Novelist Debra Magpie Earling is in residence at Centrum until February 15. Born in Spokane, Washington, Earling grew up in Montana as a part of the Bitterroot Salish Tribe, and she is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation in Polson, Montana.
Growing up, Earling heard stories about her Aunt Louise, the woman who would later become the focus of her novel Perma Red. At eighteen, Earling became the first public defender in the Tribal Justice System on the Flathead Reservation in Montana. After two years of working in the Tribal Justice System, she left the state to go to college.
Earling attended the University of Washington in Seattle, where she became interested in writing. She achieved her Bachelor of Arts in English, which she completed in 1986 with Phi Beta Kappa honors, graduating magna cum laude. As a Ford Doctoral Fellow, she studied at Cornell University in New York from 1988-91, where she graduated with a Masters in English. She went on to earn her Master of Fine Arts in Fiction in 1992 at Cornell. From 1991 to 1998, Earling held positions in both Native American Studies and Creative Writing at the University of Montana in Missoula. Currently, she is an associate professor in the English Department there and teaches fiction and Native American Studies full-time.
Although Earling has published many short stories, Perma Red is her first novel and has been receiving critical acclaim and awards ever since its release in 2002.
Earling is also an avid speaker for Native American writers, and she is often a guest at college writing symposiums around the country. She has an article appearing in the upcoming March issue of Experience magazine exploring questions of language and identity.