Hayes wins American Book Award for her memoir, 'Blonde Indian'

Posted: Friday, October 26, 2007

JUNEAU - Ernestine Hayes's "Blonde Indian" has been selected as a winner of the 28th annual American Book Awards for 2007. Established in 1978 by the Before Columbus Foundation, the American Book Awards provide recognition for outstanding literary achievement from America's diverse literary community.

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Created for writers and judged by writers, the American Book Awards acknowledge excellence and diversity in multicultural writing. Past winners have included such well-known writers as Russell Banks, Gerald Vizenor and José Antonio Burciaga.

Offering a fresh and compelling voice that has earned recognition in Native oratory and storytelling, Ernestine Hayes's writing has appeared in Travelers' Tales Alaska, The Anchorage Press and the Juneau Empire. In "Blonde Indian" - a beautiful evocation of the enduring power of heritage and landscape through generations - Hayes traces her life from her childhood growing up in the Tlingit community through her adulthood, during which she lived for some time in Seattle and San Francisco, and her eventual return home.

Neither fully Native American nor Euro-American, Hayes encounters a unique sense of alienation from both her Native community and the dominant culture. We witness her struggle alongside other Tlingit men and women - many of whom never left their Native community but wrestle with their own challenges, including unemployment, prejudice, alcoholism and poverty.

Since its publication in 2006, Hayes's memoir has earned recognition as an honest and welcome addition to Native American literature. Called a "rewarding, evocative, ultimately uplifting view of Native life" by Booklist and "one of the most important books to come out of Alaska" by the Anchorage Press, "Blonde Indian" was also recently named a Kiriyama Prize nonfiction finalist and a creative nonfiction finalist in the PEN Center USA Literary Awards.

Told in eloquent layers that blend folklore, metaphor, and a richly textured description of the Alaska landscape, "Blonde Indian" offers a unique window into the challenges, rewards and ambiguities that one woman of racially mixed heritage experiences both within and outside her native Tlingit community.

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