Award-winning poet and educator Shonda Buchanan will discuss her new book, Black Indian, on Feb. 5 as part of Detroit Mercy’s Black History Month events.
Black Indian explores her family’s legacy of being African-Americans with American Indian roots and the societal exclusions the combination brought.
“I was inspired to write Black Indian because I wanted to tell the story of my family, and particularly the story of African American families with American Indian blood connections or oral history,” Buchanan said. “Our story is the real story of America and its founding.”
According to the description of Black Indian Buchanan tells the story of her Michigan tribe — a comedic yet manically depressed family of fierce women, who were everything from caretakers and cornbread makers to poets and witches, and men who were either ignored, protected, imprisoned or maimed — and how their lives collided over love, failure, fights and prayer despite a stacked deck of challenges, including addiction and abuse.
Buchanan says some readers have been drawn to the book for the history aspect of it, while others like the family dynamics of the book.
“The feedback that I have gotten has been so wonderful and so powerful,” Buchanan said. “I constantly hear, ‘This is my story.’ I hear, ‘This is my family story.’ I hear, ‘This is the relationship I have with my mother and my sister.’ So many people resonate with the story not just because of the identifying as Black and Indian, but also for the stories of addiction and abuse that I explore.
“Because of the difficult yet important subject matter of my book, I do believe my book has changed lives,” Buchanan added. “I have had several people contact me to tell me how my book help them confront a family member about something that happened in the past. When I hear that kind of story I think my work has been accomplished. Because the purpose of writing, the purpose of telling stories, is to help someone in some way, shape or form. I really believe that language can be a catalyst to change our lives and I write in that manner.”
Buchanan was born in Kalamazoo, Mich. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from Loyola Marymount University and a Master of Fine Arts from Antioch University. She currently teaches at Loyola Marymount.
Buchanan enjoys interacting with readers and is looking forward to returning to Michigan for her Detroit Mercy appearance.
“I love being in these kinds of spaces because people want to ask questions personally of me that they sometimes haven’t even admitted to themselves about their own history and heritage, and their bi-racial and tri-racial ancestry,” Buchanan said.
“I also love being a representation of someone who practices the ceremonies of both American Indians and Africans, having reclaimed traditions. I practice them as respectfully as I can, yet at the same time with an understanding that my relationship to these traditions happen differently from someone who was born into it.”
In addition to Black Indian, Buchanan has published several poetry books and her poetry and essays have been featured in a long list of anthologies.
“I love being able to create images on a page,” Buchanan said. “I love expressing myself there. But I think the most important thing is I sometimes cannot see a thing, even myself, if I don’t write it down. Writing has the power to heal. Language has the power to heal. And I’m constantly healing.”
The book talk will take place in the Ballroom, located on the second floor of the Student Union on Detroit Mercy’s McNichols Campus. A book signing will follow the talk.
This event is sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts & Education, the African American Studies program and the Black Abolitionist Archive.
To learn more about Detroit Mercy’s Black History Month celebration, visit udmercy.edu/about/news/articles/2020/01-15-black-history-month.