The Book That Changed My Life

Joseph Bruchac

Joseph Bruchac (far left) speaking to high school students on the Fond Du Lac Indian Reservation in Cloquet, MN during his April 1997 American Voices residency. Joseph Bruchac (far left) speaking to high school students on the Fond Du Lac Indian Reservation in Cloquet, MN during his April 1997 American Voices residency.

The book that changed my life is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian novel about the conflict between colonialism and traditional culture in West Africa and the tragic fall of a proud man. I read it first in 1965, the year before I went to West Africa myself to spend three years in Ghana as a volunteer teacher. It showed me so many things that were crucial to me in my own development as a Native American writer--how proverbs and traditional storytelling can be woven into the western form of the novel, how English can be molded to reflect other languages and other cultures, how an indigenour view of the world can make itself heard. I'd later teach that book to Ghanaian students and college classes in America, meet Chinua himself and start a friendship that lasts to this day with him, and write my own novels and stories that use stories and Native traditions. Things Fall Apart continues to inspire and teach me.

Peace,

Joe Bruchac