COWBOYS AND EAST INDIANS
Growing up as an Indian-American in Wyoming is quite different from growing up in an ethnically diverse city like Atlanta, as author Nina McConigley shows in her award-winning collection of stories, Cowboys and Indians.
“I always say the book is about being the wrong kind of Indian in Wyoming,” she quipped, speaking recently to BBC News.
The hardest part about living in the rural Western state, she says, is “to walk out of the door every single day and to never see a reflection of yourself.”
McConigley, whose book won the PEN Open Book Award in 2014, was born in Singapore to an Irish father and Indian mother. Her father was a petroleum geologist whose company transferred him to Wyoming. Her mother was a journalist who would later become a state legislator in Wyoming.
The author did not visit India until she was 23. She remembers her first morning there, walking out onto the street from her aunt’s house.
“I realized it was the first time in my life I wasn’t in the minority,” she said. “But yet, to look around that street, I couldn’t have felt more distant from every brown person around me.”
She realized then how much of her identity was tied to Wyoming and its traditions, landscape, and real and mythical wildlife.
“I love jackalopes, I love antlers, I have a tattoo of a covered wagon and a jackalope,” she said. “I love that stuff.”
Compiled and partly written by Indian humorist MELVIN DURAI, author of the novel Bala Takes the Plunge.
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