If you were going to compete successfully in a white man’s world, you had to learn to play the white man’s game. It was not enough that an Indian be as good as; an Indian has to be better than. ~The Jailing of Cecelia Capture, Janet Campbell Hale
Born in 1947, Janet Campbell Hale is a prominent Native American Writer. Her father was Coeur d’Alene, a tribe name meaning “The Discovered people,” located predominantly in the state of Idaho. Her mother was part Kutenai, Cree and Irish. Hale’s parents’ identity, combined with her own Native American identity, influenced her work, and her exploration of Native American issues, poverty, and women’s issues. Much of her childhood was spent on the Coeur d’Alene and Yakima reservations.
Hale attended City College of San Francisco before transferring to the University of California at Berkeley where she graduated with a degree in rhetoric in 1974. She also earned an M.A. in English from the University of California at Davis. One of her later novels, The Jailing of Cecelia Capture, was her M.A. thesis project.
With a writing style compared to Hemingway, Hale’s first novel, The Owl’s Song, was published in 1974. Since then, she’s published a handful of other novels, including The Jailing of Cecelia Capture, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1985.
Many of her novels revolve around the theme of capture, with the main character’s name in The Jailing of Cecelia Capture as Cecelia Capture Welles, an “Indian law student and mother of two” who is “jailed on her thirtieth birthday for drunk driving.” A similar theme appears in Hale’s novel Bloodlines.
Bloodlines: Odyssey of a Native Daughter was published in 1993 and won the 1994 American Book Award. This book features a series of autobiographical issues that “interweave personal experiences with striking portraits of relatives, both living and dead, to form a rich tapestry of history, storytelling, and remembrance.”
Hale has held faculty positions at colleges and universities across the country. Currently she lives on the Coeur d’Alene reservation in Idaho.