Beth Piatote Talks The Beadworkers, A Collection of Stories About Indigenous Life

MM: This book features multiple stories in multiple genres. How did you choose which genre to apply to which story?

BP: My view has been that different genres tell different kinds of stories in different kinds of ways. I look at the ideas and questions I have, and then I try to figure out what genre is most effective for getting at the specific thing I want to think about. Sometimes the genre is a scholarly essay; sometimes it’s a story; sometimes it’s a poem or a personal essay.

MM: What is the common thread that hold the various stories together?

BP: One of the threads is the mixed genre aspect itself. Over the long term, Native people have always been borrowing arts and aesthetics from other peoples, while still maintaining their tribally distinct practices and styles. Working in various forms but inflecting them with Native characters, plots and aesthetics is a way of highlighting that tradition of adaptability. It’s the way that Native people have survived and thrived across time.

MM: How does your own heritage factor in?

BP: I placed an emphasis on Indigenous aesthetics. I’ve studied my heritage language of Nez Percé, a process that has included reading and translating a large number of stories from the original sources. And in this collection, I’ve incorporated particular motifs, concepts and formal properties — even some of the stories themselves, as intertexts — into my own stories.

MM: Why was it important to include beadworkers in the title?

BP: I wanted the title to point to the work that beadworkers, other artists and medicine people do to sustain our Native communities and the incredible strength and spiritual depth these people demonstrate in continuing to make beauty — even through, and at times because of, loss.

Local Page Turners

The Beadworkers: Stories by Beth Piatote

The Beadworkers: Stories by Beth Piatote, Counterpoint LLC, $23.

Beth Piatote’s The Beadworkers incorporates Indigenous themes into a unique, compelling vision of Native life in the Americas. In this mixed-genre collection, Piatote follows a woman teaching her niece to make a pair of beaded earrings while remembering a rocky relationship; an 11-year-old girl narrating the fate of her family as they are pulled to the front line of a war; two young men contemplating deaths in their family; and a family torn apart over the fate of ancestral remains. Through her witty, dynamic prose, Piatote finds themes in family, longing and return that speak to us all. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera on Saturday, December 7, at 4 p.m.

Aging Joyfully: A Woman’s Guide to Optimal Health, Relationships, and Fulfillment for Her 50s and Beyond by Carla Marie Manly, Familius, $

Aging Joyfully: A Woman’s Guide to Optimal Health, Relationships, and Fulfillment for Her 50s and Beyond by Carla Marie Manly, Familius, $18.99.

Aging Joyfully addresses the question of how a woman can embrace the changes that come with approaching age 50 and later years. Psychologist and holistic wellness expert Carla Marie Manly focuses on the blessing of getting to experience the later years and concentrates on making each day matter. Aging Joyfully has the versatility of serving as a loving guide for both an individual aging journey and the communal discovery that’s possible in book or support groups. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera on Sunday, December 1, at 1 p.m.

Alice Adams: Portrait of a Writer by Carol Sklenicka, Scribner

Alice Adams: Portrait of a Writer by Carol Sklenicka, Scribner, $35.

Alice Adams left behind a vibrant body of work that put a spotlight on the lives of women during a time when women were struggling for visibility. The characters in her stories fought with the inherent conflict of their desires: absorbed by the turbulence of love, but determined to be self-sufficient. In Alice Adams: Portrait of a Writer, biographer Carol Sklenicka conveys the drama Adams felt amid the upheavals of her time. Her meticulous research and vivid storytelling inform a fully dimensional portrait of a writer’s life and of an unstable period in American history. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera on Wednesday, December 4, at 7 p.m.

Reviews by Book Passage Marketing Assistant Meghan Lee