She is Diane Glancy, novelist, essayist, playwright, and poet, the daughter of a Cherokee father and a mother whose ancestors were German. She grew up in the white world, but could not assuage the voices of her Native American heritage. At the same time she heard the voice of her stern, goal-oriented German heritage, mainly expressed through her mother. Later there would be the voice of the academician and her Christian voice.

"I can tell several stories at once," she writes in The Cold-and-Hunger Dance. "Mixed-blood stories of academic life and the experience of Christianity. Nothing fitting with anything else. The word community has always meant being left out." Being a woman didn't help.

She eventually found the one voice that held the others together. Or the voice found her. It came through her writing. The result has been a body of work that defies literary conventions. Critics and marketers prefer writers who are easily categorized. This one is a Novelist, that one a Poet. Glancy not only writes in every familiar genre, she also crosses genres—mixing prose and poetry in the same book, for instance. She's Native American—but unlike many high-profile Native writers, she's also strongly Christian.

If she ...

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