I write about the Lakota Indian tribes, primarily located on reservations throughout South Dakota. My latest book, A Man of Distinction, features both a Lakota hero and heroine, which is rare in fiction today.
There are two problems that I must overcome in my writing. The first is that I’m not Lakota. I’m not even an American Indian. Although certain family members will argue that great-great-great-somebody was Cherokee, the fact of the matter is that I am as white as Wonder bread in culture, education, and socio-economic status. Middle-class white girl, right here. So how do I get around this without accidentally stumbling into stereotypical caricatures of the ‘noble Indian’ or ‘ignorant savage?’
I read a lot. I study. Most importantly, I ask questions. Don’t know what that word is? Email a member of the tribe and ask. Want to know how a funeral looks on the web? Check YouTube. Never assume. We’re all smarter than that.
The second challenge I have to overcome is how to make people living in dire circumstances not objects of pity. The facts are depressing. On the Pine Ridge Reservation, the poorest place in the nation, as many as 70% of people drop out of school before they finish. The unemployment rate is close to 80%. Alcohol and drug abuse are rampant.
Well, I do write fiction. I acknowledge the problems, but for my characters, they’re always just short on money and the car breaks sometime. I avoid the abject poverty in my stories.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not there. While we can all pretend the rez isn’t that bad for the course of a romance novel, it doesn’t change the fact that an insane number of houses on the rez do not have electricity or running water.
Maybe a romance novel can’t change the world. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try. In the course of my research, I found the Lakota Pine Ridge Children’s Enrichment Project, started by Maggie Dunne. Maggie took a look at the poverty and the way it affected the kids—no coats, no boots, no school supplies—and she decided to do something about it. You can decide to do something about it, too.
Right now, the LPRCEP is gearing up for their 5th Annual Coat, Boot, Toy and Book Drive. Winter is coming faster than we realize, and South Dakota gets unbelievably cold. You can help. It doesn’t have to be big. You can snag a pair of boots at a thrift store or pull a hardly-worn coat out of your closet and mail it to the rez. Got a shelf full of books your kids never really read? Give the gift of reading and imagination to some kids. If you’re here, I know you love reading. Pay that forward.
If you want to keep things quick and simple, you can always donate money at their Razoo site. It only takes a few minutes. Your donation can be small, or it can be large. $30 not only buys a pair of boots, but gets them shipped to the rez. I give to the LPRCEP because I don’t just want to write books about the Lakota. I want to know that I’m making a difference. If everyone who reads this post does one thing, we’ll make a difference for some cold kids this January.
Tell me how you make a difference, and we’ll randomly choose one reader to win an autographed copy of A Man of Distinction. The winner will be chosen on Sunday, September 16th and notified via email (so use a valid one when commenting).
Plus—bonus—I’m giving away a handcrafted (by me!) book necklaces from everyone who commented throughout the week! Check the Authorial Moms blog September 11th to see if you were the winner! For another chance to win, sign up for my newsletter here.
A Man of Distinction Blurb:
“Let me see my son.”
He’d said goodbye to his life on the reservation without regrets. He’d asked Tanya Rattling Blanket to come with him too many times, and Nick Longhair never begs. But when business brings him back to his ancestors’ land, he finally understands what he exchanged for money and power.
In the years he’s been in Chicago, Tanya has been raising his baby, a son he didn’t know…. Determined to give his child every advantage, Nick isn’t about to leave again…at least not alone. But that means winning back the love of those he left behind.
Bio: Award-winning author Sarah M. Anderson may live east of the Mississippi River, but her heart lies out west on the Great Plains. With a lifelong love of horses and two history teachers for parents, it wasn’t long before her characters found themselves out in South Dakota among the Lakota Sioux. She loves to put people from two different worlds into new situations and to see how their backgrounds and cultures take them someplace they never thought they’d go.
When not helping out at school or walking her rescue dogs, Sarah spends her days having conversations with imaginary cowboys and American Indians, all of which is surprisingly well-tolerated by her wonderful husband and son.
This post is brought to you as part of the A Man of Distinction Blog Tour. For a complete tour schedule and rules, visit www.sarahmanderson.com. Comments on this blog will be entered to win a signed copy of A Man of Distinction. All comments will be added to the weekly book jewelry prize drawing.