I live within the Cherokee Nation, out in the country as I did when I was a child. Back then, I had geese, chickens, horses, dogs and cats. My mother’s Cherokee family has been in this area since the removal of most Cherokee people from our southeastern homelands in 1838. I grew up hearing stories about my ancestors and looking at their photographs with my elisi (eh-lee-see), grandma. Now my son does that with his elisi in addition to fishing in the nearby lake and learning about our Cherokee culture.
As a child, I spent a lot of time reading as well as singing and acting in musical theatre productions. I also loved playing cars and school with my sister and brother a few years younger than me. We spent hours driving our little toy cars all over the towns we drew on large pieces of cardboard. We quizzed each other on state capitals and used old textbooks to teach each other new lessons. We spent lots of time driving to see family across the Cherokee Nation, elsewhere in Oklahoma and places farther west. I still love to read, play, learn, and travel.
When I was a teenager, I moved with my family to Southern California. I did less acting and more writing, both in my classes and on the high school yearbook staff. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. My mom, sister and brother followed me and got their degrees too.
Before I began writing for children, my work focused on helping Native American tribes and their citizens. I wrote legal codes, testimony for Congressional hearings, federal budget requests, grants and reports. I’m continuing that work by writing my stories for young people and encouraging other Native writers and illustrators to share theirs. When I was a child, I never found any culturally accurate books to read about Cherokee or other indigenous people. The contemporary stories and compelling biographies I write reflect my mission to add to the canon of literature showing that Native Nations and their citizens still exist and thrive today.
Four Fun Facts About Traci:
When I was eight, I tried out for the part of “Annie” in the 1982 motion picture.
I still have all the original books my sister, brother and I enjoyed as kids—Golden Books, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, etc.
I cannot whistle no matter how hard I try.
I have taken Cherokee language classes, but I am not fluent. In fact, my second language is Spanish. I studied it from eighth through twelfth grades and even got college credit. I lived in Madrid, Spain, for a year during college and taught English to Spanish children and adults to fund my travel adventures.