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Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
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Workshop 8: Social Justice and Action - Joseph Bruchac and Francisco Jimenez
Overview
Authors and Literary Works
Joseph Bruchac
Biography
Work
Interview
Francisco Jimenèz
Biography
Work
Interview
LeAlan Jones/ Lloyd Newman
Biography
Work
Key References
Video Summary
Teaching Strategies
Commentary
Student Work
Resources
Interactive Workbook -- Explore two poems using strategies from these workshops. Go.
Channel-Talk -- Share your views on the discussion board. Go.


Authors and Literary Works
Biography

Joseph Bruchac is the author of more than 100 books. His prodigious literary output is dedicated to honoring nature and relating the history and conserving the legends and myths of North American Native peoples. Bruchac sets great store by tradition. He lives in the house where he grew up, in Greenfield Center, New York, and says, "One of the things I'm proudest about is that this is not just something that ends with my generation." His two sons are dedicated partners in his literary and preservation enterprises devoted to "the Abenaki culture, language, and traditional Native skills."

Bruchac was born in 1942 in Saratoga Springs, New York. Though during his childhood there was no emphasis on his Native American heritage, Bruchac began to discover his Abenaki roots as a teenager. He began reading early, and felt inspired to become a writer who would write about animals. "I would just have to walk into any room and pull a book off the shelf and find something that I was interested in reading."

Bruchac wrote some poems on Native American themes while a student at Cornell University. He graduated with a degree in English, even though he had majored in wildlife conservation for his first three years. He earned a master's degree in creative writing from Syracuse University and a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the Union Institute of Ohio.

As a young man in the 1960s, at college and after, Bruchac had "experiences in my life that have informed and shaped me both as a human being and as a writer." He protested against the Vietnam War, and supported the civil rights movement by marching in Mississippi, as James Meredith pursued his right to integrate the University of Mississippi. "I tried to put my feet where my words were." In 1966, Bruchac volunteered as a teacher in Ghana, West Africa. His three years there "taught me even more." Looking at his African students, he saw similarities to the white students from his own high school. "I was seeing beyond that racial shield, that mask that sometimes blinds our eyes in this country, so that we see people only in terms of their color, rather than what's inside them. Rather than their intellect and their personality and what they do. The visible deeds of their life, as opposed to that costume of skin that each of us wears."

When he returned to the United States, he continued his activism. He began giving writing workshops in prisons, and eventually spent eight years directing a college program inside a maximum-security prison. Since then he has continued his work in prisons.

In 1971, Bruchac and his wife, Carol, founded a literary magazine called The Greenfield Review, and a publishing house, the Greenfield Review Press, "to provide a venue for writers of all kinds -- young and old; new and established; what we now call multicultural ... but what I would prefer to describe as broadly human... So I was publishing writers in Africa, Asian American writers, Chicano writers, African writers, African American writers, American Indian writers, and so on. A whole wide gamut of people, including Arab American writers."


Storytelling and Joseph Bruchac have been good for each other. The author has gone well beyond his original supply of stories, including many others to extend and perpetuate knowledge of Native American life and lore. A complete list of his work would run for pages. His work has appeared in more than 500 publications, including Smithsonian and National Geographic. Among his collections and novels are The First Strawberries, Keepers of the Earth, Tell Me a Tale, The Waters Between, and The Heart of a Chief (a Jane Addams Children's Honor Book). Bruchac's anthologies include Sons From This Earth on Turtle's Back and Breaking Silence (winner of an American Book Award). A Bloomsbury Review contributor says, "Several common themes run through these fictions ... the past and present of Native American peoples, the sacredness of the natural world, and humanity's ruptured relations with untamed animals." Publishers Weekly observes, "Bruchac's tales ring of the oral tradition he helps preserve. His stories are often poignant, funny, ironic -- and sometimes all three at once."

Bruchac has received a profusion of honors. He was a Rockefeller Fellow and a winner of the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award. He was chosen for the Storyteller of the Year Award by the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, and honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas. His books have won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award, the Cherokee Nation Prose Award, the Hope S. Dean Memorial Award for Notable Achievement in Children's Literature, and many other awards.

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