If you aren’t familiar with author Amy Krout-Horn, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. I gave My Father’s Blood five stars on Amazon, because there weren’t ten. Amy’s Lakota ancestry – Native American – and the type 1 diabetes that runs in her family figure prominently in this beautiful book.
My Father’s Blood by Amy Krout-Horn: book cover, courtesy Amy Krout-Horn.
A Review of My Father’s Blood
What is it about Krout-Horn’s writing? Something sets her autobiographical novel, My Father’s Blood (All Things That Matter Press 2011), apart from other excellent books I’ve read. Yes, she has a riveting story to tell. Yes, she has parsed that story out in ways that captivate the reader. But, I could say that about other books. It’s her use of language. It’s stunning without being flowery, raw without being hopeless. It is a beautiful platform that lifts the story in love.
Amy Krout-Horn, author of My Father’s Blood outside at Boca Ciega Bay, Florida: photo by Gabriel Horn.
This is the story of a family, a community and a nation, seen through the eyes of a child. It is mainly set in Iowa, where she grew up with both sets of grandparents nearby. We also get a look at other areas of the Midwest, including Minnesota and South Dakota. We also see a wonderful bit of Florida as well.
Amy is keenly observant even as a child in her mother’s arms. She has a pure spirituality and is at one with nature. The imagery Krout-Horn presents, the Arora Borealis, the elm tree, the lone tree, beaded moccasins and the Lakota family of her dreams – like the title – have multiple meanings. They stick with the reader for their beauty as well as the hunch that they are signposts inviting us to go deeper.
Part of the power of this book is the way in which it portrays the Indian experience, as one family, seemingly white and average, deals with the impact of assimilation over generations. Amy’s dreams and the glimpses of the Lakota world she encounters in her waking hours draw her toward a part of her heritage that others would have her deny.
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age six, Amy follows her father down a treacherous road of being different, even without her Lakota heritage, as she deals with the complications, realities and social and emotional impacts of the disease. Krout-Horn does not portray her younger self as the stoic heroin insisting upon admiration or the pitiable, weak soul waiting for rescue.
Amy is a bright, inquisitive girl, displaying the full range of emotions and reactions befitting her situation. Krout-Horn is not reluctant to display bitterness, resentment or guilt in her young heroine. Her issues aren’t once and done. They resolve and reform as she matures. To survive, she must pick herself up again and again. The reader has the sense that we are getting the whole story, and her triumphs are even more inspirational for it.
Krout-Horn’s style is respectful of the reader, while bringing forth a sense of enlightenment that feels like it’s coming from the reader herself. I’ve read My Father’s Blood several times, and each time, it pulls me in, and I notice something I missed before. It truly is a magnificent masterpiece.
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The following bio of Amy Krout-Horn is taken from Native Earth Words, the site she shares with her husband and occasional co-author, Gabriel Horn: http://nativeearthwords.com/amy/
Amy Krout-Horn, Oieihake Win (Last Word Woman) has resided in two worlds; the world of the sighted and the world of the blind. She has been a writer in both of them. Raised in a small northwest Iowa farm community, she was, at age six, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Early on, she discovered the wonderful escape books provide, and in their pages, found refuge from the discomforts of her chronic illness. Over the course of her youth, Krout-Horn’s love of literature proliferated into a passion for writing. At age eleven, recognizing a lack of stories that featured young people like her, she authored a book for diabetic children, which the Iowa affiliate of the American Diabetes Association produced and distributed. In her teens, she exercised her journalistic talents as a columnist and won an Iowa regional young fiction writer’s award.
The second leg of Krout-Horn’s journey began in 1991, while attending the University of Iowa. Within a six-month period, diabetic retinopathy attacked her eyesight, eventually leaving her totally blind. After graduating from BLIND Inc., a Minneapolis based adult rehabilitation training center which students affectionately refer to as “Boot Camp for the Blind,” she returned to college. She earned a bachelor’s degree in American Indian studies and psychology from the University of Minnesota. While enrolled, she became proficient in Dakota, an indigenous language with less than a hundred fluent speakers world-wide and worked as the American Indian studies department’s first blind teaching assistant. It was during this time that her Dakota mentor gave her the traditional name, Oieihake Win, (Last Word Woman).
A staunch advocate for social and environmental justice, she writes and lectures on native history and culture, diabetes and disability, and humanity’s connection and commitment to the natural world. Krout-Horn spent time in Washington DC as a political lobbyist for the disabled and has been a presenter at several seminars, lectures, and classroom workshops on blindness, writing, and cultural sensitivity. She has worked as a guest professorial assistant in the creative writing program at St. Petersburg College and, during the 2007 spring semester, helped create the curriculum for a Native American literature class at the University of South Florida, where she also served as a native language and culture liaison. In November 2008, Krout-Horn gave the opening address in honor of Native American Heritage month at St. Petersburg College.
Interviews with her have been featured on numerous radio programs, including Radio for Peace International’s Wolf Mountain Radio, Gia Scott’s Dawn of Shades, and KSOO Viewpoint University.
She is a regular contributor to Slate and Style magazine and was awarded the publication’s 2008 fiction prize for her short story, “War Pony.” The publication awarded her again in 2012 for “Trickster’s Daughter.” Her essays and stories have appeared in several magazines and journals, including Breath and Shadow, Talking Stick Native Arts Quarterly, and Independent Ink. Additional works are included in the anthologies, Unraveling the Spreading Cloth of Time: Indigenous Thoughts Concerning the Universe (Renegade Planets Publishing 2013) and When Spirits Visit (Renegade Planets Publishing 2016). She is the co-author of Transcendence (All Things That Matter Press 2009), which received the 2012 National Indie Excellence Award gold medal for visionary fiction, the autobiographical novel, My Father’s Blood (All Things That Matter Press 2011), and Dancing in Concrete Moccasins (All Things That Matter Press, 2016).
Whether she is swimming with dolphins, cuddling with her beloved animal companions, or body surfing in the Gulf of Mexico, Amy Krout-Horn embraces life with a tenacity of spirit she attributes to her Native American ancestry. She lives in south Florida, where she currently is at work on her fourth novel Sundogs and Sinners.