University of the Cumberlands recently hosted Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle on campus for the university’s annual Palmer Lecture, a lecture series formed to commemorate Dr. Robert L. Palmer’s many years of dedicated service to the Cumberland College, now University of the Cumberlands.
Clapsaddle is an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee and is the first in her tribe to publish a novel. Her book Even As We Breathe was published by University Press of Kentucky in 2020. In her Palmer Lecture presentation, “Understanding Modern Cherokee Identity Through Literature,” Clapsaddle discussed native stereotypes and how native characters shouldn’t be flat characters, spoke of craft elements such as embodiment, read portions of her novel aloud, and answered questions by those in attendance. She also visited the Women in Literature class held on Cumberlands’ campus the following morning.
Said Jamey Temple, associate professor of English and creative writing at Cumberlands, who organized and attended the event, “It's important to attend events like these not only to hear authors and their processes, but also to learn about heritage and history, especially from those whose voices have been underrepresented in publishing.”
Cumberlands students, faculty, and staff, as well as local community members, are welcome to attend the annual Palmer Lectures free of charge. The event is held every spring.
Toni “Leeann” Fragosa, a senior at Cumberlands studying Elementary education with a minor in creative writing, enjoyed hearing Clapsaddle’s insights. She said, “After learning why she incorporated certain images and symbols into her book, I was able to obtain a deeper connection with the characters. I also have more of an appreciation for her culture after learning about its stereotypes and that there is truth beyond the stereotypes. It is important for learners to look beyond what we think is true and listen to others. I enjoyed her lecture and the Q and A in class and will always remember her story – the story in her novel as well as the story of her life.”
Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle resides in Qualla, NC with her husband Evan and sons Ross and Charlie. She holds degrees from Yale University and the College of William and Mary. Her debut novel, Even As We Breathe, was a finalist for the Weatherford Award, and named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2020. In 2021, it received the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award. Her first novel manuscript Going to Water is winner of the Morning Star Award for Creative Writing from the Native American Literature Symposium (2012) and a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction (2014). Clapsaddle’s work has appeared in Yes!, Lit Hub, Smoky Mountain Living Magazine, South Writ Large, and The Atlantic. After serving as executive director of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, Clapsaddle returned to teaching at Swain County High School for over a dozen years. She is the former co-editor of the Journal of Cherokee Studies and serves on the Board of Directors for the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and is the president of the Board of Trustees for the North Carolina Writers Network. Clapsaddle established Bird Words, LLC, in 2022 and works as an independent contractor and consultant. To learn more about Clapsaddle and her work, visit www.asaunookeclapsaddle.com.
The Palmer Lecture Series originated with Dr. Palmer’s nephew, Mr. John N. Palmer, a prominent businessman from Jackson, Mississippi, who served as United States Ambassador to Portugal. Through his generous gift, Mr. Palmer created an endowment that makes possible an annual lecture by an outstanding author. Honoring Dr. Palmer in this way befits him well, for he was a man who loved and respected the power of the written word to please and to instruct. His great joy in teaching derived from his own ability to communicate to students an enthusiasm for the beauty and efficacy of language. Dr. Palmer loved his students, and through his gentle, steady manner he taught them well. The Department of English at University of the Cumberlands is committed to carrying out Mr. John Palmer’s vision for honoring his uncle by continuing to bring to the campus those authors the Department believes Dr. Palmer would have enjoyed reading and hearing. For more information about Cumberlands’ English program, visit www.ucumberlands.edu/academics.