Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Q&A with Margaret Verble




Margaret Verble is the author of the new novel Stealing. It focuses on a Cherokee child taken from her family in the 1950s. Verble's other books include the novel Maud's Line. An enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, she lives in Lexington, Kentucky.


Q: What inspired you to write Stealing?


A: I didn’t really write Stealing so much as it wrote me. It dropped out of the sky, and I flexed my fingers to get it into the computer. Most books don’t come that way. At least, mine don’t. So I wouldn’t say I was inspired. I’d say I was used.


Q: What are the stakes of the legality of the Indian Child Welfare Act currently before the Supreme Court?


A: They’re enormous in my opinion. There’s a long history in this country of taking Native children away from their families and out of their cultures. It’s another way of killing NDNs off. In fact, there’s a famous quote about that, “Kill the Indian, save the child.” This kind of kidnapping is often done under the disguise of “helping,” or of “educating,” or with some other sanctimonious justification.


With the exception of Justice Gorsuch, I suspect most of the people sitting on the current Supreme Court don’t know anything about this history. Or, maybe, they do, and won’t care. I hope I’m wrong about that. But I don’t have much faith in them doing the right thing.

Q: How did you research the novel?


A: The only research I did for the novel was on the different types of charges for criminal homicide, what books about baseball were available in the 1950s, and where to find Jezebel in the Bible. I knew all of the rest it. Have known it all my life.  


Q: You note that you wrote much of this book in 2006-07. What happened with the manuscript over the years?


A: After making a few attempts to find an agent or a publisher for the book, I realized the people I was sending it to didn’t know I was writing about a real problem. They seemed to think the manuscript was well-written, but not marketable, or current, or something.


Anyway, I understood fairly quickly that they didn’t have a clue about how often Native children are removed from their families, or the damage that’s done to countless people for well over a century. I’d already tried to get Cherokee America published again and again, and had realized that the people I was sending that novel to didn’t have any appreciation for Native American history.


I didn’t want to walk down that same depressing path again, so I just stuck Stealing in a drawer (metaphorically). It stayed there until the boarding school scandal broke up in Canada. I knew then it would only be a short while until somebody in the United States finally figured out the same thing had been going on down here. About time, I might add.  


Q: Did you make many changes to it more recently?


A: I told my agent, Lynn Nesbit, about the manuscript in June of 2021. She wanted me to send it to her immediately. But I hadn’t even looked at it in years. So I asked for time to go over it again, and I worked on it for three weeks, from June 28 to July 20, 2021. (I keep records on daily word count.) Then I sent it on with just a tweak here and there. Basically, it’s the same novel it’s always been.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Margaret Verble.

No comments:

Post a Comment