Published on January 23, 2013 by Amy
Beth E. Brant (Indian: Degonwadonti) (* 1941 Melvindale, Michigan, other source say in the Tyendinaga reservation in Ontario) is a Mohawk writer. She is known as a theorist (“writing as witness”) who has had a profound effect on literary activism in the Americas, as the producer of a substantial body of work in short fiction, nonfiction and poetry, and as editor of groundbreaking anthologies.
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Beth Brant is the daughter of a Scots-Irish American mother and a Mohawk father. She grew up with her father’s family, on the Bay of Quinte Mohawk in Ontario. Most of her life she stayed in the border region of Ontario, Canada and Michigan, USA.
She married at 17, and gave birth to three daughters. After she divorced her violent, alcoholic husband, she got a job to support her family through daily life. She didn’t finish her education. At the age of 33, she came out as a lesbian. In 1981 she began to write and to edit anthologies, dramatically building up indigenous literature by providing both showcase and courageous example. Her non-academic approach creates a sense of possibility and empowerment for the ordinary person to give voice to experience, to the world experienced and witnessed, and to honour the voices of both self and other, using all of these as bases for both world change and literary production. Between 1989 and 1990 she lectured at the University of British Columbia, and in 1993 at the University of Toronto. She is a very popular teacher of indigenous and non-indigenous creative writers in both Canada and the United States. She lives in Detroit, MI.
Brant characterizes herself as a lesbian mother and grandmother, a Taurus, ascendant Scorpio, a dropout and a woman of the working class.
In 1984 and 1986 she was awarded the Creative Writing Award of the Michigan Council for the Arts, in 1991 the National Endowment for the Arts and 1992 the Canada Council Award in Creative Writing.
In her narratives, she broaches the issues that link many aspects of life, eg. nationality and sexuality, caste and class, often focussed on dramatic experiences with racism and sexism, with great compassion. Through fiction and nonfictional means, she challenges her readers to move from a greater place of truth, both in history and in daily life, and to take responsibility for the role each person plays moment by moment in both receiving and regenerating both aspects of collective reality.