Every now and then I manage to talk a small press author into showing us a little skin... tattooed skin, that is. I know there are websites and books out there that have been-there-done-that already, but I hadn't seen one with a specific focus on the authors and publishers of the small press community. Whether it's the influence for their book, influenced by their book, or completely unrelated to the book, we get to hear the story behind their indie ink....
Today's ink story comes from Erika T. Wurth, author of the very-soon-to-be-released collection of interconnected stories Buckskin Cocaine.
My grandmother had what was essentially an arranged marriage at 14. Though Native Americans did do this traditionally, traditionally it was done by someone just trying to make sure you weren’t marrying a cousin. But as things became bad for Indians, and Natives feared for survival, those arranged marriages became more compulsory, and my great-grandmother, who was raising her, made sure she was alone enough with her much older beau to guarantee a pregnancy. He was a drinker, and when she was almost due he walked up the porch steps and kicked her in her pregnant stomach. She left him, and the baby survived, though the Catholic Church excommunicated her. Ironic, considering that that was also something that for Natives was compulsory (Catholic schools) and had been for my grandmother though she went through the relatively milder day schools for urban Indians, instead of the nightmarish boarding schools that Indian children were forced to attend. What’s always killed me about this is that my grandmother’s grandmother had had an arranged marriage, and she had hated her much much older husband so much, that she had stripped a bullet, melted it, and poured into his ear while he was sleeping, which killed him. She had also owned an Indian whorehouse (which is where her son – who was Apache and Chickasaw, met his wife, a well-off Cherokee runaway who had ended up working there). My grandmother went on to marry my mother’s father, and though I think there were many beautiful parts to her life, she was always sad. She had been a jazz singer, and had had a contract to go to New York before her arranged marriage. But she couldn’t afford to get there. When I was 6, she raised a gun to her temple, and when her husband tried to stop her, one way or another, that gun went off and killed her. When it came time to write my novel Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend, about a 16 year old girl from a small town who rants and raves about druggies and early pregnancy – but who is a drug dealer who gets pregnant – there was only one name I ever considered for her. And a few years later, I knew that her named belonged on my body, forever.
Erika T. Wurth’s published works include a novel, Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend and two collections of poetry, Indian Trains and One Thousand Horses Out to Sea. Her collection of short stories, Buckskin Cocaine is forthcoming. A writer of both fiction and poetry, she teaches creative writing at Western Illinois University and has been a guest writer at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals including Boulevard, Drunken Boat, The Writer’s Chronicle and South Dakota Review. She is represented by Peter Steinberg. She is Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee and was raised outside of Denver.