Writing and anthropology

He attended Oberlin College, mistakenly majoring in English, too late discovering anthropology, the proper major for a writer. ~ Alan Furst, on himself

The bird houses of Mabel Dodge Luhan in the photo gallery above are courtesy of J. Keefe, photographer extraordinary.

In writing my novels set in northern New Mexico, the Furst quote above is relevant. The detail and color in my books came from my anthropological perspective of the world: universal categories across all cultures, recognition of all cultures having a moral comprehension of the universe, and the importance of human food production.

Then, of course, the conflict of cultures. Settler-conquest attitudes abounding in the world.

Within cultures, there are voices of wisdom and voices of greed and follow-the-little-green-frogskins attitude.

Academically I was trained as an archaeologist and I was self-educated. I taught physical and cultural anthropology at Amarillo College, Native American history at UT-Arlington, and Anthropology and Religion at TCU. My fieldwork occurred under the Department of Anthropology at Texas Tech University. Fifteen of us in the field school learned the basic principles of archaeology at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. By the time the field school ended, only five of us wanted to continue in archaeology due to heat, deer flies, and the shovel. One of our classmates was hospitalized. She recovered.

When I taught anthropology at Amarillo College, I conducted two field trips a year, most of them to New Mexico.

Ghost Ranch, photograph by Tom Glover

The arc of Bustamente changed and he was buried in the San Francisco del Monte Catholic Church’s graveyard for he was faithful in his own way and the young boy that stood beside him that day and earnestly said he would try did climb the pole on a Feast Day in light snow flurries and prayed and shivered and held on for life and cut down food and when he slid down the pole to his kiva brothers they bore him on their shoulders and paraded him all around the admiring and cheering crowd of tourists snow-looks-likes Black Eyes Puebloans and the boy now man thought of the day his Grandfather looked down upon him and asked him to try as he was borne around the plaza on the shoulders of his brothers he saw a vision of unending files of Grandfathers and Grandmothers and the People looking at him going back in time and into an uncertain Puebloan future.

~ Jack Matthews, Death at La Osa

Death at La Osa has been submitted to St. Martin’s Press for the Tony Hillerman Award for Best First Novel of mystery set in the Southwest. They are to announce the winner or winners around May 1, 2020.