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Artist shares her inspiration for Common Reading Experience

Fort Lewis College welcomes author, poet, and musician Joy Harjo and her book Crazy Brave for this year’s Common Reading Experience. In the book, Harjo recounts her challenging upbringing as part of her journey to becoming an inspiring Native American artist.

Crazy Brave is about becoming a creative person, and taking care of your art,” Harjo says. “How do you open your mind and your heart towards understanding and compassion no matter what happens in your life?”

Harjo’s literary awards include the 2015 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She returns to campus February 12-13 for the annual Common Reading Experience. The CRE aims to provide an avenue for discussion among students, faculty, administration, and the Durango community, via a shared reading that bridges academic disciplines.

During her intensive visit, Harjo will give a performance and discussion in Roshong Recital Hall on campus, dine at a fundraiser for the Images student literary magazine, hold a master class on poetry, and offer a keynote address and book signing for the public.

“I think having everyone read one book gives you a starting place for discussion,” Harjo says about her participation in the CRE. “It’s a way for people to engage together. That happens with football, with basketball, with politics. It's important to see that kind of engagement also with the arts, and that’s why a community read can be so galvanizing and regenerative. People are coming together around something that makes them reconsider their own lives, reconsider other people, reconsider how we come to be who we are.”

The ideas that Crazy Brave presents about self-actualization and growth are intended to challenge readers, but also to help them. Harjo hears frequently from people of all ages, and all walks of life, that they see and understand themselves in her storytelling – and are inspired to pursue their dreams.

“We all have these gifts,” she says. “They might be writing, they might be fixing cars, they might be scientific, they might be nursing. Whatever they are, if you don't take care of those gifts that were given to you to be expressed and shared, they will haunt you. So the book is about that.”


Joy Harjo is participating in several events open to the campus and community.

Monday, February 12

  • Discussion on Native American and Indigenous Issues, free, 10:10 -11:05 a.m, Vallecito Room, Student Union
  • Keynote presentation, book signing, free and open to the public,  7 - 9 p.m., Whalen Gymnasium

Tuesday, February 13

  • Music performance and discussion, free, 9:35 - 11 a.m., Roshong Recital Hall, Jones Hall
  • Poetry masterclass and discussion, free, 2:30 -3:55 p.m., Vallecito Room, Student Union

Wednesday, February 14

  • KSUT Benefit Concert: An Evening with Joy Harjo & Poetic Justice, $25/ticket, 7:30 p.m., Henry Strater Theater, 699 Main Ave., Durango

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