Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir (Expanded Edition)

Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir (Expanded Edition)
Paperback, 6 x 9, 60 illustrations, 312 pages.
ISBN: 9781597146289.

By Deborah A. Miranda

Now in paperback and newly expanded, this gripping memoir is hailed as essential by Joy Harjo, Leslie Marmon Silko, and ELLE magazine—among others.

Alta Journal California Book Club Pick 2023

Winner, PEN Oakland–Josephine Miles Literary Award

Winner, 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award, Gold Medal for Autobiography/Memoir

Shortlisted for the 2014 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

Bad Indians—part tribal history, part lyric and intimate memoir—is essential reading for anyone seeking to learn about California Indian history, past and present. Widely adopted in classrooms and book clubs throughout the United States, Bad Indians—now reissued in significantly expanded form—plumbs ancestry, survivance, and the cultural memory of Native California.

In this best-selling, now-classic memoir, Deborah A. Miranda tells stories of her Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen family and the experiences of California Indians more widely through oral histories, newspaper clippings, anthropological recordings, personal reflections, and poems. This expanded edition includes several new poems and essays, as well as an extensive afterword, totaling more than fifty pages of new material. Wise, indignant, and playful all at once, Bad Indians is a beautiful and devastating read, and an indispensable book for anyone seeking a more just and accurate telling of American history.


"Bad Indians is the sacred text and story of California, the book that sits beside me when I write, the book I have given to all of my daughters, the book I give to people I love when they need to know the deeply-sung truths and revelations of this state, of this world. Deborah Miranda writes of hundreds of years of children, parents, love and despair and love again, here in a land beloved and stolen and cherished. With tenderness and fiercely lyrical beauty, she takes apart myth and resurrects the branches of her own trees, as no one else ever could." Susan Straight, author of Mecca and In the Country of Women
"Bad Indians stands out as a classic quintessentially Indigenous memoir. It is a powerful text that demonstrates, through a merging of personal storytelling, history, and gathering of testimony, a meta-story of generational trauma and triumph. It is the best book of its kind and will continue to be an essential text in California, national, and world history." Joy Harjo
"In Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir, we learn about the Indigenous people of California from the 16th century to the present. What was and is day-to-day life for them? How much has been erased from our history books? How do we begin to dispel the myth that Native Americans are a people of the past? We start here." Brea Baker, ELLE magazine
"I teach this book to my students in every creative nonfiction class and am excited by it every time. It is a powerful example of how memoir can be what we want it to be. This is a fearless and beautiful book." Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe, author of Red Paint: The Ancestral Autobiography of a Coast Salish Punk
"A desperately needed correction to centuries of fantasy and whitewashing. [...] Miranda’s dialogic kit is rich and deep, and it uses archival aesthetics to create a story that is as full of information and lacunae as California history itself. Accepting that some parts of her family’s past will never be retrievable gives Miranda the chance to allow readers to appreciate how much was destroyed in the history of contact between California’s Native tribes and the Mexican and European settlers who came to establish the mission system." John Freeman
"Bad Indians serves as a vital, eloquent corrective to the dominant narrative of California. [...] This is a vibrant tapestry of a text, an assemblage of poetry, oral history, prayer, visual collage, memoir, elegy, and personal testimony. [...] How will we change the story of California? With what Native-led texts can we begin? It is our unearned fortune that Miranda asks these challenging questions and directs us to the languages and stories with which to answer them." S. M. Sukardi, Alta Journal
"I am all for dunking on the mission system because fuck that noise (and if you’re not convinced/unaware of this nasty part of California history, please read the book Bad Indians, by Deborah Miranda)." Kali Simmons, Vulture
"Throughout Bad Indians, Miranda employs an array of strategies: writing letters and reproducing images, sharing poems and documents. It’s all a way to create territory for the many voices that have been effaced. The point is to explore a larger story, deeper and more diffuse. This is why it must be shared and heard." David Ulin
"Essential for all of us who were taught in school that the 'Mission Indians' no longer existed in California, Bad Indians combines tribal and family histories, tape recordings, and the writings of a white ethnologist who spoke with Miranda's family, together with photographs, old reports from the mission priests to their bishops, and newspaper articles concerning Indians from the nearby white settlements. Miranda takes us on a journey to locate herself by way of the stories of her ancestors and others who come alive through her writing. It's such a fine book that a few words can't do it justice.'' Leslie Marmon Silko, author of Ceremony and The Turquoise Ledge
"For so long, Native writers and readers have opened books of our tribal history, archaeology, or anthropology and found that it is not the story we know. It does not include the people we know. It does not tell the stories of the heart or the relationships that were, and are, significant in any time. When we write our own books, they do not fit the 'record,' as created by and confirmed by outside views. From the voice of the silenced, the written about and not written by, this book is groundbreaking not only as literature but as history." Linda Hogan, author of Rounding the Human Corners and a faculty member for the Indigenous Education Institute
"In Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir [...] Deborah A. Miranda rightly insists on putting together the voices of her people and a critique of the mythology that required them to submit to an unequal structure, even in the telling of their own stories." Anita Felicelli, Alta Journal
"This multi-genre memoir uses archives in all senses of the word, as well as imaginative writing, to render a prismatic and complex story about [Miranda's] own family and the history of colonization in California from the Spanish missions of the 1700s to present." Mental Floss
"Miranda’s research into her family history, indigenous Californians, is the grounding cable for her to tell their collective tribal story. The book is full of photo slides, obtained through her meticulous research, as she writes to humanize the people within them; some of them her direct ancestors. Through Miranda’s poetic lyricism and objective research we cannot help but feel them through the lens." Electric Literature
"This book is so much more than a memoir. [Miranda] shares stories of her parents and grandparents, but just as poignant are the stories she doesn’t share, or can only imagine. So much of this memoir is about reckoning with what was stolen by colonization, and how to move through that loss." Laura Sackton, Book Riot
+ Show all reviews

About the Author

Deborah A. Miranda

Deborah A. Miranda

Deborah A. Miranda is an enrolled member of the Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen Nation of the Greater Monterey Bay Area in California. Deborah lives in Eugene, Oregon with her wife, writer Margo Solod, and a variety of rescue dogs. She is Professor of English emerita at Washington and Lee University, where she taught literature of the margins and creative writing as the Thomas H. Broadus, Jr. Endowed Chair.

Her mixed-genre memoir Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir received the 2015 PEN-Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award, a Gold Medal from the Independent Publishers Association, and was short-listed for the William Saroyan Literary Award. She is also the author of four poetry collections: Indian Cartography, The Zen of La Llorona, Raised by Humans, and Altar for Broken Things. She is the co-editor of Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature and contributing editor of When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through. Photo by Margo Solod.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


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