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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Professor’s Biography of Black Elk a Finalist for Two National Awards

By Phil Walzer

Joe Jackson, who holds the Mina Hohenberg Darden Chair in Creative Writing at Old Dominion, is a finalist for two leading literary awards for his biography of Black Elk, a Native American holy man.

Jackson's "Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary" was named a finalist for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography and for a National Book Critics Circle award in the biography category.

"It's fantastic news," said John McManus, director of the University's master of fine arts program in creative writing. "'Black Elk' is an important book, and I'm thrilled it's getting the recognition it deserves. We're lucky to have a biographer of his stature on the creative writing faculty."

"Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary," published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, chronicles the Sioux healer who participated in the Battle at Little Bighorn and once traveled to Europe with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. He adopted Catholicism in his 40s and in his later years blended the Catholic religion and Native American traditions.

"He starts performing the old dances again," Jackson said in an interview in the fall 2016 issue of Monarch magazine. "He's gone back to the old ways, but he's still a Catholic."

The Boston Globe said Jackson's narrative skill makes this long biography a "gripping, even thrilling read." The Times Literary Supplement in London called the book "an astonishingly rich saga."

Jackson is one of five finalists for each award. The PEN awards will be announced Feb. 22 and the National Book Critics Circle awards March 16.

Jackson has written one novel and six nonfiction books, including "The Thief at the End of the World," which was named one of Time magazine's top 10 nonfiction books of 2008, and "Leavenworth Train," a finalist for the 2002 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime book.

"Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary" is available for purchase at the University Village Bookstore on Monarch Way.