Chelsea T. HicksSep 21, 2023
A Calm and Normal Heart: Stories
Unnamed Press 2022
Today’s book is A Calm and Normal Heart: Stories (The Unnamed Press, 2022) by Chelsea T. Hicks. The heroes of A Calm and Normal Heart are modern-day adventurers—seeking out new places to call their own inside a nation to which they do not entirely belong. A member of the Osage tribe, Hicks’ stories are compelled by an overlooked diaspora happening inside America itself: that of young Native people. In stories like “Superdrunk,” “Tsexope,” and “Wets’a,” iPhone lifestyles co-mingle with ancestral connection, strengthening relationships or pushing people apart, while generational trauma haunts individual paths. Broken partnerships and polyamorous desire signal a fraught era of modern love, even as old ways continue to influence how people assess compatibility. In “By Alcatraz,” a Native student finds herself alone on campus over Thanksgiving break, seeking out new friendships during a national holiday she does not recognize. Leaping back in time, “A Fresh Start Ruined” inhabits the life of Florence, an Osage woman attempting to hide her origins while social climbing in midcentury Oklahoma. And in “House of RGB” a young professional settles into a new home, intent on claiming her independence after a break-up, even if her ancestors can’t seem to get out of her way. Whether in between college semesters or jobs, on the road to tribal dances or escaping troubled homes, characters occupy a complicated and often unreliable terrain.
Our guest is: Chelsea T. Hicks, who is a Wahzhazhe writer and citizen of the Osage Nation. She holds an MA from UC Davis and an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her writing has been published in The Paris Review, Poetry, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere. A Calm and Normal Heart is her first book. It was longlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection and received a 5 Under 35 award from the National Book Foundation. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma on ancestral land.
Our host is: Dr. Christina Gessler, who holds a PhD in history, which she uses to explore what stories we tell and what happens to those we never tell. She is the producer and show-host of the Academic Life podcasts.
Listeners to this episode may be interested in:
- Institute of American Indian Arts
- National Book Foundation
- Becoming the Writer You Already Are, by Michelle Boyd
- This conversation with Morgan Talty about Night of the Living Rez
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