This interview was conducted via email by Interview Editor Erin Regan. Of the process she said, “I first came across LeAnne Howe’s book of poetry Evidence of Red and fell in love with her wit and playfulness with literary conventions. Her spirit is surely reflected here.” In this interview, she discusses her use of humor, the freedom of other creative forms, and the metaphysical power of language.
Superstition Review: You often use humor in your writing. What is your approach to incorporating humor in stories about the disenfranchisement and abuse of Native Americans?
LeAnne Howe: Humor defuses pain. Humor gives the narrators in my stories agency to tilt at the ever-whirling windmills of colonization. Humor opens a window on historic pain and trauma that American Indians dealt with at the hands of the federal government. Loss of land, loss of dignity, loss of identity, and of course the loss of a brother or sister, parent—which in my great grandmother’s era was a common event. So as I think back to my early childhood, I can say that I was raised around a bunch of jokers. All Indians, and they were always pointing out little ironies. My humor these days tends toward irony, but often falls flat in the classroom. My students are not familiar with irony, or thinking about the historic past as having anything to do with them.