Eric Gansworth

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Eric Gansworth
Born Tuscarora Indian Nation
Occupation Professor of English and Lowery Writer-in-Residence at Canisius College
Language English
Nationality United States and Haudenosaunee (Onondaga Nation)
Ethnicity Haudenosaunee
Education Tuscarora Indian School, Niagara County Community College, State University College at Buffalo
Genre Native American literature
Subject Contemporary Haudenosaunee culture
Notable works Mending Skins (2005); Extra Indians (2010); If I Ever Get Out of Here (2013)
Notable awards American Book Award (2011) for Extra Indians; PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles National Literary Award (2006) for Mending Skins

Eric Gansworth is a Haudenosaunee (Native American) novelist, poet and visual artist.


Gansworth is an enrolled citizen of the Onondaga Nation; however, he grew up in the Tuscarora Nation as a descendant of one of two Onondaga women present among the Tuscarora at the foundation of the nation in the 18th century.[1] Gansworth originally qualified in electroencephalography, considered a profession useful to his nation; however, he went on to study literature and to continue a lifelong interest in painting and drawing.


Gansworth has written five novels, including the award-winning Mending Skins (2005) and Extra Indians (2010). In all his novels, illustrations form an integral part of the reading experience. His most recent novel, If I Ever Get out of Here is his first Young Adult novel, and deals with the 1975 friendship between two boys, one a resident of the Tuscarora Nation, the other living on the nearby Air Force base. In a starred review, Booklist stated that the book succeeded in "sidestepping stereotypes to offer two genuine characters navigating the unlikely intersection of two fully realized worlds."[2]

Gansworth states that growing up he was struck by an absence of images of contemporary Native American life to use as drawing practice, noting that "I could offer images from the Planet of the Apes, The Towering Inferno, Spiderman and, of course, Batman, but I had a critical shortage of Indian drawings."[3] Subsequently in his literary studies he was again critical of the lack of American Indian authored texts offered on his courses, and much of his current literary and artistic drive can be seen as attempting to overcome this lack of attention. Gansworth himself sees the two themes most important to his work as being "the ways history informs the present" and also a strong interest in entertainment culture.[4]

Critic Susan Bernardin has analyzed Gansworth's writing via Gerald Vizenor's concept of survivance, suggesting that his novel Mending Skins "suggests how Native peoples reimagine patterns of loss into new stories, especially through humored stories of survivance."[5]

Visual Arts[edit]

Gansworth's art career began with "trying to hawk my drawings to the folks who lived down the road";[6] his professional career, however, began with the exhibition Nickel Eclipse: Iroquois Moon in 1999. Since then, he has exhibited regularly. One of his images was chosen for the cover of Sherman Alexie's novel First Indian on the Moon.



  • Indian Summers (Michigan State University Press 1998)
  • Smoke Dancing (MSUP 2004)
  • Mending Skins (University of Nebraska Press 2005)
  • Extra Indians (Milkweed Editions, 2010)

Young Adult[edit]

  • If I Ever Get Out of Here (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, 2013)


  • Nickel Eclipse: Iroquois Moon (MSUP 2000)
  • A Half-Life of Cardio-Pulmonary Function (Syracuse University Press 2008)
  • Breathing the Monster Alive, (Bright Hill)
  • From the Western Door to the Lower West Side, (White Pine, 2009), co-created with Milton Rogovin

Edited Anthology[edit]

  • Sovereign Bones (Nation Books, 2007)

See also[edit]


External links[edit]