Sometimes consciously, sometimes not, local author Tiffany Midge has been writing her memoir, “Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s,” for decades.
In “Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s,” Midge covers life, politics and her identity as a Native woman in America. Midge is a Hunkpapa Lakota enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. She lives in Moscow, Idaho, where she moved in 2005 to pursue an MFA at the University of Idaho.
Last month, Midge was delighted to find her book included in this year’s Spokane Is Reading list among nationally renowned works by Ta-Nehisi Coates, James Baldwin, Tommy Orange and Roxane Gay. The list’s theme, Diverse Voices, “reflects the rich tapestry of the American experience. Read one. Read several. Or read them all,” the organization’s website reads.
Midge was especially grateful to be included because the list was compiled by librarians and booksellers.
“Librarians mean the world to me, their opinions count,” she said. “I couldn’t be more thrilled.”
Whether through poetry, Twitter posts, opinion pieces or the humor column she once wrote for Indian Country Today, Midge is always finding ways to express herself.
“I think poetry is a natural extension,” she said. She doesn’t limit herself to a single style and thrives on “being able to use language in all of the various ways that one can use language.”
All the material was at her fingertips. It was just a question of organizing her writing, in all of its various modes, into longer pieces of personal reflection. In the end, she settled on tying the work together using a series of “keys,” or anchoring titles, that read like poems.
The first of these reads, “My origin story / is a cross between / “call me Ishmael” / a few too many / whiskey sours / packed in an old thermos / at the drive-in double / feature, and that little / voice that says / “you got this.”
Growing up in a dysfunctional household, writing – as well as frequent roles in community theater productions – became her way of making sense of the world.
“It’s a way to control your environment,” she said. “You sit down and … create your own narrative on the page, it gives you a sense of control. That’s probably why so many writers grew up in dysfunctional households.”
She found the reflection and the sense of control she gained writing short stories and poetry very healing.
“It helps you figure things out and make sense of your life,” she said.
She doesn’t stick to a defined writing process and doesn’t plan on acquiring one. Deadlines are more than enough motivation.
“When people ask about writer’s process, sometimes I joke around and say I get up in the morning, fix a big, tall cup of coffee, and then I sit down and scroll Facebook for the next six hours.”
To aspiring authors, Midge offers the following advice:
“Writers tend to want to write about their deepest, most horrible experiences,” she said. “Those are all really good and fine, and we all go through those stages where we have to figure out who we are, you know, and heal from our experiences and things like that. But I think that humor can do that just as well. With the right humor, it allows for you to be more playful.”
Tiffany Midge’s “Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s” is available at Auntie’s Bookstore. For a full list of Spokane Is Reading recommendations, visit spokaneisreading.org.
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