Cover image for Winged words : American Indian writers speak
Winged words : American Indian writers speak
Coltelli, Laura, 1941-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, [1990]

Physical Description:
ix, 211 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Introduction -- Paula Gunn Allen -- Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris -- Joy Harjo -- Linda Hogan -- N. Scott Momaday -- Simon Ortiz -- Wendy Rose -- Leslie Marmon Silko -- Gerald Vizenor -- James Welch.
Reading Level:
1070 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS153.I52 C57 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In Winged Words Laura Coltelli interviews some of America's foremost Indian poets and novelists, including Paula Gunn Allen, Michael Dorris, Louise Erdrich, Joy Harjo, Linda Hogan, N. Scott Momaday, Simon Ortiz, Wendy Rose, Leslie Marmon Silko, Gerald Vizen∨ and James Welch. They candidly discuss the debt to old and the creation of new traditions, the proprieties of age and gender; and the relations between Indian writers and non-Indian readers and critics, and between writers and anthropologists and histo-rians. In exploring a wide range of topics, each writer arrives at his or her own moment of truth.

Author Notes

Laura Coltelli is an associate professor of American literature at the University of Pisa.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

A first-ever compilation of interviews and conversations with established contemporary native American writers, 11 in all, including the wife-husband team of Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris, best known for The Broken Cord, a book on fetal alcohol syndrome; N. Scott Momaday, whose novel House Made of Dawn won the Pulitzer Prize; and poet Simon Ortiz, whose From Sand Creek received the Pushcart Prize for Poetry. Somewhat in the manner of the Paris Review interviews but lacking their ease and fluidity, Coltelli's questions probe the writers' sources of inspiration, methods of composition, and perceptions of their own and their works' relationship to tribal culture, among other broad areas. But it's the questions Coltelli has tailored to each individual that hit pay dirt and result in some illuminating moments. Other highlights: the brief biographies preceding each interview and Coltelli's focus on the points of divergence between the native American and the Western literary traditions. Laudable for its serious consideration of a much-overlooked group of writers. Part of the American Indian Lives series. Photos, notes, selected bibliography; no index. --Mary Banas

Publisher's Weekly Review

Interviewed in 1985 by Coltelli, professor of American literature at the University of Pisa, Italy, 11 Native American novelists and poets articulately and feelingly here talk about their development as individuals and as writers, their relationships with the landscape and with tribal culture, and the importance of oral tradition. Despite their differences, all--including M. Scott Momaday, Leslie Silko, Michael Dorris and Louise Erdrich--focus on peculiarities inherent in their literature and its multiethnic nature, the centrality of mixed-blood Indian characters in their works, and the interpretation of Native American culture by anthropologists and non-Indian critics. Photos not seen by PW. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Since N. Scott Momaday's House Made of Dawn won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize, Native American writing has emerged as a distinct and persistent voice in American literature. Coltelli here collects interviews she held in 1985 with 11 contemporary American Indian writers, some familiar (Momaday, Louise Erdrich, Michael Dorris) and others encountered for the first time. With each, Coltelli explores the oral and written tradition, the place of humor in Indian literature, and non-Indian critics, as well as the personal creative process. What results is a fascinating look into the minds of some of our best, albeit largely ignored, creative artists that makes for fine reading on several levels: biography, history, literature, and mythology. Included are brief biographical sketches, selected bibliographies, and all-too-scant samples of writing to whet the imagination. An excellent introduction to the creative genius of contemporary Native American artists.-- Richard Chur chill, Univ. of Baltimore (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This collection of interviews with 11 Native American writers follows Joseph Bruchac's Survival This Way (1987). Both will serve a growing literary scholarship; for despite the fact that nine of Coltelli's subjects are among the 21 poets represented in the Bruchac volume, Winged Words stands on its own. Where Bruchac's friendships make his book conversational, Coltelli, who teaches in Italy, encourages musings on oral traditions, mixed ancestry, themes, the writing process, and literary criticism. She chose western Native American authors for what she considers to be their longer active tribal traditions, but this makes conspicuous the absence of Iroquois writers. Leslie Silko explains her novel, Ceremony, and Gerald Vizenor the trickster in his multigenre work; he, Simon Ortiz, and Paula Gunn Allen discuss critical theories; and Allen, Joy Harjo, and Linda Hogan share a strong gynocentric perception of tribal women (authors). Other stellar interviewees are Wendy Rose, Michael Dorris and Louise Erdrich, Scott Momaday, and James Welch. All teach in universities yet are cautious about academic literary and ethnological theorizing. Readers on all levels should learn from Winged Words to avoid stereotypes of what an Indian, and an Indian author, is supposed to be. -R. Welburn, Western Connecticut State University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. I
Paula Gunn Allenp. II
Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorrisp. 41
Joy Harjop. 55
Linda Hoganp. 71
N. Scott Momadayp. 89
Simon Ortizp. 103
Wendy Rosep. 121
Leslie Marmon Silkop. 135
Gerald Vizenorp. 155
James Welchp. 185
Notesp. 201
Selected Bibliographyp. 205
Photo Creditsp. 211