Author rewrites history in memoir

Liliana Castañeda
News Editor 

Deborah A. Miranda, author of “Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir,”  this year’s selection for the One Book, One University series, gave a lecture at noon Wednesday in the Athletics Pavilion.

The tents were packed with approximately 300 students, staff and faculty members attending her lecture. Since the book is part of the FLEX, or First year Learning Experience, program, the University had many freshmen who were collectively attending classes. 

“My book is being taught in several different schools, and it’s important because growing up I realized we did not really have many good representations,” Miranda said.

The memoir is a hybrid book as described by Miranda, which means that it contains a bunch of different literary elements and does not stick to the traditional elements of a memoir. It includes poetry, archival news articles, bits of fiction mixed with memoir, a spiral timeline, and the experiences of other Native Americans. 

The book is focused on her struggles with her own identity as a Californian Indian and the generational trauma of having to rewrite her own family’s history as an individual and as a Native American.

“So one of the first lessons I surmised was that it was not all about me, it was about my ancestors,” Miranda said. “So there is this relationship that needs to happen between myself and the people that came before me. I found that for indigenous people telling a story really is a collaborative act, it’s not something we can do on our own.”

She said she researched many archives and was disheartened to find that they were written from only the colonizers’ perspectives so she set out to find people who could tell the story best, which was her own community. She gathered stories her father, and grandfather told her as well as documented information from her ancestor Isabel Meadows.

The name of the book originated after Miranda found that many headlines referred to Native Americans as “Bad Indians” and harmful rhetoric of unintelligence and cunning behaviors.

Isabel Meadows worked with J.P. Harrington, an ethnologist from the Smithsonian Museum, until her death to record her knowledge, stories and beliefs within her Californian Native American tribe called Esselen. Meadows is still not recognized as the author of the information that she contributed to the museum in the online archives. Instead, they are credited to J.P. Harrington. This is something Miranda says that she is still fighting for, to give her ancestor the credit that she deserves.

“I’m sure the ratio here is mostly Hispanic and not so much indigenous, so I feel like bringing people into talk allows for more perspectives,” Justyn Velazquez, freshman psychology major said.

Velazquez said that he related to the book because he also struggles to find a balance between his Mexican and American heritage and that it resonated with him that Miranda  was open about having an identity conflict of that sort as well. He said that he feels like he has to choose which culture to invest more time in.

“The One Book, One University program grew out of the desire for our first-year students to share in a common experience, and that common experience has grown over the years,” said Josh Jensen, assistant professor of writing. “It is now a tradition for our students to have an opportunity to engage with the One Book author in a way that’s meaningful.”

Hilarie Kelly, adjunct professor of sociology and anthropology, said that the books that are chosen for One Book tend to be widely accessible, not academic. She said they will relate to something that students have learned in high school or college. 

“They are books that can influence thinking,” Kelly said. “They are the kind of books that oftentimes important policymakers are reading.”

Liliana Castañeda can be reached at

Liliana Castañeda, a senior communications major, is the Fall 2022 news editor of the Campus Times. She has previously served as editorial director, arts editor, copy editor and a staff writer.


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