Linda (Henderson) Hogan was born on July 16, 1947, in Denver, Colorado, the daughter of Charles and Cleona (Bower) Henderson. Her mother was a white woman from Nebraska, but Hogan identified more strongly with her Chickasaw father and his family, who lived in rural south-central Oklahoma. She and her parents frequently visited Oklahoma; in one interview, the poet stated that Oklahoma felt like home to her, a place where she was loved, “cared for, wanted.” She was nevertheless a solitary child, choosing to spend much of her time alone outdoors.
Hogan’s grandfather was a bronco rider, and her grandmother, descended from a nineteenth century head of the Chickasaw nation, was what Hogan calls “a caretaker of the people.” During the 1930’s, her grandparents lost their allotment land, which they had farmed, to foreclosure. To support themselves, her grandfather worked as a janitor for a church, and her grandmother sold eggs in town. This family experience helped Hogan to understand how American society blames victims for their own poverty and hunger, a common topic in her work. From her grandparents, Hogan also learned that there was an alternative to her working-class city lifestyle: She learned, she has said, “better ways to love, to take care of life,” to appreciate the beauty of nature as well as how to survive poverty and hardship.
During Hogan’s childhood, little value was placed on formal education, because her American Indian family had different values from those of the dominant white society. Although she did not read much as a child, she grew up in a strong oral tradition, encouraged by her father, her uncle, and her grandmother, all of whom were storytellers. As Hogan said in one interview, “I wasn’t interested in literature, but I did...
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Hogan gracefully reconciles her activist obligations with her spiritual outlook. A major device that occurs in nearly all of her work is the identification of herself or her people with aspects of the natural world such as bees, horses, birds, turtles, or the moon. As she stated in one interview, she has “a heart made out of crickets,” by which she means that she feels loyalty to all life-forms and acts as a spokeswoman for the animals. Hogan’s work is based upon her strong sense of tribal history and spirit of place, and she uses her words, her wit, and her humor to stand up for those who, like the bees, have no voice in their future.
Born of a working-class Chickasaw father and a white mother of an immigrant family, Linda Hogan learned the history and legends of her people through oral narrative. She received a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Colorado and was associate professor of American Indian and American studies at the University of Minnesota before turning to full-time writing. In 1989, she began teaching creative writing and American Indian studies at the University of Colorado.
Hogan’s first novel, Mean Spirit (1990), set in an Oklahoma Indian community during the oil boom of the 1920’s, describes the devastation that results from the greed and corruption of non-Indians. That Horse (1985) contains several of her short stories.
Hogan has published several volumes of poetry. Her first, Calling Myself Home (1978), includes many poems about family and Indian identity; as she has said, “A lot of my poems come from family stories.” Daughters, I Love You (1981), reprinted in Eclipse (1983), is a protest against destruction of the land. Both Seeing Through the Sun (1985) and Savings (1988) include numerous poems about a kinship with nature and a speaker’s (Indian’s) interaction with it. Like her novel, which describes especially the plight of Indian women during the oil boom, Hogan’s poetry often includes feminist perspectives.
Allen, Paula Gunn. The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions. Boston: Beacon Press, 1986. Allen discusses contemporary Native American women poets and novelists, including Linda Hogan, in...
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Linda Hogan’s ancestors include pioneer workers and farmers who had settled in Nebraska and Winchester Colbert, a nineteenth century head of the Chickasaw nation. Growing up in Denver and later Colorado Springs, Hogan also spent much of her childhood on her grandparents’ farm in Oklahoma. The former experiences introduced Hogan to a multicultural, working-class environment, the latter to rural poverty and hardship as well as the beauty of nature and strong ties to the land. Leaving school at fifteen to begin work as a nurse’s aide, Hogan worked at a series of low-paying jobs before and during her first years in college. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and master of arts...
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