Danielle Geller is a writer of personal essays and memoir. She received her MFA in Creative Writing, Nonfiction at the University of Arizona and was a recipient of the 2016 Rona Jaffe Writers’ Awards. She is a member of the Navajo Nation.
HCN: Are there any particular passages in Dog Flowers that you are most proud of?
DG: There is a passage on this idea of “ghost sickness” that when I first wrote it, I was like, this is it — this is key to how I am thinking about my relationship with my mother’s belongings, with this history and her death. What I say in that section is that I’m not writing about grief, I’m not writing about losing my mother or those feelings of grief, because I don’t think this book really offers you a path through that.
Instead, I’m writing about (how) I feel possessed. I feel haunted by her life as much as her death, and the things that I wanted from that relationship that I didn’t get. I felt most proud when I emerged from the writing of that passage, because I was articulating early on what I was setting out to do.
The Institute of American Indian Arts has played a key role in the direction and shape of Native expression for over 50 years. The IAIA MFA in Creative Writing, now in its seventh year, is expanding on this legacy, graduating successful writers who are making distinct contributions to the body of Native American and world literatures.
Summary: A daughter returns home to the Navajo reservation to confront her family’s history and retrace her mother’s life—using both narrative and archive in this arrestingly original memoir.
After Danielle Geller’s mother dies of a withdrawal from alcohol during a period of homelessness, she is forced to return to Florida. Using her training as a librarian and archivist, Geller collects her mother’s documents, diaries, and photographs into a single suitcase and begins on a journey of confronting her family’s history and the decisions she’s been forced to make, a journey that will end at her mother’s home: the Navajo reservation.
An excerpted version of my essay “Annotating the First Page of the First Navajo-English Dictionary,” appeared today on The New Yorker’s website.
The essay (in its entirety) will be published in the forthcoming anthology This Is The Place (Seal Press, 2017).
THISISTHEPLACEis a collection of personal essays written by 30 amazing women from across the country. The book covers a range of topics from solitude, neighbors, tiny homes and multi-generational living to environmental protection, domestic violence, immigration and patriotism. I have an essay in the collection, and I co-wrote the introduction with my co-editor, Kelly McMasters. Together, Kelly and I selected, edited and arranged each essay in the book. The pieces are by turns deep and dark, complex and shining.
Six emerging women writers have been singled out for excellence by the Foundation and will receive awards of $30,000 each. The 2016 winners are Lina María Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas, Danielle Geller, Jamey Hatley, Ladee Hubbard, Airea D. Matthews,and Asako Serizawa.