Hobson’s ‘Where The Dead Sit Talking’ explores Native American gender and identity
TULSA – Gender and Native American identity struggles are at the forefront of Cherokee Nation citizen Brandon Hobson’s coming-of-age story “Where The Dead Sit Talking.”
“Identity issues are a big part of this book for Sequoyah, the main character,” Hobson said. “I think that’s a very common question that we see among teenagers is who am I? Is it okay that I feel this way? What do I identify as? I think these are all questions that relate to identity.”
Released Feb. 20 via New York City-based publisher Soho Press, the book tells of 15-year-old Sequoyah as he navigates his way through the foster care system in the fictional town of Little Crow, Oklahoma. While living with the Troutt family he meets 17-year-old Rosemary and develops deep bonds and “dangerous obsessions” with her.
“He becomes strangely obsessed with Rosemary,” Hobson said. “Not so much in a way that he’s attracted to her, but in a way that he wants to, in a sense, become her. He wants to look like her and dress like her and that leads to some problems with identity and sort of dangerous obsessions between Sequoyah and Rosemary. There’s so much about Rosemary that he likes and is attracted to, that he sees in himself.”
Hobson said the book is the result of nearly two years of work and that its inspiration stemmed from his questions concerning his Cherokee heritage.
“I’ve not written about Cherokee identity in the past, but I became very interested and I am still very interested in it,” he said. “In terms of identity, ‘What am I? Do I call myself a Cherokee? What do I call myself?’ And I think that Sequoyah is dealing with sort of those same sorts of issues in terms of his heritage… He’s a boy who is really unsure what his identity is because he’s not a full-blood Cherokee.”
Hobson said Sequoyah has been a strong voice for him. He originally wrote the character in short stories. “I’d written and published a few stories… Sequoyah’s voice just kept coming into my head and I thought, ‘I got to keep writing with Sequoyah. He’s really become this powerful voice in my head.’ So I did and everything just kind of fell into place. It’s a lot to do with Sequoyah’s voice.”
Hobson said in addition to exploring issues affecting many adolescents today, he hopes to raise awareness for the Native American youth in the foster care system.
“We have a lot of damaged kids in foster care,” he said. “In Oklahoma, we have a lot of Native youth in foster care, and many of them are trying to figure out, number one who they are, where they come from, how do they fit into this world right now and this country right now? What is family? I’ve seen that a lot in my experience with social work, especially in Oklahoma where there’s a lot of Native American children in foster care.”
“Where The Dead Sit Talking” is Hobson’s fourth book but his first in hardback.
“It’s the first book I’ve written that’s been a hardback,” he said. “It’s the first book I’ve written that’s explored Native American culture, which is important to me. This is very special to me, very special.”
Hobson called himself a “late bloomer” in finding his passion for creative writing.
“Not until I turned 20, did I really start. I didn’t start (writing) until college,” he said. “Once I got to college and took literature classes, I took creative writing classes. It was like a new world to me. That’s the class where I really became interested in creative writing.”
His advice for aspiring writers is to understand there will be sacrifices.
“If someone’s interested in writing, you have to make sacrifices,” he said. “That means I don’t watch much TV. I rarely go out to the movies… It’s where you put your energy. We all have 24 hours in a day. What do we choose to do with the 24 hours?”
To learn more about “Where The Dead Sit Talking” or Hobson, visit www.brandonhobson.com