Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Remembrance of Choctaw Writer, Greg Rodgers

Choctaw writer and storyteller, Greg Rodgers, passed away last night.

Greg Rodgers

Several years ago at a conference, Tim Tingle introduced me to Greg. Like Tim, Greg was a Choctaw storyteller. Tim was excited by the work Greg was doing. Back in April of this year, I celebrated the publication of Greg's Chukfi Rabbit's Big Bad Bellyache: A Trickster Tale. It is a great story. Here's the cover:

Reading it was a delight. I wanted others to read it, too. When the We Need Diverse Books team was preparing for its summer reading series, I made sure Greg's book was part of it. Here's the image they used:

Just a few days ago, I listed Chukfi as one of AICL's Best Books of 2014. Greg was a new voice in children's literature. I looked forward to what else he'd be giving us.

Earlier today, I was shocked to learn that Greg passed away last night. Below are Tim Tingle's thoughts, used with his permission:

Here are some thoughts beginning that strange piece of writing we call “obituary.” 

As a writer Greg Rodgers authored three books, “The Ghost of Mingo Creek and Other Spooky Oklahoma Legends,” “One Dark Night in Oklahoma,” and the highly popular children’s book, “Chukfi Rabbit’s Big, Bad Bellyache,” plus dozens of yet-to-be-published stories. Over the holidays Greg intended to focus on his upcoming novel, a powerful and difficult piece of Choctaw historical fiction, the story of Hotema, a protestant preacher who died in prison. 

As an oral performer Greg was a quiet genius, ushering the audience down a path of faith and fear and always ending in triumph of the good. Those fortunate enough to have seen him perform his Trail of Tears story, “Harriet’s Burden,” will never forget the experience. A tragic tale of heinous cruelty concludes with a depth of Choctaw spirituality rarely seen onstage.

With a mark of Choctaw humility, Greg was much more proud of his teachers than his own accomplishments. Among his favorite instructors were Joy Harjo, N. Scott Momaday, Geary and Barbara Hobson, LeAnne Howe, Clara Sue Kidwell, and Rilla Askew, a Who’s Who of American Indian authors.

Greg recently created a term, a “brand” which he hoped to promote: The Choctaw Literary Renaissance. He planned to discuss the emergence of contemporary Choctaw writers at a series of conference panels and discussions in the Spring of 2015.

I know in my heart that Greg will be with us for many years, as a Rabbit Trickster, a protective Panther, and a spirit Canine, with a friendly and supportive look for those who need one. He will arrive and be with us when we least expect him, at times described in the preface to his first and yet unpublished novel:

“Our Choctaw homelands speak to us in many voices. They are mostly soft and caring––summer rain dripping through a forest of tall pines, wind whistling across a mountain lake, rippling the waters––but on the worst of nights the land emits a terrible scream. Our places can feel pain, deep and connected to all. They know of death, and life, and death again.” 

We already miss you more than you will ever know, Brother Greg. Too soon, you left us staggering far too soon. But we forgive you, on the sole condition that you work your magic through the fingers of young Choctaw writers, doing their best to continue your work. You are family to thousands of Choctaws, and Nahullos, too.

My thoughts are with those who knew Greg personally, who worked with, and cared for him.


"Greg Rodgers wields the right words to perk listeners ears" in Biskinik, the Choctaw Nation's newspaper. Date: March 23, 2011.


रमेश तैलंग said...

RIP. I came to know all about Choctaw Writer Mr.Greg Rodgers only through your Obit article. My heartfelt condolence.

Children's Author from India.

Carol Cooper said...

Before Greg was a story teller, I knew him as a story maker. First meeting him when I was just 12, Greg and I embarked on numerous adventures together. I remember praying to the "rain Gods" when we were backpacking together in the San Pecos Wilderness, only to arrive back at the campsite to discover that we were indeed the only ones from our church group who didn't get rained on. "A quiet genius," is how author Tim Tingle described Greg, such a fitting description for a man who was brilliant, yet unassuming. I only hope that Greg knew how loved he was and by how many. Greg, I know that you are at peace as God wraps his loving arms around you. I look forward to meeting again on the other side and making some more stories together. I will always love you, my brother. You will live on, not only in memories, but in your beautifully crafted words.

BookMoot said...

His storytelling was joy for the listener. I am so so sorry to hear this.

Mike Short said...

This is sad news. I worked with Greg on his story for the Trickster Anthology. He was a great story teller and it was honor for me to get the chance to work with him on that book. My prayers are with his family and friends.