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Native folklore, identity converge in “Thinning Blood”

Thinning Blood was published in May by W.W. Norton. (W.W. Norton)

A debut memoir by Leah Myers, a member of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe of the Pacific Northwest, was published in May and has since received rave reviews.

Publisher W.W. Norton describes the author of “Thinning Blood: A Memoir of Family, Myth, and Identity” as “a vibrant new voice [who] blends Native folklore and the search for identity in fierce debut of personal history.”

In the book, Myers says that she may be the last member of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe in her family line, due to her tribe’s strict blood quantum laws. In order to leave a record of her family, she uncovers the stories of four generations of women. Beginning with her great-grandmother, the last full-blooded Native member in her lineage, she connects each generation in order to construct her family’s totem pole: protective Bear, defiant Salmon, compassionate Hummingbird, and perched on top, Raven.

“As she pieces together their stories, Myers weaves in tribal folktales, the history of the Native genocide, and Native mythology,” the publisher said in its book summary. “Throughout, she tells the larger story of how, as she puts it, her ‘culture is being bleached out,’ offering sharp vignettes of her own life between white and Native worlds: her naïve childhood love for Pocahontas, her struggles with the Klallam language, and the violence she faced at the hands of a close white friend as a teenager.”

Attempts to reach Myers by the Tribune were unsuccessful.

In May, the book received a rave review in the New York Times. It was also named one of 2023’s “most anticipated books,” by online literary magazine The Millions.

“Powerful… [W]ith scenes so vivid they left me gasping for air… Thinning Blood is slender and poetic, but also wide-ranging, moving with ease from memoir to Native history to myth and back again, yielding a blend that transcends genre,” Maud Newton said in the New York Times Book Review.

Myers earned a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction from the University of New Orleans, where she also won a Samuel Mockbee Award for nonfiction two years in a row. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic, Craft Literary Magazine, Fugue Journal and elsewhere. Myers lives in Alabama and has roots in Arizona, Georgia and Washington.

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Leah Myers (Blane Burroughs)