A Chat with Morgan Talty, Author of Night of the Living Rez
Morgan Talty is a citizen of the Penobscot Indian Nation where he grew up. He received his BA in Native American Studies from Dartmouth College and his MFA in fiction from Stonecoast’s low-residency program. His story collection Night of the Living Rez is forthcoming from Tin House Books (2022), and his work has appeared in Granta, The Georgia Review, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, Narrative Magazine, LitHub, and elsewhere. A winner of the 2021 Narrative Prize, Talty’s work has been supported by the Elizabeth George Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts (2022). Talty teaches courses in both English and Native American Studies, and he is on the faculty at the Stonecoast MFA in creative writing. Talty is also a Prose Editor at The Massachusetts Review. He lives in Levant, Maine.
AJ: What inspired your book?
MT: I've always been a storyteller, and so I was drawn to writing fiction. The more I wrote, the more I realized the themes of my fiction were heavily influenced by life--addiction, loss, family, love, hate, and so on. And so the inspiration beyond this book really has to do with my desire to capture these themes and put them in perspective for people who live those themes, much like I did. I wanted to write a book that, at the end of the day, made us love each other just a little more, even given our faults.
AJ: Coming from an Indian Nation, how has your upbringing influenced you as a writer?
MT: It's heavily influenced by it. My work usually centers around Penobscot characters, and it draws on my experience growing up on the Penobscot Nation. I also want to say that just growing up and really seeing how people treat each other was a huge factor in how I write: I'm really interested in the human condition, and so I want to write compelling characters that get at the heart of what it means to be human.
AJ: What advice would you give to new writers?
MT: Write, read, write, read, write, read, and live live live. Repeat.
AJ: Why is diversity important especially in literacy?
MT: A single story is dangerous. The more we have, the better equipped we are to combat the hackneyed tropes that dominant narratives try to perpetuate and have perpetuated for years. The more Native voices we have, for example, the better the understanding from non natives.
AJ: What is next for you as an author?
MT: I’m currently doing another pass through my novel, Fire, Exit, that is set on the Penobscot Nation, and I’m also writing an essay collection that focuses on family stories. Think David Sedaris, but darker.
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