USC Upstate News

Title USC Upstate Professor Publishes Book

06- 06- 2007

Spartanburg, S.C. - Jim Charles, professor of English education at the University of South Carolina Upstate, has recently published a book through Peter Lang Publishers titled “Reading, Learning, Teaching N. Scott Momaday.” Momaday, a member of the Kiowa American Indian tribe, won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize award for fiction. The book is one of the “Confronting the Text, Confronting the World” series of books published by Peter Lang Publishers geared towards teachers and professors of American literature.

Charles’ book, through description and analysis of various approaches, analyses, lesson plans, study guides, course descriptions, and critical interpretations, is a guide for educators to use in teaching high school through college-level students about Momaday’s poetry, novels, essays, children’s stories, paintings, drawings and works in mixed genres.

“Momaday’s work can be pretty daunting, even for experienced teachers of American Indian literatures,” says Robert Nelson, professor emeritus of the University of Richmond, who reviewed Charles’ book. “Jim Charles has done a great job of showing just how teachable Momaday’s work is, and his suggestions for how and what to teach are going to be enormously helpful for anyone who will be teaching Momaday’s prose or poetry.”

Charles, who has taught English education at USC Upstate for 21 years and a course in American Indian literature for 14 years, says that “Momaday challenges readers’ assumptions about culture and history, and he presents a unique worldview that includes some of the most lyrical passages written in English.”

To date, Momaday has published 14 major works, including two novels, a memoir, three collections of poems, four works in mixed genres, two children’s books, a compilation of essays and a play. In all these works, according to Charles, Momaday “provides readers entrée into a unique world … unique on the basis of race, culture, history and experience … a world shaped by his experiences as a Kiowa who grew up among the Pueblo peoples and Navajo … the world of one who has successfully negotiated the drastically different experiences of both American Indians and non-Indians.”

Momaday’s body of work also embraces the theme of an individual’s and community’s connection to family, to the land, and to nature and the subsequent balance and harmony arising from those connections. The landscape of the American Southwest and the family background of Indian traditions also contribute to the sense of place in all of his written and artistic works. 

Novarro Scott Momaday was born in 1934 in Lawton, Oklahoma at the Indian Hospital to Alfred, a full-blooded Kiowa Indian and Natachee Scott, who was part Cherokee Indian. When he was very young, Momaday’s parents moved the family to New Mexico where they devoted their lives to teaching American-Indian children on the Navajo, San Carlos Apache and Jemez Pueblo reservations.

As teachers, according to Charles, Momaday’s parents emphasized an appreciation for education, the Indian tradition of oral storytelling, language and literature. Momaday was drawn to a career in teaching and writing. After graduating from the University of New Mexico he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees from Stanford University. He became a professor of literature and writing at University of California at Santa Barbara, Stanford University and New Mexico State University. From 1981 to his retirement in 2006, Momaday was on the faculty of the University of Arizona.

Momaday’s accomplishments and accolades include: the Academy of American Poets Prize in 1962; a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1966; Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1969; Outstanding Indian of the Year award; initiate of the Kiowa Gourd Dance Society; the Premio Litterario Internazionale “Mondello,” Italy’s highest literary award; and many honorary doctorates.

Momaday was a founding trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. and is on the board of the Buffalo Trust, a non-profit foundation for the preservation, protection, and return of the cultural heritage to Native peoples, especially children.

With a Ph.D. in English education from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Jim Charles has taught English for 25 years at the ninth grade and university levels, and he has been awarded two NEH Fellowships for the study of American Indian literatures and cultures. For 14 years, Charles and his fellow professor Dr. Richard Predmore, have taught a 200/300-level course “American Indian Literature,” which includes Momaday’s novels and poems, at USC Upstate. He has developed a 300-level special topics course, “The Literature of N. Scott Momaday,” within the past year.

For further information, contact Jim Charles at or by calling (864) 503-5563. The book may be obtained through Peter Lang Publishers at or by calling (800) 770-5264.