Monday, February 11, 2008

Book 31 of 52: "Strong Medicine" Speaks: A Native American Elder Has Her Say by Amy Hill Hearth

As I mentioned in my review of Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years, which was book 30 of 52, my next book is "Strong Medicine" Speaks: A Native American Elder Has Her Say. Now you can guess why I'd be reading two books by the same author back to back: I'm writing a profile of Amy Hill Hearth. And today I got to meet Hill Hearth and talk to her -- for four hours. I knew within five minutes that this would be a good interview. She greeted me while holding a seven pound dwarf Boston Terrier named Dot. We jumped right into a conversation about adopting dogs, and we were off.

"Strong Medicine" Speaks is her third oral history book. This one hits close to home for me since the tribe she writes about, the Lenni Lenape, is just about in my backyard, and I grew up hearing about them. In "Strong Medicine" Speaks, Hill Hearth gives the chief's mother, Marion "Strong Medicine" Gould a book to tell her story, from growing up learning to deny that was Native American (many said they were "colored" instead because they didn't want to be shuttled to a reservation) to working as a building inspector in Atlantic City to her current role as an elder. I liked Having Our Say, but I enjoyed "Strong Medicine" Speaks more. As Hill Hearth says, there's more context here, more about what life is currently like for Strong Medicine, and more reporting. Hill Hearth takes us into a modern tribal meeting, into a Powwow. And I think the fact that this book is the oral history of one person instead of two gives it better focus.

Like Having Our Say, the oral history makes this book incredibly accessible, and I hope it earns the same acclaim as Having Our Say, especially after spending the day with Hill Hearth.

Now what's that connection I mentioned in my review of Having Our Say? It's a big reason why you should stay in touch with your college advisor: Hill Hearth both went to the University of Tampa, and we both served as editor of The Minaret, UT's newspaper, and learned the basics of journalism from the same person, Dr. Andy Solomon. If not for him, I probably wouldn't be a journalist today, and it was fun swapping Minaret stories over lunch.

I won't say too much more about Hill Hearth -- I'm saving that for the profile (and I hope my editor can make that push to give me more space for the article). Of course, I'll post a link to that profile here when it runs.

If you'd like meet Hill Hearth, here's a list of her scheduled events. She'll also be signing with me at Cape May's Harbor Fest on June 21. I'm not sure what time yet (heck, I don't even know what time I'm signing), so I'll keep you posted!

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