An enrolled member of the Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen Nation of California, poet Deborah Miranda was born in Los Angeles to an Esselen/Chumash father and a mother of French ancestry. She grew up in Washington State, earning a BS in teaching moderate special-needs children from Wheelock College in 1983 and an MA and PhD in English from the University of Washington. Miranda’s collections of poetry include Raised by Humans (2015); Indian Cartography: Poems (1999), winner of the Diane Decorah Memorial First Book Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas; and The Zen of La Llorona (2005), nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. Miranda also received the 2000 Writer of the Year Award for Poetry from the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. Her mixed-genre collection Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir (2013) won a Gold Medal from the Independent Publisher’s Association and the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award, and was shortlisted for the William Saroyan Award. She teaches at Washington & Lee.
“The poems in Raised by Humans are about surviving childhood and colonization. Childhood did not agree with Deborah Miranda, mostly because the adult humans in charge of her life were not prepared to manage their own lives, let alone the life of a human-in-training. Humans raised Deborah, but it wasn’t a humane childhood.
This poetry collection is also about how indigenous people survive civilization and become readers and writers of the same alphabet that colonized their culture. The complexity of being forced to find her way into relationship with the very people or cultures that have hurt/raised Miranda is a paradox at the heart of her poetry, which pushes language past what Miranda calls the “alphabet of walls.”