Push the Limits by Paty Jager

I have written two mystery series with Native American characters, while I am not Native American. I’ve read books by Native American authors, have a friend who lives on the Colville Reservation with her Native American husband, and I have lived in an area that has so much Native American history I feel it seeps into you.

But I am facing my biggest challenge as a writer, now, when it is more politically correct to be of the same heritage as the characters you write.

I started slowly, with my heroine, Shandra Higheagle being only half Native American so I could have her raised without that influence and have her discover it as I did writing her story.

Paiute Dancer photo by me

But I felt the area where I grew up, needed more exposure about the people who lived and were stewards of the land before if was favored as lush feed for cattle. And that was how my character, Gabriel Hawke, came to be. He is of Nez Perce and Cayuse heritage. He is working as a State Trooper with the Fish and Wildlife Division in Wallowa County, the land where his ancestors summered and winter. While he hasn’t lived on the reservation since graduating high school, I feel I can pull off his loyalty to his ancestors and still have him respect his culture but not be fully immersed in it.

Now, as I am writing the last Shandra book and moving onto a new character, I have to tame the lump in my gut and start contacting people on the Umatilla Reservation. My next character will be living and working on the reservation. I will need first hand knowledge to make this character ring true and to make her not only show the life of someone trying to end the cycle of prejudice and move on, but also someone who values her people’s culture.

That my writer and reader friends is what I will be trying to achieve the next few months. Connecting with people who are willing to allow me into their world and to show a life that I am not a part of but believe in.

Wish me luck! And let me know if you have anyone on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation who would be willing to help me. I’m sending out feelers this week.

7 thoughts on “Push the Limits by Paty Jager

  1. Good luck! I have a character who is Metis in my mystery. The story is set here in Northern Ontario, where there are so many Metis folks. You have a more tender line to tread than I. I look forward to reading your next one.

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  2. If we can’t feel empathy, relate to people, especially after we’ve examined their history, opened our hearts to them, and written their stories, where are we? That would mean that books such as Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden are meaningless? That would mean that every man who has created a character that is female is wrong to do so? That every woman who has created a male character should not have done so? Would that not close off over 90% of the writers we revere today? And all we write about, as well?
    As for me, I love the Mexican culture. I wanted nothing more than to say and to show that they strive as hard as anyone else to be good people, to grow, to work hard, to want better for their children, to live the American dream. This is a universal theme, having nothing to do with race or sex. We are all human, valuable, extraordinary. You keep writing what you write, Paty. Be their voice. And God bless you for it.


    1. Thanks Heather. “Be their voice.” I do hope they feel the same way. I do want to shine a light on their lives and how they have survived through it all.


  3. I’m very glad to see you addressing the issue of writing outside your own culture. This is definitely a knotty issue now, and all of us have our own answers. Like you, I made my South Asian character half Indian and half Irish-American. After living in India in the 1970s and again in the 1980s, and studying a culture I have loved since I was a teenager, I felt confident that I could, with care and effort, write something true to the culture and people I met. Still, I’d like to continue the series. Good luck with your research and your new character.

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