Deborah Miranda in conversation with John Freeman

Deborah A. Miranda’s classic memoir Bad Indians is the California Book Club’s November 2023 selection. Hosted by Alta Journal, the California Book Club celebrates the Golden State's vibrant literary landscape, with book club selections culminating in a livestream conversation between the author, Alta Journal, and an online audience of book lovers.

With Bad Indians Miranda forges a vivid and urgent memoir of abuse and love. Her personal history is inseparable, as she presents it in Bad Indians, from fragments of the haunting tribal history of her Ohlone–Costanoan Esselen family and the story of her parents’ tumultuous mixed union. The resulting book is an unforgettable pastiche of personal reflection, oral histories, poems, photographs, diagrams, class lessons, thought experiments, and stark news clippings, including the titular headline about a purportedly “bad” Indian who responded to cruelty by going on a rampage. Tracing a line of structural violence, Miranda frames her critique of painful missionary mythology with the now mostly defunct mission project that Californians for decades constructed in fourth grade in public schools.

On Thursday, November 16 at 5 pm PST Miranda joins editor John Freeman for a free hour-long conversation with Miranda, which will include a reading by her and questions from the audience. Produced by Alta Journal for streaming on Zoom.

Debuts October 2022 — Bad Indians: Tenth Anniversary Edition


Deborah A. Miranda’s now-classic book Bad Indians to be reissued in a 10th Anniversary Edition from Heyday

A canon-defining memoir on Native American survivance and cultural memory debuts in significantly expanded form on Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

BERKELEY, CALIF. — Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir, the critically acclaimed mixed-genre chronicle of Native American survivance and cultural memory by poet-professor Deborah A. Miranda, will be reissued by Heyday in hardcover with over 60 pages of new material in honor of the book’s 10th anniversary this fall (on sale October 11). 

The best-selling first edition of Miranda’s revolutionary book—adopted widely by schools, universities,  and book clubs across the nation—has become a standard-bearer in Native American Literature and an indispensable entry point for anyone seeking a more just telling of US history. 

“How do we begin to dispel the myth that Native Americans are a people of past? We start here,” writes ELLE magazine, who rank Miranda’s memoir among their “11 Essential Memoirs to Read Right Now” alongside the likes of Jesmyn Ward, Kao Kalia Yang, and Linda Sarsour.

Featuring never-before published essays and poetry, the 10th Anniversary Edition of Bad Indians plumbs deeply into Indigenous displacement, imprisonment, genocide, remembrance, resilience, and solidarity in a poetically rendered corrective to prevailing narratives of Native erasure. With dauntless emotional honesty, Miranda challenges the pedagogy of California Missions history, envisions Native life through colonization, and reflects movingly on intergenerational legacies of colonial trauma and collective liberation.

“I am so proud to celebrate the anniversary of Bad Indians mostly because ten years later there's still nothing else like it,” says Terria Smith, editor and director of Heyday’s Roundhouse program, under the banner of which Bad Indians was first published; “Shocking, at times funny, and heartbreaking all at once it has given readers a true sense of the California Indian experience. What an honor that Deborah Miranda chose Heyday to publish it.” 
Debuting on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the publication of the anniversary edition of Miranda’s classic text will also dovetail with the 10th anniversary of Heyday’s Roundhouse program, dedicated to publishing works about and by Native Californians. A book unlike any other, Bad Indians 10th Anniversary Edition is a marvel of literary form, a milestone in historical reckoning, and requisite reading for decolonizing our culture.

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About the Author

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 (Heyday) 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.

Praise for Bad Indians Tenth Anniversary Edition

Bad Indians stands out as a classic, quintessentially Indigenous memoir. [...] It is the best book of its kind and will continue to be an essential text in California, national, and world history.”


Essential for all of us who were taught in school that the ‘Mission Indians’ no longer existed in California. [...] It’s such a fine book that a few words can’t do it justice.”


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.”


“Miranda’s research into her family history, Indigenous Californians, is the grounding cable for her to tell their collective tribal story. [...] Through Miranda’s poetic lyricism and objective research we cannot help but feel them through the lens.”


“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.”


“Miranda locates Native women’s voices in the archives, exhuming them from anthropological documents and newspapers so their words can accompany hers in this robust rejection of dominant narratives of Native absence.”


“Miranda’s is an emotional, powerfully told story that contributes greatly to her goal of ‘killing the lies’ about her people.”


“A searing indictment of the ravages of the past and a hopeful look at the courage to confront and overcome them.”


“From the voice of the silenced, the written about and not written by, this book is groundbreaking not only as literature but as history.”  


Bad Indians

Tenth Anniversary Edition

by Deborah A. Miranda

ON SALE October 12, 2022

304 pages, with black-and-white illustrations throughout

ISBN: 978-1-59714-586-2

About Heyday's Roundhouse Program

Since its origins, Heyday has kept California Indian peoples at the center of its work, beginning with the publication of The Ohlone Way by Heyday founder Malcolm Margolin in 1978 and the debut of the serial magazine News from Native California in 1987. The Roundhouse program, celebrating 10 years in 2022, was developed within Heyday as a place to celebrate Indigenous storytelling and culture-keeping. Under this banner, Heyday publishes works about and by the West Coast’s first peoples to preserve cherished knowledge and offer eye-opening perspectives with integrity and deep respect.
Learn more here.