They Met at Wounded Knee: The Eastman's Story
by Gretchen Cassel Eick
This year’s field of entries featured outstanding books in multiple genres, including adult fiction (including historical fiction), young adult fiction, memoir, and biography. The sheer variety of submissions made the contest particularly difficult to judge. Indeed, I could easily have picked a separate winner from each other above categories. For this reason, I have chosen to name not only an overall winner but also the three finalists from which the winner was selected. Feel free to recognize all three or just the winner, as you see fit.
My three finalists are:
They Met at Wounded Knee by Gretchen Cassel Eick
The Big Quiet by Lisa D. Stewart
Opulence, Kansas by Julie Stielstra
Gretchen Cassel Eick’s They Met at Wounded Knee tells story of Charles Ohiyesa Eastman, a Dakota physician, and Elaine Goodale Eastman, a teacher and supervisor of education among the Sioux, who met while witnessing the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre and subsequently married and raised six children, even as they worked tirelessly on behalf of citizenship and equal rights for Native Americans. The book is meticulously researched and written and makes important contributions to the fields of biography, history, and Native American Studies. It succeeds not only as a portrait of two complex people and their equally complex marriage, but also as a portrait of a turbulent era in American history—roughly the last decade of the 19th century and the first three decades of the 20th century—that has much in common with the times in which we live now.
On the basis of its contributions to multiple fields and its daring exploration of form as a double biography, I have chosen to recognize Gretchen Cassel Eick’s They Met at Wounded Knee as the winner of this year’s J. Donald Coffin Award.
Please extend my congratulations to the . . . winner of this year’s award.
Thanks again and best wishes,
2021 Coffin Memorial Book Award Judge
Robert Rebein was born and raised in Dodge City, where his family has farmed and ranched since the late 1920s. Rebein received his BA in English from the University of Kansas. His subsequent degrees include an MA from Exeter University in England and an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis. He is the author of two award-winning memoirs about growing up in Kansas, Dragging Wyatt Earp: A Personal History of Dodge City (Swallow, 2013) and Headlights on the Prairie: Essays on Home (Kansas, 2017), as well as a work of literary criticism, Hicks, Tribes, & Dirty Realists: American Fiction after Postmodernism (Kentucky, 2001). His unpublished works include a novel-in-progress entitled The Last Rancher. Rebein teaches creative writing at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in downtown Indianapolis.