Debra Gwartney

presenting 3:40pm - 4:30pm
signing 4:30pm - 5:00pm

Sponsored by FivePine Lodge

Part history, part memoir, I Am a Stranger Here Myself taps the deepest dimensions of human yearning: the need to belong, the snarl of family history, and embracing womanhood in the patriarchal American West. Debra Gwartney becomes fascinated with the missionary Narcissa Prentiss Whitman, the first Caucasian woman to cross the Rocky Mountains and one of fourteen people killed at the Whitman Mission in 1847 by a band of Cayuse. Whitman’s role as a white woman drawn in to “settle” the West reflects the tough-as-nails women in Gwartney’s own family. Arranged in four sections as a series of interlocking explorations and ruminations, Gwartney uses Whitman as a touchstone to spin a tightly woven narrative about identity, the power of womanhood, and coming to peace with one’s most cherished place.

About Debra: Born in Salmon, Idaho, a fifth generation Idahoan, Debra Gwartney is the winner of the 2018 RiverTeeth Nonfiction Prize, judged by Gretel Ehrlich. Her hybrid memoir-history, called I Am a Stranger Here Myself, was published in March of 2019 by the University of New Mexico Press. Debra’s first book is a memoir, Live Through This, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2009, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, and the Oregon Book Award.

Debra has published widely, with work included in such journals as Granta, Tin House, American Scholar, The Normal School, Creative Nonfiction, Prairie Schooner, Washington Square Review, Kenyon Review, Salon, Triquarterly Review, the NYT “Modern Love” column, among others.

She teaches in the MFA Program at Pacific University and lives in Western Oregon with her husband.