The four-year-old Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) is establishing a strong presence in the literary world, and the recent success of four of its students and alumni highlight the quality of the program. Publishing deals are currently pending for two alumni: Terese Mailhot and Tommy Orange; and two current students: Ishmael Hope and Barbara Robidoux.
Terese Mailhot’s (Seabird Island Band) first book, Heartberries, is a collection of essays and will be published by Counterpoint Press. A recent graduate of IAIA’s MFA in creative writing program, she’s the Saturday editor at the The Rumpus, a columnist for Indian Country Today, and a former Southwest Association on American Indian Arts fellow. Her work has been featured in The Toast, Carve, The Offing, The Rumpus, Yellow Medicine Review, Burrow Press Review, and elsewhere.
IAIA MFA alumnus Tommy Orange’s first novel, There There, will be published by Alfred A. Knopf. Translation rights have already been sold in Denmark, Sweden, Italy, and France. He is a 2014 MacDowell Fellow, a 2016 Writing by Writers Fellow, and a 2017 Yaddo Fellow. Tommy was born and raised in Oakland, California, and is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. He currently lives in Angels Camp, California.
Ishmael Hope’s second book of poetry, Rock Piles Along the Eddy, will be published by Ishmael Reed Publishing. His first book, Courtesans of Flounder Hill, was also published by Ishmael Reed Publishing. His awards include the Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Award and the Eiteljorg Museum Traditional Artist Fellowship. He is currently enrolled in IAIA’s Low Residency Creative Writing MFA program. Hope is Inupiaq and Tlingit, and lives in Juneau, Alaska, where he is raising four children with his wife, Lily Hope, a Tlingit weaver.
Barbara Robidoux’s novella, The Legacy of Lucy Little Bear, will be published in April by Blue Hand Books. Her previous book, Sweetgrass Burning, a collection of short stories, was published by Blue Hand in 2016. Robidoux is also the author of two books of poetry, Waiting for Rain (2007) and Migrant Moon (2012). Her fiction has appeared in the Denver Quarterly, The Yellow Medicine Review, the Santa Fe Literary Review, and numerous anthologies. She holds a BA from the University of New Hampshire, an MA from Vermont College and is currently a candidate for an MFA in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is of Eastern Cherokee (Tsalagi), Italian, and Scottish heritage.
“We keep saying we’re going to rewrite the literary landscape,” observes Jon Davis, director of the MFA program. “And here we’ve taken a first big step toward that goal—four books by Native writers, all announced in a two-week period. It’s an exciting time to be associated with the IAIA MFA program.”