“The organizing principle for this anthology is the common Native American heritage of its authors; and yet that thread proves to be the most tenuous of all, as the experience of indigeneity differs radically for each of them. While many experience a centripetal pull toward a cohesive Indian experience, the indications throughout these essays lean toward a richer, more illustrative panorama of difference. What tends to bind them together are not cultural practices or spiritual attitudes per se, but rather circumstances that have no exclusive province in Indian country: that is, first and foremost, poverty, and its attendant symptoms of violence, substance abuse, and both physical and mental illness. . . . Education plays a critical role in such lives: many of the authors recall adoring school as young people, as it constituted a place of escape and a rare opportunity to thrive. . . . While many of the writers do return to their tribal communities after graduation, ideas about ‘home’ become more malleable and complicated.”–from the Introduction
I Am Where I Come From presents the autobiographies of thirteen Native American undergraduates and graduates of Dartmouth College, ten of them current and recent students. Twenty years ago, Cornell University Press published First Person, First Peoples: Native American College Graduates Tell Their Life Stories, also about the experiences of Native American students at Dartmouth College. I Am Where I Come From addresses similar themes and experiences, but it is very much a new book for a new generation of college students.
Three of the essays from the earlier book are gathered into a section titled “Continuing Education,” each followed by a shorter reflection from the author on his or her experience since writing the original essay. All three have changed jobs multiple times, returned to school for advanced degrees, started and increased their families, and, along the way, continuously revised and refined what it means to be Indian.
The autobiographies contained in I Am Where I Come From explore issues of native identity, adjustment to the college environment, cultural and familial influences, and academic and career aspirations. The memoirs are notable for their eloquence and bravery.