Rebecca Roanhorse

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Rebecca Roanhorse
Roanhorse at the 2022 Texas Book Festival
Rebecca Parish[1]

(1971-03-14) March 14, 1971 (age 53)
science fiction writer
SpouseMichael Roanhorse
AwardsJohn W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, 2018
Hugo Award for Best Short Story, 2018
Nebula Award for Best Short Story, 2017[3]

Rebecca Roanhorse (born March 14, 1971)[4][better source needed] is an American science fiction and fantasy writer from New Mexico. She has written short stories and science fiction novels featuring Navajo characters.[5] Her work has received Hugo and Nebula awards, among others.

Background and family[edit]

Rebecca Parish[1] was born in Conway, Arkansas, in 1971.[2] She was adopted as a child by white parents, and raised in northern Texas. She has said that "being a black and Native kid in Fort Worth in the '70s and '80s was pretty limiting"; thus, she turned to reading and writing, especially science fiction, as a form of escape. Her father was an economics professor, and her mother was a high school English teacher who encouraged Rebecca's early attempts at writing stories.[6]

Roanhorse graduated from Yale University and later earned her JD degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law, specializing in Federal Indian Law and lived for several years on the Navajo Nation, where she clerked at the Navajo Supreme Court before working as an attorney.[7]

In a 2020 profile by Vulture, Roanhorse said that at 7 years old she learned from looking at her birth certificate that she is "half-Black and half–Spanish Indian".[7] While living and working in New York City, she hired a private investigator to track down her birth mother. The resulting reunion was uncomfortable, as her birth and adoption had been a secret. According to the Vulture profile, "Her birth father, a minister, had never learned of her existence. Neither had most of her mother’s extended family — conservative Pueblo Catholics from New Mexico. One of her aunts, a former nun, later told her, “It would be better if you went away.”"[7] Roanhorse has said that she is of Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo descent through her mother's family, and African American on her father's side.[7]

When she began publishing and doing speaking engagements, others pointed out that she is not an enrolled member of any tribal community.[7] Leaders of the Ohkay Owingeh community have stated that Roanhorse is not enrolled there and has no connection to their community.[1] Dr. Matthew Martinez, former Lieutenant Governor of Ohkay Owingeh,[8][9] welcomed Roanhorse on her first and only visit to the community, in 2018, and spent time with her. He said, "I recognize that adoption is an emotional experience for families and communities and especially those who have been adopted out with no real connection to home....At Ohkay Owingeh, our current enrollment process privileges family lineage and not blood quantum." Agoyo explained that "anyone who descends from an Ohkay family - as Roanhorse has publicly claimed - can become a citizen. But Martinez said the author has chosen a different path."[1] Martinez continued, "by not engaging in any form of cultural and community acknowledgement, Roanhorse has failed to establish any legitimate claim to call herself Ohkay Owingeh." He eventually concluded, "It is unethical for Roanhorse to be claiming Ohkay Owingeh and using this identity to publish Native stories."[1]

She currently lives in New Mexico with her husband, who is Navajo,[10] and their daughter.


Roanhorse told The New York Times that she initially worked on "Tolkien knockoffs about white farm boys going on journeys", because she figured that is what readers wanted.[11]

On August 19, 2020, Roanhorse was announced as a contributing writer to Marvel Comics' Marvel's Voices: Indigenous Voices #1 anthology, which was released in November 2020. She wrote a story about Echo, joined by Weshoyot Alvitre on art.[12]


In 2018 Roanhorse received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Her short story "Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™" (Apex Magazine 2017) won two major awards: the 2018 Hugo Award for Best Short Story and the 2017 Nebula Award for Best Short Story. The story also earned her nominations for the 2018 Locus Award for Best Short Story, the 2018 Theodore Sturgeon Award, and the 2018 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction.[13]

Her first novel, Trail of Lightning, is an "apocalyptic adventure" set in Dinétah, formerly the Navajo reservation in the Southwestern United States, with mostly Navajo characters. The novel received significant critical acclaim. Kirkus Reviews described the book as a "sharp, wonderfully dreamy, action-driven novel,"[14] while The Verge praised the book's representation of Native cultures, saying it "takes readers along for a fun ride."[15] It went on to win the 2019 Locus Award for Best First Novel,[16] as well as receive nominations for the 2018 Nebula Award for Best Novel,[17] the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Novel,[18] and the 2019 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.[19]

However, it has been criticized by Navajo/Diné and other Native authors, scholars, and activists, who have argued that, due to a lack of cultural connection, it misrepresents Navajo teachings and spirituality, disrespects Navajo sensibilities, and harms Navajo culture.[1][20] A group of Navajo writers and cultural workers condemned Trail of Lightning as an inaccurate cultural appropriation that uses an at-times mocking and derisive tone.[21] For example, the Saad Bee Hózhǫ́ writers' collective criticized the hero's use of bullets filled with corn pollen to slay the monster, which they viewed as a violent, disrespectful misuse of sacred ceremonial traditions.[7]

When asked in a Reddit AMA about including Navajo cultural aspects into her works, Roanhorse said her goal was "accuracy and respect" and gave examples of what she fictionalized and what she considered off-limits.[22] "I think a lot of Native characters that we see are stuck in the past. So it was important for me Native American readers and non-Native American readers that we're alive and we're thriving in our cultures", she said in 2018.[10] In addition, Roanhorse sought Navajo views and input during the writing of Trail of Lightning, including PhD student Charlie Scott. "Scott and a number of Native writers I spoke with pointed out that the critique of Roanhorse comes primarily from Native academics, many of whom came through Ivy League institutions or M.F.A. programs and share a particular view of what Native literature should be. For Native readers who like Roanhorse’s work, her willingness to deviate from tradition is exactly what makes her books so exciting and important."[7]

Prominent Native scholar Debbie Reese (Nambé Pueblo) initially praised Trail of Lightning, but upon hearing from Diné writers, poets and academics, she changed her mind about the book, writing that she'd "come to understand that Roanhorse had crossed the Diné's 'lines of disclosure,' an offense that many white interlopers had committed in the past."[7] She retracted the review and criticized Roanhorse for sharing sacred cultural practices and narratives that were not meant to be taken outside the culture, as well as misusing and misrepresenting sacred stories.[7] Critics of Roanhorse argue that because the Indigenous community that Roanhorse has claimed does not claim her, or her mother that she claims was from the community, this makes her non-Indigenous.[1] Her defenders do not question her claims of Indigenous heritage and have expressed concern that questions about her identity are either racist, due to Roanhorse having a Black father, or a distraction from discussions of her work's content.[7] Others have discussed anti-Blackness within Indigenous communities and how this may impact critiques of Roanhorse.[23]

At some point in 2018, when the complaints of cultural appropriation surfaced, references to the Ohkay Owingeh were removed from her official website;[1] Roanhorse has stated that she believes her mother's family descended from Ohkay Owingeh people but is "trying to be more careful" about how she discusses it.[7]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Awards for Rebecca Roanhorse
Year Work Award Category Result Ref.
2017 "Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™" Nebula Award Short Story Won [24]
2018 Astounding Award (Best New Writer) Won [25]
Hugo Award Short Story Won [25]
Locus Award Short Story Nominated [26]
Theodore Sturgeon Award Nominated [27]
World Fantasy Award Short Fiction Nominated [28]
2019 Trail of Lightning Compton Crook Award Nominated [29]
Crawford Award Nominated [30]
Hugo Award Novel Nominated [31][18]
Locus Award First Novel Won [32]
Nebula Award Novel Nominated [33]
World Fantasy Award Novel Nominated [34]
2020 Storm of Locusts Locus Award Fantasy Novel Nominated [35]
"A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy" Locus Award Short Story Nominated [36]
Black Sun Nebula Award Novel Nominated [37]
2021 Alex Award Won [38]
Hugo Award Novel Nominated [39]
Ignyte Award Best Novel - Adult Won [40]
Lambda Literary Award Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Nominated [41]
Locus Award Fantasy Novel Nominated [42]
Race to the Sun Igynte Award Middle Grade Novel Nominated [40]
Locus Award Young Adult Book Nominated [42]



The Sixth World series[edit]

Between Earth and Sky[edit]

  • Black Sun (October 13, 2020)
  • Fevered Star (April 19, 2022)


Short stories and essays[edit]

  • "Native in Space" in Invisible 3: Essays and Poems on Representation in SF/F, edited by Jim Hines and Mary Anne Mohanraj (June 27, 2017)[43]
  • "Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™" in Apex Magazine (August 8, 2017)[44]
  • "Postcards from the Apocalypse" in Uncanny Magazine (January/February 2018)[45]
  • "Thoughts on Resistance" in How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation, edited by Maureen Johnson (2018)[46]
  • "Harvest" originally published in New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color, edited by Nisi Shawl (March 12, 2019)[47] and reprinted in Uncanny Magazine (2019)[48]
  • "The Missing Ingredient" in Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love, edited by Caroline Tung Richmond and Elsie Chapman (July 7, 2019)[49]
  • "A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy" originally published in The Mythic Dream (September 3, 2019)[50] and reprinted in Apex Magazine (October 2, 2021)[51] and The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020, edited by Diana Gabaldon and John Joseph Adams (October 6, 2020)[52]
  • "Dark Vengeance" in Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Stories of Light and Dark (August 25, 2020)[53]
  • "The Boys from Blood River" in Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite, edited by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker (September 22, 2020)[54]
  • "Takeback Tango" in A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology, edited by Dhonielle Clayton (December 8, 2020)[55]
  • "Rez Dog Rules" in Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids, edited by Cynthia L. Smith (February 9, 2021)[56]
  • "Wherein Abigail Fields Recalls Her First Death and, Subsequently Her Best Life" in A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope, edited by Patrice Caldwell (March 10, 2021)[57]
  • "The Demon Drum" in The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities: New Stories About Mythic Heroes, edited by Rick Riordan (September 28, 2021)[58]
  • "White Hills" in Never Whistle At Night: An Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology (September, 19th, 2023) [59]

Marvel Comics[edit]

  • Marvel's Voices
    • Indigenous Voices (November 18, 2020)
    • Heritage (January 12, 2022)
  • Phoenix Song: Echo #1–5 (October 20, 2021 – February 23, 2022)[60]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Agoyo, Acee (24 June 2020). "'The Elizabeth Warren of the sci-fi set': Author faces criticism for repeated use of tribal traditions". Indianz. Archived from the original on 1 Oct 2020. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
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  3. ^ Nebula Awards, 2017. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  4. ^ "Video unavailable".
  5. ^ Kerry Lengel, "Navajo legends come to life in Rebecca Roanhorse's debut novel 'Trail of Lightning'" AZ Central (June 22, 2018).
  6. ^ "Rebecca Roanhorse: From Legend to Fantasy". Locus Magazine. September 1, 2018. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lila Shapiro (October 20, 2020). "The Sci-Fi Author Reimagining Native History". Vulture.
  8. ^ Huynh, Hamy (17 Dec 2018). "Q&A with First Lieutenant Governor and CLA Alum Matthew Martinez". University of Minnesota. Archived from the original on 3 Oct 2020. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  9. ^ Chacón, Daniel J. (13 May 2023). "Former Ohkay Owingeh governor remembered as fierce champion with kind heart". The Santa Fe New Mexican. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  10. ^ a b Kyle Muzyka, "A correction of stereotypes: Rebecca Roanhorse's post-apocalyptic books draw on Indigenous experience" CBC Radio (November 16, 2018).
  11. ^ Alexandra Alter (2020-08-14). "'We've Already Survived an Apocalypse': Indigenous Writers Are Changing Sci-Fi". The New York Times. p. C1. Retrieved 2020-08-19.
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  13. ^ "sfadb : Rebecca Roanhorse Awards". Retrieved 2018-12-20.
  14. ^ Trail of Lightning, Kirkus Reviews, June 18, 2018
  15. ^ Trail of Lightning is a breathtaking Native American urban fantasy adventure. The Verge, June 26, 2018
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  20. ^ Denetdale, Jennifer. "New novel twists Diné teachings, spirituality." Navajo Times: Window Rock, November 21, 2018, Opinion.
  21. ^ Saad Bee Hózhǫ́/Diné Writers' Association. "Trail of Lightning is an appropriation of Diné cultural beliefs." Indian Country Today. December 5, 2018. Opinion column, open letter
  22. ^ Rocket, Stubby the (2018-07-20). "Rebecca Roanhorse on Which Aspects of Diné Culture Are Featured in Trail of Lightning". Retrieved 2018-12-20.
  23. ^ Martin, Nick (3 July 2020). "Reckoning with Anti-Blackness in Indian Country". The New Republic.
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  28. ^ de Lint, Charles; Wollheim, Elizabeth. "World Fantasy Awards 2018". World Fantasy Convention. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
  29. ^ "Compton Crook Stephen Tall Memorial Award 2019". science fiction awards database. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
  30. ^ Cervone, Skye (2019-02-04). "2019 IAFA Crawford Award and Shortlist Announced". International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
  31. ^ "2019 Hugo Awards". The Hugo Awards. 2019-07-28. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
  32. ^ "2019 Locus Awards". Locus. 29 June 2019. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
  33. ^ "2018 Nebula Awards". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Retrieved 9 June 2021.
  34. ^ Miyazaki, Hayao; Zipes, Jack. "World Fantasy Awards 2019". World Fantasy Convention. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
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  36. ^ "Locus Awards 2020". Locus Awards. 2020-06-27. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
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  38. ^ Morales, Macey (2021-01-25). "YALSA announces 2021 Alex Awards". Young Adult Library Services Association. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
  39. ^ "2021 Hugo Awards". The Hugo Awards. 2021-01-01. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
  40. ^ a b "2021 Ignyte Awards Winners". Locus Online. 2021-09-18. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
  41. ^ Saka, Rasheeda (2021-03-15). "Here are the finalists for the 2021 Lambda Literary Award". Literary Hub. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
  42. ^ a b "Locus Awards 2021". Locus Awards. 2021-06-26. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
  43. ^ Hines, Jim C.; Mohanraj, Mary Anne (2017-06-27). Invisible 3: Essays and Poems on Representation in SF/F. Jim C. Hines.
  44. ^ Roanhorse, Rebecca (2017-08-08). "Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™". Apex Magazine. Retrieved 2019-04-06.
  45. ^ Roanhorse, Rebecca (2018). "Postcards from the Apocalypse". Uncanny Magazine. Retrieved 2019-04-06.
  46. ^ Johnson, Maureen (2018-05-15). How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation. St. Martin's Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-250-16837-5.
  47. ^ Roanhorse, Rebecca (2019). "Harvest". In Shawl, Nisi (ed.). New suns : original speculative fiction by people of color. Oxford, UK: Solaris. pp. 245–254. ISBN 978-1-78108-578-3. OCLC 1088925711.
  48. ^ Roanhorse, Rebecca (March–April 2020). "Harvest". Uncanny Magazine (33).
  49. ^ Roanhorse, Rebecca (2020-07-07). "The Missing Ingredient". In Tung Richmond, Caroline; Chapman, Elsie (eds.). Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love. Simon and Schuster. pp. 190–217. ISBN 978-1-5344-2186-8.
  50. ^ Roanhorse, Rebecca (2019-09-03). "A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy". In Parisien, Dominik; Wolfe, Navah (eds.). The Mythic Dream. Simon and Schuster. pp. 67–81. ISBN 978-1-4814-6238-9.
  51. ^ Roanhorse, Rebecca (2021). "A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy". In Mills, Allison (ed.). Apex Magazine Issue 126: Indigenous Futurists. Apex Publications.
  52. ^ Gabaldon, Diana; Adams, John Joseph (2020-10-06). The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-1-328-61310-3.
  53. ^ Roanhorse, Rebecca (2020-08-25). "Dark Vengeance". In Anders, Lou (ed.). The Clone Wars: Stories of Light and Dark. Disney Electronic Content. ISBN 978-1-368-07107-9.
  54. ^ Córdova, Zoraida; Parker, Natalie C. (2020-09-22). Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite. Imprint. ISBN 978-1-250-23000-3.
  55. ^ Roanhorse, Rebecca (2020-12-08). "Takeback Tango". In Clayton, Dhonielle (ed.). A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology. Random House Children's Books. pp. 173–191. ISBN 978-1-9848-9620-9.
  56. ^ Roanhorse, Rebecca (2021-02-09). "Rez Dog Rules". In Smith, Cynthia L. (ed.). Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-286996-8.
  57. ^ Caldwell, Patrice (2020-03-10). A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope. Penguin. ISBN 978-1-9848-3566-6.
  58. ^ Roanhorse, Rebecca (2021-09-28). "The Demon Drum". In Riordan, Rick (ed.). The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities: New Stories About Mythic Heroes. Disney Electronic Content. ISBN 978-1-368-07321-9.
  59. ^ "Never Whistle at Night: 9780593468463 | Books". Retrieved 2024-01-08.
  60. ^ "Phoenix Song: Echo (2021 - 2022)". Marvel. Retrieved 21 August 2022.

External links[edit]