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Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  499 ratings  ·  63 reviews
This book leads readers through a troubled past using the author's family circle as a touch point and resource for discovery. Personal and strong, these stories present an evocative new view of the shaping of California and the lives of Indians during the Mission period in California. The result is a work of literary art that is wise, angry and playful all at once.
Paperback, 240 pages
Published November 12th 2012 by Heyday Books
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Aug 15, 2013 rated it liked it
There were many things I liked about this book, including Ms. Miranda's poetry. Her cultural reclamation and correction of the historical narrative of the settling of California and the treatment of the Native tribes by these settlers is both necessary and important.

But I think I have OD'd on dysfuntional childhoods. Seemingly everyone has stories, horrifying stories, in their past and in their families. The pain and sorrow of the unacknowledged and the untold permeate countless family and cultu
Enjoyed this very much, not everyone knows but the 1950's and early 60's the US Government had a program to separate out native children from their culture The Indian Adoption Project was a federal program that acquired Indian children from 1958 to 1967 with the help of the prestigious Child Welfare League of America; a successor organization, the Adoption Resource Exchange of North America, functioned from 1966 until the early 1970s. Churches were also involved. In the Southwest, the Church of ...more
Really well done. Miranda is an Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen (Monterey Bay) who can trace her family through her father's line to enslavement in the California missions. This story reads part memoir/part history of California Indians told through letters, diaries, poems, newspaper articles, tape recording etc. Miranda does not shy away from the brutalness and horror her family experiences from not only the Spanish missionaries but also from the government. Sometimes it's hard to read, the stories an ...more
i tried to finish BAD INDIANS by deborah miranda but couldn't. her book on indigenous californians was rife with shoddy scholarship and shoddy writing. i got 80% of the way through and had to abandon it.

the trap that some natives fall into is being stuck in tape loops produced by their anger regarding the history of colonial oppression. in this case, she seemed to be perpetuating the language of the oppressors in just about every page of the first half of the book. she was able to narrate some o
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
In various memoir writings that I've read, there's rarely a straightforward, chronological narrative and this is certainly true here. The author mixes her poetry with stories told by various female elders, that sometimes have tantalizing interjections from her own story. It also includes a personalized accounting of historical abuse perpetrated upon native peoples by those involved in the California missions. The author purposes this memoir as a "correction" of the sanitation of mission history ...more
Jan 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I think I might buy this one. <3 <3 <3 ...more
Ai Miller
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An incredible read that grabs and doesn't let go. I'll say first off that you should block off time for this book--it's not something you should read in multiple sittings, and you honestly won't want to read it that way. Miranda defies genre as she mashes together archival sourced-history with personal memoir with tribal history with poetry with essay with visual work. Her rich writing--and oh my GOD is it rich, it's so beautiful--really makes the story she's telling all the more rich and vivid. ...more
Anthony Friscia
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this beautiful, tragic, elegiac, historical book. It’s the memoir of the author, but not just of her life, but the life of her ancestors - the native peoples of California. She goes all the way back to before the Missions, dispelling the myths about their founding and work, through the dispersal of her people, and up to her own life, including her personal histories, myths and tragedies, especially those relating to her father. It’s all presented in a way I don’t usually enjoy - with pro ...more
Britton Dudasko
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Deborah A. Miranda’s Bad Indians punched me in the heart with its honesty. A powerful memoir, Bad Indians weaves together poetry, history, genealogy, and prose with devastating vulnerability. Every section has something new to teach her readers. Through this book, we are delivered an intimate look into the past of not just one person, but a whole group of people through her Ohlone-Esselen heritage. If history were a house, we are invited inside to walk through the rooms. Miranda’s reconstruction ...more
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a terrific book -- and if it has been a long time coming, it is well worth it. Miranda, is an Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen who can trace her family back to the enslavement in the California missions. She peels back the layers of history, of oppression, by turning the "standard" documents -- anthropological tracts, mission records, Old West newspaper accounts, official documents, even prayers -- on their head. What did these official histories mean for the lives of the Indians who were forced ...more
Mar 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing as a history; amazing as literature. Read it, especially you Californians.

'very tasty, our language.' I imagine our words being crispy or salty or smooth as a ripe fig. I like the idea that our language has flavor, texture, scent, yet can never be consumed. I tell Louise about Fulgencio's comment; she tells everyone else, and we end the evening with great smacking of lips and satisfied rubbing of tummies. 'Oh that's why they make those sounds, like they're savoring each syllable!"
Apr 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
I read it for a writing class in Fall. What annoyed me most about the book was that I felt that there was an attitude of blame everything on the Europeans, which are of some blame. However she seemed to say it in a way that the Native Americans were never at fault for some of their own aggressive actions like violence or alcoholism. It did bring up some interesting points but the author annoyed me.
Kurt Ostrow
Jul 15, 2019 rated it liked it
"Those who will not change do not survive; but who are we, when we have survived?" (xiv).

In BAD INDIANS, Miranda tells her family history and digs through the archives as a way to rewrite the colonizer's story of California Indians, brazenly on display in the statewide fourth-grade Mission project. Her collage approach serves her purpose well. How can BAD INDIANS reshape the way we tell the story in California—and across the country?
Feb 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Incredible, touching, tearing down myths, finding erased history and stories, the need to transform and recreate in the face of near-destruction, a necessary read. Can't believe I had never read about this part in US history from this point of view, wait, I can. Deborah Miranda's my hero.
Adele Elliott
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Part historical record, part journal, “Bad Indians” is wonderfully written. Miranda is also a poet, a talent that shows in the prose. I recommend this book for anyone who would enjoy in a look at history that is not distorted by the perspective of conquers and religious overseers.
Bernie G
Very informative and gave good insight on what it means to be an Native American.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Deborah A. Miranda’s 2013 novel Bad Indians-A Tribal Memoir is a poignant life reflection of Miranda’s childhood and early adult years growing up in California. In her search for her identity, Miranda begins by looking into the past following her family tree while educating the viewer of the accurate history of California Mission Indians. The book is broken into segments of 50 to 75-year timeframes spanning the last 150 years. Each segment tells the tale of how the indigenous people of what is n ...more
Lauren Rogers
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Deborah A. Miranda’s, Bad Indians, is a mixed-genre tribal memoir. Deborah is a part of the Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen clan whose relatives went through enslavement in the California Missions. She tells the history of California Natives and the brutalities they experienced in California missions through stories, letters, poems, newspaper articles, and more. Miranda tells these horrific stories in order to discount the mission project that many fourth graders are expected to complete. I really enjo ...more
Jaqueline Martinez
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
This memoir combines various forms of writing and even photographs and newspaper clippings, to tell the history of both the California Mission Indians as well as the author’s own personal history. Although the author does a phenomenal job of organizing the different writings in the book, it can still be difficult to read because of all the elements incorporated into it. In order to really analyze the concepts within this book, I would say it’s worth taking the time to read over a longer period o ...more
Michael Haase
Mar 28, 2018 rated it liked it
For what it is, the book is eloquent, vivid, and diverse, but, like much post-colonial literature, it suffers in its attempts to reconcile the past by revitalizing previous injustices. It belongs among those most aggressive and scathing post-colonial texts which overflow with exaggerated hatred and frustration. It is by no means an impartial or analytical text, and begs the reader to wonder what the point of it all is. Are we, the readers, expected to share these emotions, reviling the colonizer ...more
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Bad Indians by Deborah A. Miranda (Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen) is a unique blend of personal stories and historical facts. Miranda presents poetry, pictures and charts as well as her own family lineage and childhood memories. Through these different perspectives, she aims to tell readers the true stories of missionization from 1770 to present day. Additionally, Miranda points out how the effects of the missions are still impacting Native American families today. She even tells her own testimony an ...more
Veronica Zaleha
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
An important read, especially if you live in California and have been exposed to the mission myths. Miranda's book exposes more of the sad truths and horrific legacies of imperialism and colonialism.

Written as creative non-fiction memoir, it deeply penetrated my psyche. It made me think of many things -- how I was raised, myself as a mother, the intergenerational trauma we all suffer for different reasons. Understanding this trauma as played out by the indigenous peoples of the continent where w
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
EVERYONE needs to read this book!! I want to call it remarkable, however Deborah A. Miranda simply illustrates a series of heartbreaking truths that have been ignored for centuries. This book changes the way all Americans need to think about the continuing effect of colonialism in the U.S. and the Native American narrative that has been shoved into silence for so long. The opening section on the California Mission Project, a mandatory requirement for all elementary level kids in California, is p ...more
La'Tonya Rease Miles
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: common-readers
A bold and truly important book that has a simplistic premise: the way that we teach about the California mission and the history of indigenous people is MESSED UP. And she develops through point through satire, poems, and personal reflections about her own family, namely her father. Those personal stories are the ones that affected me the most, especially when she writes about her father's abusive and drunken behavior. I highly recommend.
Formatting of the book is different. It's a blend of facts, sarcastic writing, family history, prose and poetry, grief, and hope. At times it did become difficult to identify which parts were historical accounts or the author's own embellished stories. The secondary title would be more appropriate if she put "A family tribal memoir" because it was focused on her family, not the whole tribe. Overall, it was a good read.
Aleyda Gutierrez
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this for a class.

I did not know what I was getting myself into. What a beautiful book and way to write about complexities of identity especially when they're so deeply connected to trauma. I couldn't put it down, I cried and laugh and completely forgot I had to write an essay on it.

Thank you for this gift Deborah Miranda
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is an incredible book. I love her use of different types of texts, photos and documents to construct her story and tell history of Natives of California. I highly recommend this book especially for people who are interested in readings from Native women and people who are interested in history/autobiography written creatively.
Brenda Morris
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had never really thought about Native Americans in California and the Spanish missions’ effects on them, so this was a revelation. The mix of poetry, prose, and historical document successfully tells a story of genocide, cultural erasure, and historical trauma. Highly recommended.
Kaitlin Rose
Apr 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Honest, Hard, Educational

I read this book for an Indigenous Literatures class. As a white college student girl whose education of Indigenous people's history is fairly scarce, this book was educational and, though not relatable as far as ancestral, relatable on a heart level.
Ok. Review to come.
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