A fascination for Native American culture developed at a young age for Joe Starita.
His lifelong passion has translated into multiple Native American publications, including the upcoming book, “A Warrior of the People.”
“A Warrior of the People” tells the story of Susan La Flesche Picotte, who, in 1889, became the first Native American doctor in U.S. history. Her medical degree was earned 31 years before women could vote and 35 years before Native Americans were allowed to become American citizens.
The odds against La Flesche were overwhelming as she tried to become a doctor at a time when the Victorian era was suffocating all women, said Starita, professor of journalism in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
“Readers need to understand that context to appreciate what it took for Susan to go from a remote reservation to suddenly be taking anatomy classes at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania,” Starita said. “And yet, it was Susan that graduated number one in the class. There was a fierceness, a tenacity, a determination in her that everybody recognized.”
These qualities in La Flesche are what make the story interesting. People should read “A Warrior of the People” because they will find a fair amount of themselves in this book, Starita said.
“Life is about finding a purpose and inspiring others,” Starita said. “That’s what Susan’s story has to teach us.”
The book also gives readers a detailed look at American history and the evolution of racial history.
“What happened yesterday tells us a lot about who we are today and can greatly foreshadow who we will be tomorrow,” Starita said. “The race issues that are going on (today) have a historical antecedent and that’s an important thing for citizens of this country to know. You cannot be a good American citizen without knowing your country’s history.”
Part of the proceeds made from the book will be used to fund Starita’s Chief Standing Bear Journey for Justice Scholarship Fund. Scholarships will be awarded to three Native American students in need of financial assistance to meet educational goals. Recipients must show qualities of leadership, character and academic accomplishment.
Starita’s Native American focus has included two previous books and a pair of Native Daughters publications.
His first book, “The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge-A Lakota Odyssey,” was released in 1995 and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. “I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice” was released in 2009 and was a One Book-One Lincoln winner in 2011 and One Book-One Nebraska winner in 2012.
Starita also led Nebraska journalism students in the publication of two Native Daughters depth-reporting projects. The reports, which celebrate the roles Native American women have played within their culture and communities, were compiled into 150-page, full-color magazines.
“A Warrior of the People” is available for preorder at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, AbeBooks and IndieBound.