Louis Owens


Louis Owens, of Choctaw, Cherokee and Irish American descent, grew up in rural Mississippi and California. and worked as a forest ranger and firefighter for the U. S. Forest Service. He received his B.A. and M.A. from the University of California at Santa Barbara and his Ph.D. in 1981 from the University of California, Davis. Louis taught at the University of California at Davis and at Santa Cruz, California State University at Northridge, the University of New Mexico, andwas Professor of English and Native American Studies and Director of Creative Writing at the University of California, Davis at the time of his death in July, 2002.

Louis was a member of the editorial board of the Steinbeck Quarterly. He had been on the editorial board of New America, associate editor of American Literary Realism, and co-editor of American Literary Scholarship: An Annual, 1990. He had also been a member of the national committee for the Native American Literature Award and the Native American Prose Award, a member of the governing board of the Native American International Prize in Literature and a nominator for the National Medal of Arts. He had also been a member of the Advisory Board of the Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute.

He contributed more than a hundred articles and reviews to periodicals, including Northeast Indian Quarterly, Arizona Quarterly, San Jose Studies, American Indian Quarterly, and USA Today.

A short biography from the Internet Public Library's Native American Author's Project is available.


Louis was named Writer of the Year Award from Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers & Storytellers for Mixedblood Messages, for 1998. He received the American Book Award for Nightland in 1997.

The books The Sharpest Sight and Other Destinies were co-winners of the Josephine Miles, PEN Oakland Award for 1993 and the The Sharpest Sight won the 1995 Roman Noir Award, France's equivalent of the Edgar Award. Bone Game was selected by an independent panel of judges as the winner of the Julian J. Rothbaum Prize for the best book published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 1994.

Louis was a Fulbright lecturer in American literature at the University of Pisa, Italy (1980-1). He was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship in 1989 and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in 1987. He also received a New Mexico Humanities Grant (1987) and been named Outstanding Teacher of the Year by the International Steinbeck Society in 1985-6 and received the Distinguished Teaching Award at the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1992.

Writing available online

Finding Gene in Weber Studies
"The Song Is Very Short": Native American Literature and Literary Theory in Weber Studies

Books by Louis Owens or containing his work

Essays and Criticism      

I Hear the Train: Reflections, Inventions, Refractions,
(American Indian Literature and Critical Studies Series, V. 39) University of Oklahoma Press.
Mixed Blood Messages: Literature, Film, Family, Place,
(American Indian Literature and Critical Studies Series, V. 26) University of Oklahoma Press.
Discussion Questions for Mixedblood Messages, Dr. Gail Jardine, Univ. California, Santa Cruz
Gerald Vizenor, a special issue of SAIL, V 9, No. 1, Spring 1997,
edited by Louis Owens.
Other Destinies,
(American Indian Literature and Critical Studies Series, V.3) University of Oklahoma Press.
The Grapes of Wrath : Trouble in the Promised Land, Twayne Pub.
John Steinbeck's Re-Vision of America, University of Georgia Press.
American Indian Novelists : An Annotated Critical Bibliography,
with Tom Colonnese, Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, Vol 384, Garland Press.
American Literary Scholarship : An Annual, 1990, as Editor, Duke Univ Press.


Dark River, (American Indian Literature and Critical Studies Series, V.30) University of Oklahoma Press.
Nightland, (American Indian Literature and Critical Studies Series, V.40) University of Oklahoma Press. (Signet Edition).
Wolf Song, (American Indian Literature and Critical Studies Series, V.17) University of Oklahoma Press.
Bone Game, (American Indian Literature and Critical Studies Series, V.10) University of Oklahoma Press.
The Sharpest Sight, (American Indian Literature and Critical Studies Series, V.1) University of Oklahoma Press.


Race in the Classroom: Pedagogy and Politics,
Maureen T. Reddy and Bonnie Tusmith (Editors), Rutgers Univ. Press.
Mixing Race, Mixing Culture: Inter-American Literary Dialogues,
Monica Kaup and Deborah Rosenthal (editors), Univ. of Texas Press.
Native American Representations: First Encounters, Distorted Images, and Literary Appropriations,
Gretchen Bataille (Editor) Univ. Nebraska Press.
Loosening the Seams: Interpretations of Gerald Vizenor,
A. Robert Lee (Editor), Bowling Green State University.
Smoke Rising : The Native North American Literary Companion,
Janet Witalec (Editor), Visible Ink Press.
Song of the Turtle: American Indian Fiction 1974-1994
Paula Gunn Allen (Editor), Ballantine Books.
Narrative Chance: Postmodern Discourse on Native American Indian Literatures
Gerald Vizenor (Editor) (American Indian Literature and Critical Studies, Vol 8), University of Oklahoma Press.
Rediscovering Steinbeck: Revisionist Views of His Art, Politics, and Intellect,
ed. Cliff Lewis and Carroll Britch, Edwin Mellen Press, 1989
Writing the American Classics, ed. James Barbour and Tom Quirk,
University of North Carolina Press.
This Is about Vision: Interviews with Southwestern Writers,
William Balassi, John F, Crawford, Annie O. Eysturoy, (Eds.), Univ. New Mexico Press.
The Short Novels of John Steinbeck: Critical Essays with a Checklist to Steinbeck Criticism, Jackson J. Benson (Ed.), Duke Univ. Press.
Frontier Gothic: Terror and Wonder at the Frontier in American Literature,
David Mogen, Scott P. Sanders, Joanne B. Karpinski (Eds.), Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press.
The Steinbeck Question: New Essays in Criticism., Donald R. Noble (Ed.),
Whitston Pub.
Critical Essays on Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, John Ditsky (Ed.),
G. K. Hall.
John Steinbeck: The Years of Greatness, 1936-1939.,
Tetsumaro Hayashi (Ed.), Duke Univ. Press.

Interviews with Louis or Writing About His Work    

Grave Concerns Trickster Turns: The Novels of Louis Owens
Chris LaLonde, Univ. Oklahoma Press. (American Indian Literature and Critical Studies Series, V. 43)
Special Issue of SAIL on Louis Owens, edited by Chris LaLonde, V 10, No. 2, Summer 1998, containing:
Preface by Chris LaLonde
Clear Waters: A Conversation with Louis Owens by John Purdy
Bone Game's Terminal Plots and Healing Stories by Rochelle Venuto
The Syncretic Impulse: Louis Owens' Use of Autobiography, Ethnology, and Blended Mythologies in The Sharpest Sight by Margaret Dwyer
Nightland and the Mythic West by Linda Lizut Helstern
Wilderness Conditions: Ranging for Place and Identity in Louis Owens' Wolfsong by Susan Bernardin
Landscape and Cultural Identity in Louis Owens' Wolfsong by Lee Schweninger
That the People Might Live : Native American Literatures and Native American Community,
Jace Weaver, Oxford University Press.
Mixedbloods and Mystery: Crises of Identity in Two Native American Novels,
Amy Lerman, Kishwaukee College, in Publication of the Illinois Philological Association.
Everything Matters : Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers,
Arnold Krupat & Brian Swann (Editors), Random House.
Native North American Literature:
Biographical and Critical Information on Native Writers and Orators from the United States and Canada, Janet Witalec, Jeffery Chapman (Editors), Gale Research.

In Association with Amazon.com

icon Return to the Storytellers Frontdoor