Debra Magpie Earling on Native American Authors

Native American Authors

Debra Magpie Earling
, 1957-

Salish & Kootenai

Debra Magpie Earling was born in Spokane, Washington, on August 3, 1957. She grew up in Montana as a part of the Bitterroot Salish Tribe, also known as Flathead Indians, and she is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation in Polson, Montana. Growing up, Earling heard stories about her Aunt Louise, the woman who would later become the focus of her novel Perma Red. Earling dropped out of school at fifteen. By the time she married at seventeen, she had received her GED from Spokane Community College. At eighteen, Earling became the first public defender in the Tribal Justice System on the Flathead Reservation in Montana. After two years of working in the Tribal Justice System, she left the state to go to college.

Earling attended the University of Washington in Seattle, where she became interested in writing. She achieved her Bachelor of Arts in English, which she completed in 1986 with Phi Beta Kappa honors, graduating magna cum laude. As a Ford Doctoral Fellow, she studied at Cornell University in New York from 1988-91, where she graduated with a Masters in English. She went on to earn her Master of Fine Arts in Fiction in 1992 at Cornell. From 1991 to 1998, Earling held positions in both Native American Studies and Creative Writing at the University of Montana in Missoula. Currently, she is an associate professor in the English Department there and teaches fiction and Native American Studies full-time.


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