Joe Starita’s Book Recommendations

Posted By Matt on Feb 2, 2017 | 0 comments


Joe Starita is an award winning author, journalist, and professor.

Starita spent 13 years at the Miami Herald and served as the paper’s New York bureau chief from 1983-1987. Spending four years on the Herald’s Investigations Team, he specialized in stories exposing unethical doctors and lawyers. While on the investigations team, Starita became Pulitzer Prize finalist in local reporting after writing an article examining how impoverished and illiterate Haitians were being used to extort insurance companies into settling false auto claims.

In 1992, Starita moved to his native Nebraska and began his three year book project on a subject that had interested him since his youth, American Indian history and culture. The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge: A Lakota Odyssey about five generations of an Indian family was published in 1995 by G.P. Putnam and Sons (New York), and has been translated into six foreign languages and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Joining the University of Nebraska Lincoln’s journalism team in 2000 as a professor in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. Teaching many of the college’s depth reporting classes, he has taken groups of students to Cuba, France and Sri Lanka, as well as taught classes that included the study of the pros and cons of corn-based ethanol, a legislative attempt to significantly strengthen state immigration laws, and has produced two depth reports focused on Native American women.

In 2009, St. Martin’s Press published Starita’s “I Am a Man”: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice, a book on the life and death of Standing Bear, the Ponca chief who, in 1879, unwittingly ended up in the crosshairs of a landmark legal case. “I Am a Man” was the One Book-One Lincoln selection for 2011 and the One Book One Nebraska pick for 2012. In July 2011, Starita received the Leo Reano Award, a national civil rights award, from the National Education Association for his work with the Native American community.

In November of 2016, Starita released A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America’s First Indian Doctor, the moving biography of Susan La Flesche Picotte’s inspirational life and dedication to public health, shining a light on her numerous accomplishments. Starita will donate all royalties from this book to a college scholarship fund he has established for Native American high school graduates.

To find out more about Joe Starita, you can visit his website joestarita.com

Below are three book recommendations from Joe Starita:
“There are three books I have recently read that I am very high on and they are:
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
The Underground Railroad  by Colson Whitehead and
LaRose: A Novel by Louise Erdrich
And this is what I would say about my attraction to these kinds of stories, in general, and what I loved about each of these three books, specifically. To wit:

“We are, it is often said, a nation of immigrants – a nation cobbled together from the restless, sometimes desperate spirits of ancestors who moved from their home base across an ocean with the idea of staying put in America, a place where they could make something of themselves. But I have always been attracted to the stories of two groups who were not – and have never been – a part of that traditional immigrant narrative: the Native Americans who were already here and the African Americans who arrived in chains. Consequently, it is not surprising that writers whose ancestors endured Trails of Tears and decades of enslavement consistently turn out riveting stories carved from their cultural heritage, powerful stories often littered with many of literature’s great themes.

So it is with Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, a haunting piece of nonfiction I recently read about one man’s decades-long crusade to bring humanity and justice to the inhumane and unjust world of Alabama’s death row. It is often a painful, debilitating look at who we have been – as a people and a nation – but, in the end, provides plenty of inspirational firepower to up our game, to take charge of conditions and situations that we all have some degree of control over.

So it is, too, with The Underground Railroad, a novel of breathtaking risk and courage that funnels the reader into the body and mind of a young, female runaway slave. It’s a story that offers up an almost magical cocktail – part fantasy world and part stark, naked history – and never quite lets you off the hook. Long before the last page, you will have plenty to think about, plenty of opportunities to examine how the past informs the present – and what it portends for the future.
And so it is also with LaRose, the latest novel from Louise Erdrich, who deftly explores the many complications that arise when a Native man accidentally kills his best friend’s son and offers up his own boy to try to heal all of their wounds. Once again, Erdrich masterfully creates a Faulknerian landscape of characters and places, beautifully balancing the full range of Native humor and tragedy in the most human of terms.”
*Biographical information on Starita were taken from his website, as well as from the University of Nebraska’s Faculty and staff page

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