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This book leads readers through a troubled past using the author's family circle as a touch point and resource for discovery. Personal and strong, these stories present an evocative new view of the shaping of California and the lives of Indians during the Mission period in California. The result is a work of literary art that is wise, angry and playful all at once. This book leads readers through a troubled past using the author's family circle as a touch point and resource for discovery. Personal and strong, these stories present an evocative new view of the shaping of California and the lives of Indians during the Mission period in California. The result is a work of literary art that is wise, angry and playful all at once.


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This book leads readers through a troubled past using the author's family circle as a touch point and resource for discovery. Personal and strong, these stories present an evocative new view of the shaping of California and the lives of Indians during the Mission period in California. The result is a work of literary art that is wise, angry and playful all at once. This book leads readers through a troubled past using the author's family circle as a touch point and resource for discovery. Personal and strong, these stories present an evocative new view of the shaping of California and the lives of Indians during the Mission period in California. The result is a work of literary art that is wise, angry and playful all at once.

30 review for Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kerfe

    There were many things I liked about this book, including Ms. Miranda's poetry. Her cultural reclamation and correction of the historical narrative of the settling of California and the treatment of the Native tribes by these settlers is both necessary and important. But I think I have OD'd on dysfuntional childhoods. Seemingly everyone has stories, horrifying stories, in their past and in their families. The pain and sorrow of the unacknowledged and the untold permeate countless family and cultu There were many things I liked about this book, including Ms. Miranda's poetry. Her cultural reclamation and correction of the historical narrative of the settling of California and the treatment of the Native tribes by these settlers is both necessary and important. But I think I have OD'd on dysfuntional childhoods. Seemingly everyone has stories, horrifying stories, in their past and in their families. The pain and sorrow of the unacknowledged and the untold permeate countless family and cultural histories. Every memoir I pick up now seems to say the same things, and Miranda has no new revelations about bad parenting. To her credit, Miranda does deal with some of my nagging thoughts when reading about these families: if you've been damaged, do you get a free pass to inflict damage on others? And does taking on the identity of a victim help or hurt? Can healing coming without this identity? She doesn't have an answer either, but she has the questions, and that's a start. And she has certainly overcome the terrors she experienced growing up. She has reached back in a positive way to the part of her that was nearly forgotten, the California Indians of her father's family. And yet there is more to her, a part that she seems to dismiss. Though she does make passing references to her European and Jewish ancestors, she does not embrace them at all in her identity or her life. Most immigrants did not come to American because they had such wonderful lives in their native lands. They too lost family and culture, either before or after they came to the United States; they too have stories to tell that have resonance and meaning. As a nation, we are long past any purity of racial, ethnic, or religious identity (although some would try to deny this and make us all the same). Deborah Miranda is a perfect example of who "we the people" are in 2013. I wish she had been stronger and clearer about how well she reflects America and all of its peoples.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Phillip

    i tried to finish BAD INDIANS by deborah miranda but couldn't. her book on indigenous californians was rife with shoddy scholarship and shoddy writing. i got 80% of the way through and had to abandon it. the trap that some natives fall into is being stuck in tape loops produced by their anger regarding the history of colonial oppression. in this case, she seemed to be perpetuating the language of the oppressors in just about every page of the first half of the book. she was able to narrate some o i tried to finish BAD INDIANS by deborah miranda but couldn't. her book on indigenous californians was rife with shoddy scholarship and shoddy writing. i got 80% of the way through and had to abandon it. the trap that some natives fall into is being stuck in tape loops produced by their anger regarding the history of colonial oppression. in this case, she seemed to be perpetuating the language of the oppressors in just about every page of the first half of the book. she was able to narrate some of the horror of the mission period in california, and the insidious racism that is part of the curriculum that just about every california resident is subject to in 4th grade when we are force fed "the mission unit" (californians will know what i'm talking about). she deconstructs it successfully to some extent (by offering useful facts without attaching too much personal emotion), but because she fails to give the reader any sense of what life was like for indigenous californians before the spanish arrived, the bulk of the writing stays mired in the spanish perspective that all indians were dirty, lazy, and ignorant. she has failed to transcend this narrative and in some cases is just passing it along. it's clear we have to heal these wounds before we can talk about them in ways that are instructive or illuminating. we need more than horror stories. we need to reveal how we have survived and thrived. i realize there are few such examples (because the campaign of genocide was so successful), but is it helpful to always retell the story of the victim? it's useful as a tool of therapy, but great historical scholarship must offer more than that. i say this knowing all too well that many americans just don't know the story and it is our responsibility to reveal it. but so far, over the course of the 30 or so years of native scholarship that i have undertaken, the books that have stayed with me, the books that have inspired, are the ones that balance the celebration of native accomplishments with narratives of oppression.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Herman

    Enjoyed this very much, not everyone knows but the 1950's and early 60's the US Government had a program to separate out native children from their culture The Indian Adoption Project was a federal program that acquired Indian children from 1958 to 1967 with the help of the prestigious Child Welfare League of America; a successor organization, the Adoption Resource Exchange of North America, functioned from 1966 until the early 1970s. Churches were also involved. In the Southwest, the Church of Enjoyed this very much, not everyone knows but the 1950's and early 60's the US Government had a program to separate out native children from their culture The Indian Adoption Project was a federal program that acquired Indian children from 1958 to 1967 with the help of the prestigious Child Welfare League of America; a successor organization, the Adoption Resource Exchange of North America, functioned from 1966 until the early 1970s. Churches were also involved. In the Southwest, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints took thousands of Navajo children to live in Mormon homes and work on Mormon farms, and the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations swept many more Indian youngsters into residential institutions they ran nationwide, from which some children were then fostered or adopted out. As many as one third of Indian children were separated from their families between 1941 and 1967. I'm one of those children so is my wife. Our tribe is now the urban Rez of Los Angeles and we prosper here with many friends who are also adoptees some know their backgrounds some do not. So this book spoke right too me, it is so well written so poetic at times I learn something and that's all I really want from a book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    LJ

    In various memoir writings that I've read, there's rarely a straightforward, chronological narrative and this is certainly true here. The author mixes her poetry with stories told by various female elders, that sometimes have tantalizing interjections from her own story. It also includes a personalized accounting of historical abuse perpetrated upon native peoples by those involved in the California missions. The author purposes this memoir as a "correction" of the sanitation of mission history In various memoir writings that I've read, there's rarely a straightforward, chronological narrative and this is certainly true here. The author mixes her poetry with stories told by various female elders, that sometimes have tantalizing interjections from her own story. It also includes a personalized accounting of historical abuse perpetrated upon native peoples by those involved in the California missions. The author purposes this memoir as a "correction" of the sanitation of mission history taught to 4th graders in California public school curricula. This is a worthy goal, but the way it is presented in the book borders on proselytizing the opposite, and therefore weakens the goal. I would have preferred more citations from the author's research rather than what I got, which was an accounting of the history that reads like historical fiction. Her own narrative is exceptional and heartbreaking, describing a family dynamic at times loving and at other times, abusive. The author blames her father's manipulative and abusive behavior on the historical oppression and abuse by Europeans of Native Americans. People of all cultures learn abuse by being abused, and this is surely a strong and powerful factor, but blaming the behavior exclusively on oppression is a simplification. Not all victims become abusers. This quote, from a 1998 Native American Circle examination of the complex aspects of abuse concurs: "...those persons who have rejected violent behavior despite the impact of historically difficult life situations bear testimony to the fact that violent behavior is indeed a choice, not an ultimate, unavoidable consequence of negative circumstances." Dismissing an abuser's personal culpability does a disservice to the victims, as well as dismissing the courage of those that do not become abusers. For another very interesting perspective from a Native American author, try this short story collection by Sherman Alexie, Blasphemy, intended for an adult audience. The nuanced stories portray the complex multicultural histories of a wide array of modern Native Americans.

  5. 5 out of 5

    steph

    Really well done. Miranda is an Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen (Monterey Bay) who can trace her family through her father's line to enslavement in the California missions. This story reads part memoir/part history of California Indians told through letters, diaries, poems, newspaper articles, tape recording etc. Miranda does not shy away from the brutalness and horror her family experiences from not only the Spanish missionaries but also from the government. Sometimes it's hard to read, the stories an Really well done. Miranda is an Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen (Monterey Bay) who can trace her family through her father's line to enslavement in the California missions. This story reads part memoir/part history of California Indians told through letters, diaries, poems, newspaper articles, tape recording etc. Miranda does not shy away from the brutalness and horror her family experiences from not only the Spanish missionaries but also from the government. Sometimes it's hard to read, the stories and memories she shares but I think this is an important book to read just for that reason alone. One should be knowledgeable of things, even brutal and horrific things, instead of being kept in the dark. As Miranda points out in regards to the mandatory mission report that many fourth graders in California had to write (myself included): "Fourth graders, their parents, their teachers, tourists to the missions, even historians, often learn and perpetuate only one story about California Indians: conquest, subjugation, defeat, disappearance. Somehow, this story manages to get told without any real mention of the violence and violations that accompanied colonization....In short this story is one-dimensional, flat, and worst of all, untrue." This book tells the other side of the California Indians -their culture, their language, their religion, their families, their hopes and dreams and the way today's surviving generations are fighting back to reclaim what they can of their family's past. It's a much needed story and one I am so glad Miranda wrote.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I think I might buy this one. <3 <3 <3

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Middlebrook

    Found this through Powell's Books, created a list to celebrate Native American Heritage Month. Really really loved the mixed media approach. The combination of narrative, news articles, personal memoir, poetry, history, thought experiments...it was a fascinating way to compile a book. Important and powerful and heartbreaking and rage-inducing. I wish it had a deeper bibliography and a suggestion of further resources. A lot of this information (historical and her family's history) is devastating. Found this through Powell's Books, created a list to celebrate Native American Heritage Month. Really really loved the mixed media approach. The combination of narrative, news articles, personal memoir, poetry, history, thought experiments...it was a fascinating way to compile a book. Important and powerful and heartbreaking and rage-inducing. I wish it had a deeper bibliography and a suggestion of further resources. A lot of this information (historical and her family's history) is devastating. That's a place where the mixed format was a true blessing and really made this easier to read and finish. By breaking things up in both format and subject, it was more digestible chunks, allowing you to stop reading at relatively steady intervals, taking a break to think, to cry, to plan, to research, to make resolutions. I also was impressed at how Miranda found ways to offer hope. Some clear eyed appreciation of reality, but recognizing how broken things can sometimes be recreated into something new. Powerful.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ai Miller

    An incredible read that grabs and doesn't let go. I'll say first off that you should block off time for this book--it's not something you should read in multiple sittings, and you honestly won't want to read it that way. Miranda defies genre as she mashes together archival sourced-history with personal memoir with tribal history with poetry with essay with visual work. Her rich writing--and oh my GOD is it rich, it's so beautiful--really makes the story she's telling all the more rich and vivid. An incredible read that grabs and doesn't let go. I'll say first off that you should block off time for this book--it's not something you should read in multiple sittings, and you honestly won't want to read it that way. Miranda defies genre as she mashes together archival sourced-history with personal memoir with tribal history with poetry with essay with visual work. Her rich writing--and oh my GOD is it rich, it's so beautiful--really makes the story she's telling all the more rich and vivid. It's also incredibly accessible, and really important for people to read. I'd strongly recommend this to anyone looking to learn more about the ongoing effects of settler colonialism and the logics of elimination that accompany it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Friscia

    I loved this beautiful, tragic, elegiac, historical book. It’s the memoir of the author, but not just of her life, but the life of her ancestors - the native peoples of California. She goes all the way back to before the Missions, dispelling the myths about their founding and work, through the dispersal of her people, and up to her own life, including her personal histories, myths and tragedies, especially those relating to her father. It’s all presented in a way I don’t usually enjoy - with pro I loved this beautiful, tragic, elegiac, historical book. It’s the memoir of the author, but not just of her life, but the life of her ancestors - the native peoples of California. She goes all the way back to before the Missions, dispelling the myths about their founding and work, through the dispersal of her people, and up to her own life, including her personal histories, myths and tragedies, especially those relating to her father. It’s all presented in a way I don’t usually enjoy - with prose, poetry, transcriptions - but in this case it actually drew me in. I want to find more memoirs like this now.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Britton Dudasko

    Deborah A. Miranda’s Bad Indians punched me in the heart with its honesty. A powerful memoir, Bad Indians weaves together poetry, history, genealogy, and prose with devastating vulnerability. Every section has something new to teach her readers. Through this book, we are delivered an intimate look into the past of not just one person, but a whole group of people through her Ohlone-Esselen heritage. If history were a house, we are invited inside to walk through the rooms. Miranda’s reconstruction Deborah A. Miranda’s Bad Indians punched me in the heart with its honesty. A powerful memoir, Bad Indians weaves together poetry, history, genealogy, and prose with devastating vulnerability. Every section has something new to teach her readers. Through this book, we are delivered an intimate look into the past of not just one person, but a whole group of people through her Ohlone-Esselen heritage. If history were a house, we are invited inside to walk through the rooms. Miranda’s reconstruction of her people’s history and illustration of the powers of forgiveness deliver a beautiful arc of character development; readers get to experience and grow along with Miranda herself through her writing. Bad Indians was the third of five books on the syllabus for my women’s world literature class, and it still stands as my favorite. What touched me the most about Bad Indians is how Miranda writes about the art of storytelling as a medium of forgiveness. “Human beings have no other way of knowing we exist, or what we have survived, except through the vehicle of story” (xi). Through stories and writing we are able to recognize the wrongs we have done and the wrongs that have been done to us, and thus we become better able to start on the path toward healing and forgiving— for ourselves and others. Through our faults and the faults of others, history, truth, and storytelling still allow us to cultivate meaningful relationships with our culture, our experiences, other people, and ourselves. Miranda’s willingness to make herself vulnerable to her audience was admirable to me, and I found a lasting connection to her words; rawness is a very strong connector. So much of Miranda’s story was about allowing others to see us in all our broken glory, and letting them help to heal us. Through telling our own stories and the stories of our ancestors we give ourselves voices and, most importantly, we give ourselves power. Aside from her exemplary honesty, what I found most admirable about Bad Indians was Miranda’s beautiful prose. One of the things I criticize most heavily about what I read is the voice presented in the writing. Nonfiction writing is tricky in that it is very easy to use both oversimplified language that results in a lack of personality and language that is too flowery and dense for anyone to understand. Miranda hit the sweet spot with her writing, and presents her story in not only an accessible way, but a balanced way as well. Something I really admired was the way in which she wrote about her father; an area in which I felt I was really able to get to know Miranda on a personal level. When she spoke about her father, there was so much pain and resentment, but she writes with the kind of pain that sees the light; the kind of pain that finds healing. “Those who will not change do not survive; but who are we when we have survived?” (xiv). Her strained relationship with her father is an overtone that is prevalent through the entire book, proving that we carry our traumas loudly—especially when we struggle to forgive. However, through the process of documentation and the cultivation of love where there used to be hatred, Miranda, as well as the readers sharing her journey, are finally able to free themselves and find peace. And if you, too, are seeking peace, I would recommend this book to set you on your way. “I thought perhaps the cure was telling. Then I thought the cure was telling the truth. Now. . . I think to myself, maybe it’s each woman telling her truth in a language forged from every knife ever held to her throat. . . It’s not about forgetting, but transformation. The crucible is love” (118).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    This is a terrific book -- and if it has been a long time coming, it is well worth it. Miranda, is an Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen who can trace her family back to the enslavement in the California missions. She peels back the layers of history, of oppression, by turning the "standard" documents -- anthropological tracts, mission records, Old West newspaper accounts, official documents, even prayers -- on their head. What did these official histories mean for the lives of the Indians who were forced This is a terrific book -- and if it has been a long time coming, it is well worth it. Miranda, is an Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen who can trace her family back to the enslavement in the California missions. She peels back the layers of history, of oppression, by turning the "standard" documents -- anthropological tracts, mission records, Old West newspaper accounts, official documents, even prayers -- on their head. What did these official histories mean for the lives of the Indians who were forced to live through them. My favorite is the Novena to Bad Indians -- a few excerpts: Day 1: Indian outlaws, banditos, renegades, rebels, lazy Indians, sinful Indians, you gamblers who squatted out behind the church instead of assuming the missionary position behind the plow.... or Day 5: Oh magnificent Aniceto who refused to name thieves of money, chocolate, shoes, string, knives from the presidio -- thirteen years old, you took a flogging in silence.... Miranda shares this complex, brutal history before she tells her own story -- an intimate rendition that has its own brutality (at the hands of her father), secrets, poverty, addiction (her mother's), abandonment and her emergence as a strong woman, scholar, and mother who -- with her sister -- is relearning her ancient language and trying to piece together a people's history that was intended to be obliterated by those in religious/political power. The structure of the book (bringing the reader up to speed on cultural history before delving into the author's more personal story, reminds me so much of Gloria Anzaldua's Borderlands -- and, lo and behold, Miranda pays her respects to Anzaldua later in the book. What a valuable contribution to our understanding of the life of California Indians -- from centuries ago until today. Beautifully written, with wry humor at times, with an aching heart at others, Miranda tells us she has tried to make a story out of the shards that remain. She has succeeded beyond imagination.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mikey

    Amazing as a history; amazing as literature. Read it, especially you Californians. 'very tasty, our language.' I imagine our words being crispy or salty or smooth as a ripe fig. I like the idea that our language has flavor, texture, scent, yet can never be consumed. I tell Louise about Fulgencio's comment; she tells everyone else, and we end the evening with great smacking of lips and satisfied rubbing of tummies. 'Oh that's why they make those sounds, like they're savoring each syllable!" Amazing as a history; amazing as literature. Read it, especially you Californians. 'very tasty, our language.' I imagine our words being crispy or salty or smooth as a ripe fig. I like the idea that our language has flavor, texture, scent, yet can never be consumed. I tell Louise about Fulgencio's comment; she tells everyone else, and we end the evening with great smacking of lips and satisfied rubbing of tummies. 'Oh that's why they make those sounds, like they're savoring each syllable!"

  13. 5 out of 5

    Zack O'Neill

    Miranda is a member of the Ohlone / Costanoan-Esselen Nation. In her introduction, she tells us her mother was white, and her father “Chumash and Esselen” (xi). Historically the Esselen have resided in an area stretching from Northern California’s Bay Area to the Monterey Peninsula. The Chumash have resided farther to the south, from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara to Ventura to Los Angeles Counties, typically along the coast. Miranda spent most of her childhood in Southern California; her fath Miranda is a member of the Ohlone / Costanoan-Esselen Nation. In her introduction, she tells us her mother was white, and her father “Chumash and Esselen” (xi). Historically the Esselen have resided in an area stretching from Northern California’s Bay Area to the Monterey Peninsula. The Chumash have resided farther to the south, from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara to Ventura to Los Angeles Counties, typically along the coast. Miranda spent most of her childhood in Southern California; her father is from Santa Monica. She interweaves her life story with the treatment of California Indians. To read her book is to learn that each are tragic. Her abusive, unfaithful, alcoholic father was incarcerated for rape when she was three, and her mother had a serious substance abuse problem, as well as a neverending stream of boyfriends, for practically all of Miranda’s childhood. The book is structured a lot like Leslie Marmon Silko’s Storyteller. Silko is a Laguna Pueblo from New Mexico; her book, set largely on a reservation, is a pastiche of poems, essays, short stories, family photos, illustrations, and photos of the Laguna Pueblo people and New Mexico’s landscape. Miranda’s book has a similar feel: among the “texts” that make up the book are photographs, family histories, essays, genealogy maps, poems, illustrations, satirical mission projects [one of which includes options for plantation or concentration camp projects as a substitute], printed letters, corrections to her daughter’s Indian coloring book, signed contracts, register entries, newspaper clippings, journal entries, a collage of word boxes, short stories. The first half of the book is dominated by a history of California, in particular that of its indigenous population, and the California missions. We get poems from the perspectives of mission workers, descriptions of a workday, punishment techniques, imagined histories of California Indians, real biographies of Indians and non-Indians. The second half is devoted more to her own life story; in that section we get journal entries, memoir pieces, lots of pictures. Many people might be surprised to know how California Indians were treated; how brutal their subjugation and enslavement were, and how quickly their population was diminished to practically nothing. People will also be surprised to know how much of this was aided and abetted by the government. In 1849 news that an assload of gold was in California began to really spread; in 1851, California became a state, and being a state in the American territory meant diminishing economic opportunities for nonwhites and brutally subjugating, in many cases annihilating, their existing populations. Regarding California Indians, we see government-sponsored genocide. “In 1851 and 1852,” Miranda says, “Congress appropriated and paid out over one million dollars in bounties to white men who harvested Indian scalps from the California goldfields – scalps taken from men, women, and children by men eager to make easy money” (45). She quotes an educator who says “at one point it was something in the neighborhood of $25 for a male body part, whether it was a scalp, a hand, or the whole body and then $5 for a child or woman” (45). California would soon carry out policies similar to that of Congress. “In 1857,” for example, “the California State Legislature issued bonds for $410,000 for the ‘suppression of Indian hostilities’ [and] approved over $1 million in such bounties” (46). That’d be like the state of California announcing part of its annual budget would include, for one year only, $28 million for the slaughter of natives, with $700 paid out for each male body part, $200 for the body part of a woman or child. And that’s on top of the $28 million the federal government invested in the state for the same purpose six years earlier, in today’s dollars. As to her own life, Miranda paints a picture of a mother with a serious drinking and drug problem, who was on and off with Al, her father, and who seemed to always have a string of random men popping in and out of her life. Often she was with Al for extended periods of time, especially later in life, when the family relocated to Washington. She tries to inhabit the troubled upbringing her father must have had in the poor part of Santa Monica, and the impact the stark realities of his life must have had on him. She writes, “my father, born in 1927, Indian in a state where shooting, buying, and selling Indians was perfectly legal only thirty years earlier” and imagines him coming out of jail after “a brutal eight-year stretch in San Quentin [and] twice divorced, with the four daughters from his first marriage lost to him and his only son in the custody of an ex-girlfriend” (158). When her father was incarcerated Miranda’s mother “had run away [and her] two older siblings were put into foster care” (119). She spent time bouncing between grandparents, and an aunt and uncle. Miranda needed to escape this traumatizing environment. “My world was too full,” she writes, “of violence, abandonment, a mother who didn’t come home, fathers who kept disappearing, siblings who were there one day, gone the next…Everything in my life disappeared all the time” (119). She started sleeping with her high school history teacher at sixteen, married him at nineteen, and ran off. “We moved three thousand miles away,” Miranda writes, “where I threw myself into raising my husband’s two small children” (169). At this point I had trouble piecing together the rest of her biography. I know she had two kids with this man, and ended up getting an MA then a PhD from the University of Washington. Today she works at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia; among her research interests, according to her web page, are “American Literature that is off the canonical map - in other words, contemporary American Lit by authors from the margins of U.S. culture.” This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to know about the history of indigenous Californians, and how a legacy of white rule combined with racial subjugation had a devastating impact on marginalized families that would haunt these families for generations. It is a lively text, full of variety and huge amounts of information on American history most readers are likely unaware of. Highly recommend.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Waterwhip

    I read it for a writing class in Fall. What annoyed me most about the book was that I felt that there was an attitude of blame everything on the Europeans, which are of some blame. However she seemed to say it in a way that the Native Americans were never at fault for some of their own aggressive actions like violence or alcoholism. It did bring up some interesting points but the author annoyed me.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kurt

    "Those who will not change do not survive; but who are we, when we have survived?" (xiv). In BAD INDIANS, Miranda tells her family history and digs through the archives as a way to rewrite the colonizer's story of California Indians, brazenly on display in the statewide fourth-grade Mission project. Her collage approach serves her purpose well. How can BAD INDIANS reshape the way we tell the story in California—and across the country? "Those who will not change do not survive; but who are we, when we have survived?" (xiv). In BAD INDIANS, Miranda tells her family history and digs through the archives as a way to rewrite the colonizer's story of California Indians, brazenly on display in the statewide fourth-grade Mission project. Her collage approach serves her purpose well. How can BAD INDIANS reshape the way we tell the story in California—and across the country?

  16. 5 out of 5

    Adele Elliott

    Part historical record, part journal, “Bad Indians” is wonderfully written. Miranda is also a poet, a talent that shows in the prose. I recommend this book for anyone who would enjoy in a look at history that is not distorted by the perspective of conquers and religious overseers.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bernie G

    Very informative and gave good insight on what it means to be an Native American.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    Despite having to read this for a college class, I found myself enjoying it far more than I thought I would. It is a mix of the author's experiences growing up and her family tree's history (mostly on the Indigenous side) and the history of California's Indigenous population after the Spanish arrived. Some parts of the book were difficult to read (view spoiler)[such as when she was raped by her mom's boyfriend or how her father abused her younger brother and called it 'discipline' (hide spoiler) Despite having to read this for a college class, I found myself enjoying it far more than I thought I would. It is a mix of the author's experiences growing up and her family tree's history (mostly on the Indigenous side) and the history of California's Indigenous population after the Spanish arrived. Some parts of the book were difficult to read (view spoiler)[such as when she was raped by her mom's boyfriend or how her father abused her younger brother and called it 'discipline' (hide spoiler)] ; other parts were interesting, educational, and/or enlightening. It also has some stories in it that seemed pretty clearly fictional in nature in conjunction with the historical elements and biographical elements of the book. (view spoiler)[One thing that really stood out to me was an excellent comparison/example she made. She talked about how frustrating it was that the 4th Grade Curriculum in California schools have a specific section focused on the Spanish Missions and giving a generic, watered-down, white-washed history in the process. She compared having to study these Missions and building one as a "student project" to either building a Southern plantation and celebrating slavery or a concentration camp in relation to Jews (and other minorities) being murdered. It was a great word picture, a great example, and I think helped get her point across at how "praising" these old institutions comes across to Indigenous peoples, especially the descendants of the original inhabitants of California. (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[Throughout the whole memoir, she talks about how changes need to be made, but she really did not say what kind of changes she thought needed to be made to "improve the situation" until the very end of the book. Well, that is not completely correct; she did say that the true history behind the California missions needs to be taught and not the white-washed, watered-down, sugar-coated version taught in schools today. She said that early on; I guess that would tie into her statement either toward or at the end that the "true" history of the United States and how it was built needs to be taught, warts and all. I do not know how that will fully help things, but it will still be the truth being told and not lies being taught, so there is that. (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[She shares early on that she is a mix of Jewish and French on her mother's side and Esselen and Chumash on her father's side. She makes more comments about what the Jews experienced versus the Irish, but she still barely mentions her mother's side in relation to her life, how she saw herself, while growing up; she focused almost exclusively on her Indigenous side. I do not know if that had to do with her skin tone and physical appearance, but it just seemed . . . I don't know; too "one-sided"? The Jews and the Irish have also suffered throughout history, too. I realize the focus of the book is on what the Indigenous people of California suffered, and she clearly seems to identify with her father's side of the family tree (which was so strange, considering how little he was in her life growing up and how badly he abused her and her little brother when he was in her life); I do not know if that has to do with her father being absent versus the issues she had with her mother while growing up, but it was still quite odd to me. (hide spoiler)] It was an interesting book. It was an educational book. It was hard to read at times. I would probably rate it 2.5 - 2.7 stars, rounded up. In any case, I am still glad I read it (even if it was required reading), as I felt I learned quite a bit while reading it and it gave me a new perspective on what went on in California.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Deborah A. Miranda’s 2013 novel Bad Indians-A Tribal Memoir is a poignant life reflection of Miranda’s childhood and early adult years growing up in California. In her search for her identity, Miranda begins by looking into the past following her family tree while educating the viewer of the accurate history of California Mission Indians. The book is broken into segments of 50 to 75-year timeframes spanning the last 150 years. Each segment tells the tale of how the indigenous people of what is n Deborah A. Miranda’s 2013 novel Bad Indians-A Tribal Memoir is a poignant life reflection of Miranda’s childhood and early adult years growing up in California. In her search for her identity, Miranda begins by looking into the past following her family tree while educating the viewer of the accurate history of California Mission Indians. The book is broken into segments of 50 to 75-year timeframes spanning the last 150 years. Each segment tells the tale of how the indigenous people of what is now called California were dehumanized, marginalized, and abused by colonization through religious missionary doctrine. In between this horrifying but accurate historical account, Miranda lets the reader share her personal story of abuse, neglect, and family disfunction. Miranda recalls her 4th grade school project and how what she learned in public school about the missions was a bleached coverup of the true history of the missions. Drawings of events of abuse and weapons of torture, poems, quotes, photos of actual news clippings, photos and stories of real people and their impacts all combine to make each time segment more compelling than the last. In finally revealing the side of history that has been purposely ignored by mainstream historians, Miranda step by step unravels the why of the breakdown and dysfunction of modern Native families. In telling the history of her ancestors she tells her personal history and allows the reader to share her private family photos. Miranda becomes less like an aloof author and more of a confidant and friend to the reader with her personal story of the pain of growing up without a father, her rape at the hands of her mother’s lover, and her father’s return after he was imprisoned for rape. Her childhood journey through loneliness, isolation, abuse, and poverty leads to her adult self-discovery revelation that she is tied to the ancestral land because it defines who she is. All the white cultural indoctrination, racism, misogyny, and addiction can not deter her from reclaiming her heritage through the stories she reads and tells in order to follow them home. Bad Indians-A Tribal Memoir is an engaging must read into the historically documented thought process of a woman searching for her identity, love, and acceptance in a world of abuse, pain, and loss to find her soul’s way back home.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mike Steele

    Written to deconstruct and debunk the California mission mythology that so often erases the violence against the California indigenous tribes (particularly in fourth grade social studies units), Bad Indians does that and simultaneously widens its lens far more. Miranda conveys this deconstruction as a story that moves seamlessly between eras and speakers and that is sometimes a memoir, sometimes a metaphor, and sometimes a history lesson, all the while moving through a spectrum of tones. Reading Written to deconstruct and debunk the California mission mythology that so often erases the violence against the California indigenous tribes (particularly in fourth grade social studies units), Bad Indians does that and simultaneously widens its lens far more. Miranda conveys this deconstruction as a story that moves seamlessly between eras and speakers and that is sometimes a memoir, sometimes a metaphor, and sometimes a history lesson, all the while moving through a spectrum of tones. Reading on my Kindle, I never fully understood the organization of the text, but, despite its ambitious goal and challenging approach, Bad Indians has a flow too it that drew me in, ebbing and flowing between Miranda’s intense personal trauma and the missions that ruthlessly dictated that path that would to that trauma; her words did not simply explore inter-generational trauma but convey the mark it leaves on her as well as all of the California tribes beaten down by it. Despite the painful subject and stirring purpose, Miranda’s humor—particularly when she attacks conventions of that elementary mission curriculum—is appropriately dark but effectively illuminating, but I think I admire most the thread of hope that is never lost in any paragraph of page of this piece. Miranda, like so many others with roots torn out by missionization, will always be searching for something lost but her joy in every geographic lead and new Esselen word and photograph brought to written life is moving and a meaningful victory against the systematic erasure of her and her family’s history.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Rogers

    Deborah A. Miranda’s, Bad Indians, is a mixed-genre tribal memoir. Deborah is a part of the Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen clan whose relatives went through enslavement in the California Missions. She tells the history of California Natives and the brutalities they experienced in California missions through stories, letters, poems, newspaper articles, and more. Miranda tells these horrific stories in order to discount the mission project that many fourth graders are expected to complete. I really enjo Deborah A. Miranda’s, Bad Indians, is a mixed-genre tribal memoir. Deborah is a part of the Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen clan whose relatives went through enslavement in the California Missions. She tells the history of California Natives and the brutalities they experienced in California missions through stories, letters, poems, newspaper articles, and more. Miranda tells these horrific stories in order to discount the mission project that many fourth graders are expected to complete. I really enjoyed Miranda’s lack of restrictions in revealing the barbarity of the California missions, as it spread awareness about that part of history. Some of Miranda’s intense candidness is difficult to read, however, Miranda also includes powerful excerpts on the resilience of the California Native Americans. The book was difficult for me to read at the beginning, because of the inclusion of multiple genres, but in the end, the collection of genres made Miranda’s book very intriguing. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about Native American history. I would also recommend this book to anyone in the education system so that they can understand the extreme faults with the California mission project. Since Miranda includes brutal content, I would not recommend this book to younger readers. Overall, Bad Indians was a very eye-opening read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jaqueline Martinez

    This memoir combines various forms of writing and even photographs and newspaper clippings, to tell the history of both the California Mission Indians as well as the author’s own personal history. Although the author does a phenomenal job of organizing the different writings in the book, it can still be difficult to read because of all the elements incorporated into it. In order to really analyze the concepts within this book, I would say it’s worth taking the time to read over a longer period o This memoir combines various forms of writing and even photographs and newspaper clippings, to tell the history of both the California Mission Indians as well as the author’s own personal history. Although the author does a phenomenal job of organizing the different writings in the book, it can still be difficult to read because of all the elements incorporated into it. In order to really analyze the concepts within this book, I would say it’s worth taking the time to read over a longer period of time. It touches on a variety of important issues including the damages of colonization, loss of language, tribal identity, and violence both against the tribe and in the author’s life. Miranda’s writing also offers an insight into what it’s like to be inter-racial and how her multiple identities sometimes conflict with each other, which is something many readers may be able to relate to. I read this book for my Native American Literature course, and although it took me longer to read than most of the other texts in the class, I am extremely glad that our instructor included it in our syllabus. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in or wanting to learn more about Native American history, as well as those looking to support more Native writers.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Leila Bathke

    This was the first book I read in the Interracial Dynamics class at UCLA. It was super eye opening about the extent of history's erasure of Native peoples' history, particularly in relation to California Indians and the genocide that occurred around the time of the Gold Rush. I loved how anecdotal it was, too, because it helped me connect with it even more. Especially her relationship with her dad was very relatable to my life. Also, her being mixed (half Chumash, half European-descent white), w This was the first book I read in the Interracial Dynamics class at UCLA. It was super eye opening about the extent of history's erasure of Native peoples' history, particularly in relation to California Indians and the genocide that occurred around the time of the Gold Rush. I loved how anecdotal it was, too, because it helped me connect with it even more. Especially her relationship with her dad was very relatable to my life. Also, her being mixed (half Chumash, half European-descent white), was super relatable to me. Since I read this a while ago, I can't recall specifics, but everything was so good! This book should be a mandatory read for all college students for real. So much history is erased by the white narrative that dominates public education. I'm so grateful that I just happened to take this class, though. I get angry when I think about how I had not learned about Tulsa's Black Wall Street and the massacre that occurred there until this class, but then I hear my mom learning about it only this year, too, due to all of the energy surrounding awareness about BLM and Black history and truth. So, again, I'm even more thankful of having access to these classes.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Michael Haase

    For what it is, the book is eloquent, vivid, and diverse, but, like much post-colonial literature, it suffers in its attempts to reconcile the past by revitalizing previous injustices. It belongs among those most aggressive and scathing post-colonial texts which overflow with exaggerated hatred and frustration. It is by no means an impartial or analytical text, and begs the reader to wonder what the point of it all is. Are we, the readers, expected to share these emotions, reviling the colonizer For what it is, the book is eloquent, vivid, and diverse, but, like much post-colonial literature, it suffers in its attempts to reconcile the past by revitalizing previous injustices. It belongs among those most aggressive and scathing post-colonial texts which overflow with exaggerated hatred and frustration. It is by no means an impartial or analytical text, and begs the reader to wonder what the point of it all is. Are we, the readers, expected to share these emotions, reviling the colonizers and by extension any descendant influence of theirs? I should hope not, but if so, what else is there to gain? Is not better to forgive and forget, leaving all of this injustice in the past? This sort of vilification, this irate sense of historical injustice leads only to race wars. I don't feel I've benefited in any way after reading this. I have no new fondness for indigenous culture, no new love for regional history, only a sense of indignation towards people who are no longer even alive.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Hanna

    Bad Indians by Deborah A. Miranda (Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen) is a unique blend of personal stories and historical facts. Miranda presents poetry, pictures and charts as well as her own family lineage and childhood memories. Through these different perspectives, she aims to tell readers the true stories of missionization from 1770 to present day. Additionally, Miranda points out how the effects of the missions are still impacting Native American families today. She even tells her own testimony an Bad Indians by Deborah A. Miranda (Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen) is a unique blend of personal stories and historical facts. Miranda presents poetry, pictures and charts as well as her own family lineage and childhood memories. Through these different perspectives, she aims to tell readers the true stories of missionization from 1770 to present day. Additionally, Miranda points out how the effects of the missions are still impacting Native American families today. She even tells her own testimony and connects her understanding of her family to the history that her ancestors endured. While the stories can be painful and shocking to read, Miranda reminds us that they are necessary. She says “We have stories to exchange about this difficult gift, life, and those stories will never disappear,” (Miranda, 122). Bad Indians is full of powerful stories that detail all that Natives have survived and what they are still surviving. Miranda reveals many truths to readers in ways that cannot be ignored.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dana Berglund

    I don't know that I've read a book like this before. Parts of it were personal memoir, letting us peer into her childhood full of addiction-soaked abuse and terror, and occasionally love and learning. Parts of it were poetry, both personal and with a bigger lens. Parts of it were history lessons, including scans and passages from historical documents from the California mission system and ethnographers’ attempts to catalog the stories of the indigenous people who had been colonized (tortured, en I don't know that I've read a book like this before. Parts of it were personal memoir, letting us peer into her childhood full of addiction-soaked abuse and terror, and occasionally love and learning. Parts of it were poetry, both personal and with a bigger lens. Parts of it were history lessons, including scans and passages from historical documents from the California mission system and ethnographers’ attempts to catalog the stories of the indigenous people who had been colonized (tortured, enslaved) by the mission system. I learned so much about the author’s Chumash and Esselen history, knowing it still only scratches the surface. My favorite part was the language diary section toward the end, when Deborah enrolls in intensive summer language sessions, first to learn Spanish and then to learn how to learn her ancestors’ Native languages, using historical records and university collections. I certainly wouldn't recommend this book for everyone, but it was a perspective and a history I needed to read right now.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Veronica Zaleha

    An important read, especially if you live in California and have been exposed to the mission myths. Miranda's book exposes more of the sad truths and horrific legacies of imperialism and colonialism. Written as creative non-fiction memoir, it deeply penetrated my psyche. It made me think of many things -- how I was raised, myself as a mother, the intergenerational trauma we all suffer for different reasons. Understanding this trauma as played out by the indigenous peoples of the continent where w An important read, especially if you live in California and have been exposed to the mission myths. Miranda's book exposes more of the sad truths and horrific legacies of imperialism and colonialism. Written as creative non-fiction memoir, it deeply penetrated my psyche. It made me think of many things -- how I was raised, myself as a mother, the intergenerational trauma we all suffer for different reasons. Understanding this trauma as played out by the indigenous peoples of the continent where we live is a responsibility. It made me think of Annie Proulx's Barkskins, Robinson Jeffers' poetry, and Elsie Mae Cly Begay's film The Return of Navajo Boy, which I see is available on Vimeo. (Watch It!) Miranda's last beautiful poem reminded me of Dick Lourie's, Forgiving Our Fathers. This is among those stories that once heard will change the way you see things -- especially if you are a parent or a teacher continuing the lies of the state curriculum's mission project.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Maisy

    EVERYONE needs to read this book!! I want to call it remarkable, however Deborah A. Miranda simply illustrates a series of heartbreaking truths that have been ignored for centuries. This book changes the way all Americans need to think about the continuing effect of colonialism in the U.S. and the Native American narrative that has been shoved into silence for so long. The opening section on the California Mission Project, a mandatory requirement for all elementary level kids in California, is p EVERYONE needs to read this book!! I want to call it remarkable, however Deborah A. Miranda simply illustrates a series of heartbreaking truths that have been ignored for centuries. This book changes the way all Americans need to think about the continuing effect of colonialism in the U.S. and the Native American narrative that has been shoved into silence for so long. The opening section on the California Mission Project, a mandatory requirement for all elementary level kids in California, is perhaps the most heartbreaking of all, as well as extremely important.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tom Garback

    ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Personal Score: C+ Critical Score: B The sections about Miranda’s childhood were stellar. The journal-essay scenes were the weakest. I appreciated the historicism, though the project as a whole feels at times to have conflicting pieces. In a way it’s appealing and unique, and in another way it feels mosaic to the fault of lacking cohesion. Some sections strained my patience, and others left me very moved. This is a mixed bag of a project. But a super important one, and an accomplished one ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Personal Score: C+ Critical Score: B The sections about Miranda’s childhood were stellar. The journal-essay scenes were the weakest. I appreciated the historicism, though the project as a whole feels at times to have conflicting pieces. In a way it’s appealing and unique, and in another way it feels mosaic to the fault of lacking cohesion. Some sections strained my patience, and others left me very moved. This is a mixed bag of a project. But a super important one, and an accomplished one.

  30. 4 out of 5

    La'Tonya Rease Miles

    A bold and truly important book that has a simplistic premise: the way that we teach about the California mission and the history of indigenous people is MESSED UP. And she develops through point through satire, poems, and personal reflections about her own family, namely her father. Those personal stories are the ones that affected me the most, especially when she writes about her father's abusive and drunken behavior. I highly recommend. A bold and truly important book that has a simplistic premise: the way that we teach about the California mission and the history of indigenous people is MESSED UP. And she develops through point through satire, poems, and personal reflections about her own family, namely her father. Those personal stories are the ones that affected me the most, especially when she writes about her father's abusive and drunken behavior. I highly recommend.

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