There is only one week until the kick-off of our 2021 Big Read programming! We are so excited to learn alongside you and engage creatively with this year’s selection An American Sunrise and Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story. 

Joy Harjo is a poet, musician, author, and activist from the Muscogee Nation. She is also the current poet laureate of the United States. Her collection of poems, An American Sunrise, is our 2021 selected book.

In anticipation of our virtual kick-off event with Joy Harjo at 7pm, I wanted to share one of my favorite poems from An American Sunrise. 

An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo 
We were running out of breath, as we ran out to meet ourselves. We
were surfacing the edge of our ancestors’ fights, and ready to strike.
It was difficult to lose days in the Indian bar if you were straight.
Easy if you played pool and drank to remember to forget. We
made plans to be professional — and did. And some of us could sing
so we drummed a fire-lit pathway up to those starry stars. Sin
was invented by the Christians, as was the Devil, we sang. We
were the heathens, but needed to be saved from them — thin
chance. We knew we were all related in this story, a little gin
will clarify the dark and make us all feel like dancing. We
had something to do with the origins of blues and jazz
I argued with a Pueblo as I filled the jukebox with dimes in June,
forty years later and we still want justice. We are still America. We
know the rumors of our demise. We spit them out. They die

I like this poem because Harjo decided to use this title for the title of her book. This collection of poems allows readers to connect to Harjo’s memories and emotions. This poem captures her perspective on her Native American heritage and the displacement of her people. 

My favorite lines from this poem are, “And some of us could sing / so we drummed a fire-lit pathway up to those starry stars.” These lines capture Harjo’s dream of change and a reverence for natural things like stars. 

We hope you are able to join us virtually to learn more about Joy Harjo’s experiences and celebrate her work together! 

To access the link for our kick-off event with Joy Harjo, please go here.

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