“Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day” is the way author Jessica Tyner Mehta opened her October 12 visit with students at Wilson High School. Just that morning the city of Portland joined other cities (such as Seattle and Minneapolis) choosing to celebrate the contributions of indigenous people on a day traditionally celebrating Christopher Columbus.
Tyner Mehta’s visit was part of an annual Multicultural Literacy celebration organized by Wilson High School librarian Linda Campillo.
Tyner Mehta’s presentation wove poems from her books The Last Exotic Petting Zoo and What Makes an Always with a narrative about her life. She spoke about the complexity of growing up with a bicultural background (her mother is White and father Cherokee), and the way she looked to literature for a connection to a larger sense of community and sense of self and identity.
In addition to sharing her poetry, Tyner Mehta shared information about her web-content writing business, and the book she is currently writing: 100 Ways to Make $100,000 with an English Degree. Students enjoyed the list of topics Tyner Mehta writes about for her business: “make up, roofing, automotive information, and the Kardashians.”
Tyner Mehta’s path to college and graduate school was circuitous and costly. She encouraged students to be proactive about looking for scholarships and other aid. The scholarship she founded, the Jessica Tyner Scholarship Fund, is “the only graduate scholarship exclusively for students with a Native connection pursuing a degree in writing or literature.”
Thank you to the teachers and students for being a wonderful audience, to librarian Linda Campillo for organizing the Multicultural Literacy celebration, and to the author for being such a generous guest.