Diane Glancy is a Christian writer of German and Native American extraction. She explains her writing by pointing out that she works in the in-between: between genres, identities, systems of belief. Her work reminds us a great deal of Richard Rodriguez’s recent book Brown, in which he praises mixture—the movement of the distinct into the blend. For Rodriguez this is not loss but gain, just as the mixed elements in the brown earth give life. So it is with Glancy’s spare, moving explorations of biblical and Native American narratives. If you don’t know her poems, novels, plays, and essays, you should. Glancy is unique voice in American letters today.
Diane Glancy’s poetry, scripts, essays, and fiction have earned her numerous literary prizes including an American Book Award, a Minnesota Book Award in Poetry, a Native American Prose Award, and a Sundance Screenwriting Fellowship. She is also an educator, and believes that the classroom embodies a journey—a place where she and her students can take risks and reach new frontiers.
Glancy has also experienced a sense of journey in her writing. As artist in residence for the State Arts Council of Oklahoma she traveled the state for a decade, teaching the skills of writing, oral communication, and critical thinking. Her growing reputation as a writer opened the door to a fellowship at the prestigious University of Iowa Writers Workshop, then to a faculty position at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she teaches Native American Literature and Creative Writing in Poetry, Fiction, Essay/Nonfiction, Scriptwriting, and Environmental Writing.
I often feel like I work ground level on the prarie, flying under radar detection. Having a home in no particular genre, but working in and across fiction, poetry, essay, and drama further clouds my sense of placement. I write between cultures. I was born in a city (Kansas City, Missouri) with a name of another state. My own last name is a nationality I am not. My middle name, which I go by, is not included on forms asking for first/last names. Growing up, the Indians mentioned in school were Plains Indians who hunted buffalo and livid in teepees, yet my family was none of that; instead were from a woodland, sedentary corn-farmer culture. How could both be Indian? How does one work across barriers, erasures, syncretisms, misappropriations? How does one write about faith? These are themes I explore in the different genres.
I usually work on several projects at once while teaching full time and traveling for conferences and readings. Some of the projects that I’m working on are: The Dance Partner, a novel (maybe experimental novella) about the Ghost Dance, the late 19th century phenomena among Native American tribes in the west. Native American writing sometimes takes what is known and positions it along side what could have been. In a culture where much has been erased, or lost, what is known is woven with the possibilites of what could have been. Secondly, Field Notes, a new collection of poetry in the voice of an ethnographer and old Indian voices. I like to experiment with solecism and the cross-cultured language my grandmother spoke, as I did in Primer of the Obsolete, forthcoming from University of Massachusetts Press. The Parting, a novel, is about the four daughters of Philip (Acts 21:8-9). Like the four writers of the gospels, these four young women give their different insights into the events through which they lived.
Native American voices and Biblical women are two disconnected areas from which I write, though there are many similarties. I like to give voice to those that have been erased or bypassed by history. I want to find the marginalized voices and explore what they could have said.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.