2022 Holiday Gift Guide

Presented by The Iron Gate in Wyandotte


Raising Bean

By W.S. Penn of East Lansing

William S. Penn is an urban mixed-blood Nez Perce. He uses his writing to explore and reconcile his mixed ethnic heritage, writing fiction, essays and reviews. His works have been included in Antaeus, Missouri Review, Quarterly West, Stand, and Southern Humanities Review, and he has been the Guest Editor for Callaloo. See the Product Description below for details about this book. Please buy all of your books directly from the author or an independent Michigan bookstore.

Buy this book and/or more from WSU Press in Detroit.

Product Price $19.99

Product Description

Offered in the oral traditions of the Nez Perce, Native American writer W. S. Penn records the conversations he held with his granddaughter, lovingly referred to as “Bean,” as he guided her toward adulthood while confronting society’s interest in possessions, fairness, and status. Drawing on his own family history and Native mythology, Penn charts a way through life where each endeavor is a journey—an opportunity to love, to learn, or to interact—rather than the means to a prize at the end.

Divided into five parts, Penn addresses topics such as the power of words, race and identity, school, and how to be. In the essay “In the Nick of Names,” Penn takes an amused look at the words we use for people and how their power, real or imagined, can alter our perception of an entire group. “To Have and On Hold” is an essay about wanting to assimilate into a group but at the risk of losing a good bit of yourself. “A Harvest Moon” is a humorous anecdote about a Native grandfather visiting his granddaughter’s classroom and the absurdities of being a professional Indian. “Not Nobody” uses “Be All that You Can Be Week” at Bean’s school to reveal the lessons and advantages of being a “nobody.” In “From Paper to Person,” Penn imagines the joy that may come to Bean when she spends time with her Paper People—three-foot-tall drawings, mounted on stiff cardboard—and as she grows into a young woman like her mom, able to say she is a person who is happy with what she has and not sorry for what she doesn’t.

Comical and engaging, the essays in Raising Bean will appeal to readers of all backgrounds and interests, especially those with a curiosity in language, perception, humor, and the ways in which Native people guide their families and friends with stories.