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Dawn Karima Pettigrew


Dawn Karima Pettigrew is the author of two novels, The Way We Make Sense (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 2002) and The Marriage of Saints (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 2006) and co-author of Children Learn (Cleveland: UCC, 2005), a book about multiculturalism and spirituality in children’s literature. A new book on Native American Spirituality and film is forthcoming from Mellen Press.


A former Ms. Native American Worldwide, Miss Native American Achievement, and Ms. North Carolina Achievement, Ms. Pettigrew holds a B.A. from Harvard, an MFA in Creative Writing from Ohio State University, and a Ph.D. from University of Kentucky/Trinity Seminary. As an instructor in Cherokee Studies and English, she was the first full-time writer-in-residence at Western Carolina University.


Ms. Pettigrew’s many talents extend beyond literature to other forms of media. She is the host of Rezervations with Dawn Karima, a Native American talk show that airs on Native Voice One/NPR. She also serves as an assistant to the producer of CNN’s long-running “Larry King Live.” Her short films have been featured at numerous film festivals around the world, where they have won many awards and critical recognition. Her first CD, The Worship of Angels, was nominated for a Native American Music Award. A new CD, The Desire of Nations, will be released this year.


She is a member of the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas, The Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, National Indian Education Association, and the Native American Journalists’ Association. Featured in Who’s Who and Who’s Who Among Native Americans, she currently teaches Native American Studies, is an accomplished traditional dancer and beadworker, and is active in modeling, film, television and the arts.


The Way We Make Sense

Young Indiana Redpaint, traded by her father for a rodeo entry fee, flees Oklahoma to be raised by her grandparents in North Carolina. A generation later, her daughter Manna, whose life is deeply marked by her mother's losses, runs from her own tragic past and catches up with her destiny—guided by a cast of unforgettable characters: Candy, a two-year old baby girl abandoned by her mother Sugar Begay; Silas Pipe, a Vietnam veteran with a glitzy past who has built an oasis in the desert; J.B., his grass-dancing nephew; and Bill Lawton, a widowed carpenter who can chisel life out of wood. Here in Gallup, New Mexico, Manna eventually finds wholeness and healing in unexpected people and places.


…a sparkling, wildly original and inventive novel…Her characters are red, white, black, and brown, but above all they are real.

David Citino, author of The Book of Appassionata


…Pettigrew weaves poetry and prose in an exquisite and powerful story that moves in time and space, bringing past, present, future, and the dream-time together in the best of written Native literary tradition. The Way We Make Sense is a critically important work.

—Lee Francis, National Director, WordCraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers


Dawn Karima Pettigrew is a writer undaunted by the big questions that bedevil us. She's the writer you will turn to when, once again, you understand that the heart never fits its wanting.

—Lee K. Abbott, author of Wet Places At Noon


Indian Rodeos, family generations, food stamps, lost loves, and the red earth of Oaklahoma are all squares in the quilt sewn by Pettigrew's memorable words. I recommend this book to anyone who has a love for real stories well told.

—Joseph Bruchac, author of Breaking Silence 

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