Spotlight: Daniel Heath Justice

The writer creates a Cherokee-inspired trilogy loosely based on the Trail of Tears.

By Daisy Hernandez Nov 15, 2006

Some of us read fiction to get away from these dismal political times. But novelist Daniel Heath Justice gives us a better option: escape to an imaginary world where our rage can literally cause trees to uproot and strike the white men taking our community’s land.

Daniel Heath Justice’s trilogy The Way of Thorn and Thunder (Kegedonce Press)—the second book was published last month—offers the best in fantasy fiction, that genre of literature dealing with the supernatural. The Cherokee novelist creates a world called Everlands, a place inhabited by those called the Kyn, who were born from the Eternity Tree. The Kyn have three-fingered hands, green skin and sensory stalks that let them detect danger. The Kyn women are front and center in this first book: they’re warriors, lawmakers and healers. They have both female and male lovers.

The trilogy is loosely based on the Trail of Tears, the removal of the Cherokees from their lands. But Justice says the removal story is the least interesting part of the novel. “It’s how do people survive," says Justice, a professor of Aboriginal literature at the University of Toronto and also the author of Our Fire Survives the Storm. He points out that fantasy literature gives marginalized people a way to explore options. “Hopefully they see how imagination can rewrite our histories."