Skip to the content

Date: 05.02.2022

Time: 20:00 - 20:30

Location: Youtube

Berkeley, USA

You can watch Literature Live Around the World on YouTube.

"This Land Is Our Land": The Rise of Native American Literature in the United States

Presentert av Bay Area Book Festival (BABF)

“This land is your land and this land is my land / From California to the New York island / From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters / This land was made for you and me” — so goes a stanza in one of the most famous U.S. folk songs. But when the British colonialists first arrived on these stores, the land already belonged to other people. Over the centuries, the settlers systematically decimated these native people, and in 1851 forced the “Indians” to live on “reservations.” Despite this trauma, native elders have managed to keep alive many of their languages and at least some of their rich oral storytelling tradition. Then toward the end of the twentieth century came a flourishing: a new, native-authored literature expressed in written fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Greg Sarris has been a major figure in this literary advance. Born just north of San Francisco in rural Sonoma, he rose to become a much-awarded writer of fiction, non-fiction, and screenplays. His 1995 novel Grand Avenue was seminal in inspiring countless other native authors and bringing wide attention to native literary voices; his many other books and his university courses in American Indian Literatures have only amplified the impact. On the political front, Sarris’s activism has been a force in securing native rights, and today he is one of the most influential native leaders in the nation. He is currently serving his fifteenth term as Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria in California. Sarris will talk with Cherilyn Parsons, founder and director of the Bay Area Book Festival, about the rise of native literature in the U.S., his political work, and his forthcoming book, Becoming Story: A Journey among Seasons, Places, Trees, and Ancestors, which narrates his own life in the context of the deep past, historical traumas, and possible futures of his homeland.

Local host: Greg Sarris, Cherilyn Parsons


Greg Sarris is an award-winning American author serving his fifteenth term as Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, a tribe of Coast Miwok and Pomo Native Americans of California who were granted federal recognition and rights as a result of Sarris’s political activism. He received his Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University and has taught American Indian Literatures and other subjects at various universities. His several books include How a Mountain Was Made, Watermelon Nights, Mabel McKay, Keeping Slug Woman Alive, and Grand Avenue, one of the first native-authored novels to emerge in the U.S. and a major landmark in launching a native literary renaissance. With Robert Redford he adapted and co-executive produced Grand Avenue into as an HBO miniseries. Sarris has also been appointed to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian’s Board of Trustees and elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Cherilyn Parsons (b 1963, USA) is the founder and executive director of the Bay Area Book Festival (launched in 2015 in Berkeley, California), which is one of the most international literary festivals in the USA. Parsons also created Women Lit, which elevates women’s voices through events featuring notable female authors and nurtures literary community among women. Previously, she helped build the field of non-profit journalism (notably at the Center for Investigative Reporting) and has worked as a fundraiser, travel writer and book reviewer. She has a master’s in professional writing from the University of Southern California.

Share Content