An Interview with Dana Lone Hill
“It takes a thousand voices to tell a single story,” but sometimes a single voice can tell a story too. Native American author Dana Lone Hill is one of those voices and now is your chance to win an autographed copy of her new book, “Pointing With Lips.” Hurry, the contest ends October 16! For rules of entry and how to win, check out our Thousand Voices book contest page.
A powerful voice from Indian country, Dana Lone Hill recently released her first novel, “Pointing With Lips,” which is set on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Dana granted us an interview to share with readers everywhere. This Lakota author is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Our Q&A follows.
1. Dana, in your words, what is the book about?
Everyday life on the rez. Everyday struggles. Everyday laughter. Most media is about sadness. We as Indians get through the struggle with laughter. I want people to see that’s who we are, not the romanticized people of Hollywood or the pitiful stories the media portrays us as, but real people.
2. In an email you shared with me, “my heart wrote [the book].” Why do you say that?
First, when I wrote the book, I was incarcerated and awaiting sentencing. I thought to myself, “I’ve done these things, been a writer, and got my voice out there. I am known reservation-wide.” Yet, I was sitting in jail, and thinking, “I’m not going down like this. This is not who I am as a Lakota woman. I have so much I am capable of because I am a Lakota woman and came up around strong Lakota women.” I knew that as soon as I hit freedom, I was going to get my voice out there, and I have.
Second, the family in the book is not my family specifically. They are a family I made up and love. They exist in my heart.
3. How much of the book is based on real life experience?
It’s all fiction. A few things in the book are real-life experiences, similarities to certain people or certain stories but not a lot.
Some parts of it are not sugarcoated; they are things that need to be out there so people understand they happen in this day and age. For example, the story about alcoholism is out there already. However, what is not out there is how It impacts 100% of the reservation. Somehow, some way, everyone is impacted (either someone died, went to prison, or is sick from it). No one raises their hand to say they were impacted by abuse connected to alcohol. Things like that have repercussions for the rest of your life. I wanted to touch base on the children, what happens to them because of the alcoholism, because they are our children, “wakanyeja” (gift from God).
4. What are the most important Lakota aspects you bring into the book?
I think some of the things are that we never forget where we came from and how grateful we are to still be here.
We have to know our history in order to move forward. Our Elders tell us all the time what happened to them or their Elders. We can’t forget our history or get over it. It’s about going forward from it. We’re still here. My kids hear that every day.
I also included in the book a lot of real-life historical points, such as the Black Hills gold issue, the beginning of the AIM Wounded Knee occupation, and the boarding school issue. These things are significant in Lakota history and today.
5. Are there aspects specific to life on Pine Ridge you hope people will “get”?
I hope they realize what a wonderful people we are. I am not Sincere – the main character. A lot of people confuse me with her (the smiles, the quips), but she is fictional and stronger than I am. Maybe Sincere is who I would want to be.
6. What is your favorite part of the book?
My favorite part is when the family has their cookout, as dramatic as it was. They had a lot of drama. And I’ve been to cookouts like that.
Another favorite part would be Sincere’s realization of what she needs to do.
7. What was the hardest part of the book for you to write, and why?
The hardest part to write was Sincere’s flashback of when she was a little girl at a party. Although what happened to Sincere didn’t happen to me, I remember being at parties and feeling fear. I took a week off from writing that part.
8. How different would this book be for Native American and non-Native readers?
Native Americans from back home and from other reservations are supportive, because I’m not hiding anything about life on the rez. I might exaggerate a little bit but I’m not hiding anything.
Non-Native reviews are good too in the sense of understanding what we go through on a daily basis. These readers learn more about how we live and that we know how to live in a poor world.
By writing the book, my dream came true. One message I hope people get is that we know how to live when we are poor, so let’s use that same hustle to move us forward. Jayson Brave Heart first brought up the hustle to me.
9. What do you most want readers to know about you?
Above all else, I am a mom with four children (three sons and a daughter).
I also want people to know that hundreds of people stay on the reservation and try to make it a better place. I have cousins and friends there and nothing but respect for them. They are wonderful people and the most supportive of everybody.
10. What suggestions do you have for other first-time novelists on or off the reservation?
Just never give up!!
I used to write when no one read me. I wrote for myself. I had a blog and slowly people started reading it. I wrote on napkins and anything I could get ahold of just to keep going.
*** Books by Dana Lone Hill:
Dana’s book, “Pointing With Lips,” is available at https://www.createspace.com/4670234. You can also purchase it at the Sioux Nation Shopping Center in South Dakota, telephone 605-867-5183.
A sequel to “Pointing With Lips” is coming out around Christmas this year.
“Hangover Soup” is a compilation of short stories co-authored by Dana and Jayson Brave Heart. It is coming out in 2015.
*** Author’s Bio: Dana Lone Hill is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe from the Pine Ridge Reservation. Her award-winning weekly column, “Rez in The City,” chronicles life off the reservation and in urban America. Dana currently lives in Red Wing, MN. Be sure to check out her blog and follow her on Twitter at @justarezchick.
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