Debra Magpie Earling


Debra Magpie Earling is Bitterroot Salish and a member of the Flathead Nation. She is the author of the novels Perma Red, which received the American Book Award, and The Lost Journals of Sacajewea. Her work has also appeared in Ploughshares and Northeast Indian Quarterly as well as several anthologies, including Talking Leaves: Contemporary Native American Short Stories and Montana Women Writers: A Geography of the Heart. The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, she now works in the Creative Writing Department at the University of Montana in Missoula.

Our house sagged under the weight of sullen-faced alcoholics, baby-dolled prostitutes, ghosts of dead Indian relatives, and a parade of my mother’s mean and entertaining siblings who brought with them their own weird and disagreeable companions. Quibbling broke out in our house, if not out-and-out fights. Drunk shirttail relatives stole per capita checks and threatened to get my mother fired. One kooky cousin bragged he was going to put rattlers in our mailbox. When I was sixteen, my jealous aunt slammed a glass into my mother’s face and left a puckery scar forever. Wild stuff. And yet my dad took them all in and gave them a second chance (even my aunt, years later); he fed and clothed them, calmed them, and stood beside my mother at all the funerals and wakes. During this time, my parents continued to have fights, scary all-night rages, while my brother and I trembled behind our bedroom doors. My father was both doorman and bouncer to the misfortunes that careened toward us.


Some of my favorite people on earth are in this book,
Dear writers and grand spirits.

Annie Dillard