22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Toni Jensen

Portrait Toni Jensen
© Sophia Spirlock

Toni Jensen is a U.S. writer and college professor. She is the daughter of a Catholic and a Native American and she is Métis.
Her debut work, »From the Hilltop« (2010), collects twelve short stories centering on characters trying to preserve their indigenous identities off the reserve. Jensen draws compelling, formally sophisticated portraits of people on the margins of society, telling of their desires, fates, and rejections. »Publishers Weekly« wrote that in the volume, »These stories are as much about tradition as they are about the now; Jensen’s understated and powerful prose easily bridges that divide.« Published in 2020, »Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land« (2020), is a memoir in the form of a collection of essays. The unifying motif of the autobiographically influenced texts is (gun) violence; the title brings to mind the phrase »to carry a gun«. Drawing on her own experiences, Jensen writes about a society permeated by various forms of violence. For example, she tells of her violent father, who taught her to shoot birds; of the guns allowed to be carried at the college where she teaches; of the connection between fracking and sexual exploitation; of violence against Protestants; of the presence of a violent past; and of damaged indigenous bodies. Analytical and moving at the same time, Jensen’s essays turn the individual into the universal, the personal into the political. Referring to the »almost entirely unfettered access« to guns in the U.S., she notes, »We are no longer a civilized nation – if ever we were one.« According to the »New York Times«, the author is adept at »Using the right words to crystallize her outrage« which »constitutes Jensen’s stance against an uncivilized country where violence can flare abruptly next door, or in your own backyard.« Other writing by Jensen has appeared in such publications as »Orion«, »Catapult«, and »Ecotone«. She is currently working on a novel.
Toni Jensen teaches Creative Writing and Indigenous Studies at the University of Arkansas and the Institute of American Indian Arts. In 2020, she was awarded an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship. She lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.