by Thomas C. Gannon
Ohio State University Press
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.
"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
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.