IAIA alumni receive American Book Awards

Nov 14th, 2013 | By | Category: Online TC News, Tribal College News, Web Exclusive

Two graduates and one faculty member of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA, Santa Fe, NM) Creative Writing Department have received the American Book Award, adding to the long list of prestigious achievements by IAIA creative writing alumni and faculty. Joy Harjo (Creek), dg nanouk okpik (Inupiat/Inuit), and Natalie Diaz (Akimel O’odham) received the award recognizing outstanding achievement from diverse writers. Harjo, who graduated from IAIA in 1968, was honored for her most recent book, Crazy Brave, A Memoir. This was the second American Book Award for Harjo, who was honored for her book of poetry, In Mad Love and War in 1991. Okpik, a 2005 IAIA graduate, was honored for her first book of poetry, Corpse Whale. New IAIA M.F.A. Creative Writing faculty member Natalie Diaz also received the award for her first book of poetry, When My Brother Was an Aztec.

The Before Columbus Foundation created the award to honor excellence in contemporary, multicultural American literature. Award winners are nominated and selected by a panel of writers, editors, and publishers who represent the diversity of American literary culture.

Creative writing and alumni achievements have long been part of IAIA’s artistic legacy. In the past 24 years, IAIA creative writing students have produced 25 books with reputable presses while alumni have won numerous prestigious awards. The institute offers the only B.F.A. creative writing program in the country with a Native focus. Undergraduates are published in an annual student anthology and are visited each year by award-winning writers like Louise Erdrich, Leslie Marmon Silko, Derek Walcott, and C.D. Wright.

Dg nanouk okpik, who worked and went to school full time while trying to finish her manuscript, said her experiences at IAIA helped her become the writer she is today. “The beautiful red road at the Institute of American Indian Arts has been my grounding stone, which built me up to attend school,” okpik said. “This opportunity gave legs to stand on like a sandpiper, swift and agile, yet hungry for more.”

Harjo, who was also awarded a PEN USA Literary Award for creative non-fiction for Crazy Brave, maintained that IAIA gave her the foundation to fuel her creativity. “It was my time as a high school student at IAIA in the late sixties that imparted to me a collective vision of Indigenous arts and their impact in a society, a generation,” she observed. “I am still working from that energy, that love of invention, design and knowing.”

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