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Perma Red
June 1, 2002
Available: June 6, 2002
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Debra Magpie Earling


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.

Earling's work has appeared in Ploughshares, Northeast Indian Quarterly, and many anthologies including Song of the Turtle; Contemporary Short Stories Celebrating Women; Circle of Women; and >Talking Leaves: An Anthology of Contemporary Native American Short Stories. Her story most frequently included in anthologies is "The Old Wedding," an excerpt from Perma Red. In its review of her novel, The Denver Post said of Earling, "Like Louise Erdrich, Earling has a mythic quality in her writing that beautifully suits her tale. Earling draws on her intimate knowledge of the vast and unforgiving country and its people to weave this dark and moving tale" (quoted in Perma Red).

Although Earling has published many short stories, Perma Red is her first novel and has been receiving critical acclaim and awards ever since its release in 2002. It received the Western Writers Association Spur Award for Best Novel of the West in 2003, the Mountain and Plains Bookseller Association Award, WWA's Medicine Pipe Bearer Award for Best First Novel, a WILLA Literary Award, and the American Book Award. It is a Montana Book Award Honor Book and was chosen by Barnes and Noble as part of its "Discover Great New Writers" series.


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