Diane Glancy is a teacher, poet, author and playwright. She was born in 1941 in Kansas City, Missouri, to a Cherokee father and an English/German mother. Early in her life, she chose to identify as a Cherokee Native American, accepting the consequences and struggles inherent in claiming a Native American heritage. She says that her father’s Cherokee heritage “has been the most important influence I’ve had. It’s odd. It’s also been the most discouraging, shameful, and has caused more trouble, as I am an undocumented Cherokee, which brings criticism from some people.” In an interview from 2015, she talked about how her complicated connection to her heritage manifests in her writing:
I think I write a literature of disenfranchisement. Of separation from origin. Yet the origin survives despite lack of direct contact with the culture from which it came. It may be the voice of America, land of immigrants, and though the Natives were here when the immigrants came, they still suffer a sense of separation on their own land. I think a sense of separation is felt more intensely because interconnectedness is part of the Cherokee culture, and when it is severed, there is a need to reconstruct. If you knock down a spider web, the spider starts building again.
When asked in an interview about the origins of her writing life, how she realized writing was her passion, Glancy answered, “Where was the beginning? I couldn’t do anything else. I always was shy, and there was something solid in writing. There was an identity there. It was something I might be able to do, and I could do it by myself— not in front of others. The irony, of course, is that you finally have to stand in front of others to give a reading.”
Glancy received her B.A. in English Literature from the University of Missouri in 1964. She continued her education at the University of Central Oklahoma, earning a Masters degree in English in 1983. For six years (1980-86), Glancy was Artist-in-Residence for the State Arts Council of Oklahoma. Several of her books come from that experience. The next year, she attended the Iowa Writers Workshop, earning her M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in 1988. The following year she began teaching at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she is now a Professor of Creative Writing in the English Department. She teaches poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and scriptwriting. She also teaches a Native American Literature course and a seminar in Native American Literature. In 1999, she also taught in the Bread Loaf School of English M.A. program on the campus of the Native American Preparatory School in Rowe, New Mexico.
Glancy is proficient in numerous genres—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and playwriting.
I often feel like I work ground level on the prarie, flying under radar detection. Having a home in no particular genre, but working in and across fiction, poetry, essay, and drama further clouds my sense of placement. I write between cultures. I was born in a city (Kansas City, Missouri) with a name of another state. My own last name is a nationality I am not. My middle name, which I go by, is not included on forms asking for first/last names. Growing up, the Indians mentioned in school were Plains Indians who hunted buffalo and livid in teepees, yet my family was none of that; instead were from a woodland, sedentary corn-farmer culture. How could both be Indian? How does one work across barriers, erasures, syncretisms, misappropriations? How does one write about faith? These are themes I explore in the different genres.
Glancy’s work has earned her many awards: an American Book Award, Pushcart Prize, Capricorn Prize for Poetry, Native American Prose Award, Charles Nilon Fiction Award, Five Civilized Tribes Playwrighting Prize, North American Indian Prose Award, The Minnesota Book Award in Poetry, and Oklahoma Book Award. Glancy’s collection of poems, Primer of the Obsolete, won the 2003 Juniper Prize for Poetry. She has also received the the Cherokee Medal of Honor, the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Sundance Screenwriting Fellowship. (See a full list of her awards, grants and fellowships).
Sadly, this is the final Native American Heritage Month post. We’ve barely scratched the surface of the influence these authors, educators, and advocates have had on the literary and academic community.
We are going to miss the attention and effort of Native American Heritage Month. It has left us feeling so grateful for the many, many, many (many more than we could profile in only 30 days!) amazing authors, scholars, educators, activists, and speakers who have and continue to enrich our studies, our understanding, and our lives.
We are so lucky to be the recipients of their work — their activism, wisdom, creativity, strength, compassion, and even their suffering and anger — and so glad that we were able to honor them in this small way. May we carry this gratitude and continue to honor them, every day and always. To see the whole series of posts from this month: https://english.colostate.edu/tag/native-american-heritage-month/