Debut novelist Oscar Hokeah highlights the pain and healing power of Indigenous communities

A photo of a person and a book cover side by side.
Oscar Hokeah is a citizen of Cherokee Nation and the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma. His debut novel, “Calling for a Blanket Dance,” explores the complexity, diversity and healing power inherent in Native communities through the lens of a multigenerational story.
Photo by Dalton Perse, book cover courtesy of publisher.

When Oscar Hokeah set out to write a multi-generational novel about a Kiowa and Cherokee family in Oklahoma, he was writing what he knew.

Hokeah grew up in Tahlequah, Okla., a member of both Cherokee Nation and the Kiowa Tribe. He saw the intertribal dynamics that play out when 39 different tribes live in close proximity. He knew the generational trauma caused by colonization and forced migration. He felt the defiance of encountering injustice and watching youth struggle to find a path of honor, even on a road littered with hardships.

So his novel, “Calling for a Blanket Dance,” follows the life of a young Native man, Ever Geimausaddle, as he walks many of the same roads. But because Hokeah also knows the way of redemption lies through community, he tells Ever’s story through 12 different perspectives, ranging from his grandmother to his adopted son. The result is a coming-of-age tale that is uniquely Kiowa and Cherokee, and that celebrates connection, family and honor.

On this week’s Big Books and Bold Ideas, host Kerri Miller talked with Hokeah about how his own history informed his writing and how Native communities across the U.S. are healing past traumas by celebrating and preserving their cultures.

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