House of Purple CedarHOUSE OF PURPLE CEDAR  Cinco Puntos Press  2014

“I was a secret Choctaw Indian.”

What a surprise to hear Tim Tingle speak those words in a panel presentation at the Tucson Festival of Books this month.  His new cross-over YA/Adult book, HOUSE OF PURPLE CEDAR, is recently out.  His middle-grade historical novel, HOW I BECAME A GHOST, just received the American Indian Youth Literature Award.

Why did Tim Tingle say to us, “I was a secret Choctaw Indian,” and what did that have to do with why he was writing books?

Tim Tingle proceeded to tell us what happened when he was a child and his family moved to Texas.  The first day that his grandmother stepped out the front door, she was pelted with rocks and ugly words.  Indians were not welcome.  Tim’s grandmother made him promise never to tell anyone he was an Indian. It was too dangerous.  Too hard. Being Indian must remain secret. 

Tim TingleTim explained, “Secrets are powerful.  Now I want to share my secret with everyone.”  He paused, looked around.  The room was filled with people but no one moved; no one made a sound.  “If you’re a writer, you are filled with stories.  You can’t help it.  In second grade I wrote my first screenplay, “Zorro.”  My teacher stood in front of the classroom, read the first page, made fun of it, and then tore it into pieces.  I vowed I would never write anything important again.”

But stories can’t be held in.  So Tim became a storyteller. He entertained listeners of all ages with his funny stories.  But finally, decades later, he knew he needed to write down the stories that haunted him.  He explained, “I  would walk the graveyards of my ancestors.”  Then he would return to his desk and write.  He couldn’t stop writing.  Tim’s friend explained to him why the stories kept coming and staying until Tim wrote them down.  “You are walking over their souls.  They are clinging to you … tell my story.”

HOUSE OF PURPLE CEDAR is full of stories. Some will make you shudder or cry; others will make you laugh and shake your head.  This book speaks of hard times, troubled times.  Tim Tingle’s words create powerful images.  Woven throughout the novel is a deep belief in the goodness of all people to forgive, to overcome fear and hate.

How I Became a GhostHOW I BECAME A GHOST, Tim’s award-winning historical novel, is an amazing page-turning book about the Trail of Tears.  The book was reviewed here at last year.  Both books – all of Tim Tingle’s books – are powerful books that tell important unforgettable stories.

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