Get to Know Local Author Kendra Atleework

Supporter of Friends of the Inyo and talented writer Kendra Atleework recently recently published her book, “Miracle Country.” We’ve partnered with her to give away copies of her book in our #DontTrashTheTrails giveaway. But we wanted to get to know Kendra even better, so we connected (virtually) and she answered some burning questions that we tossed her way:

    • What inspired you to write this book?

Miracle Country is about our relationship to home. I was born and raised in the Eastern Sierra. My dad was a hot air balloon pilot and a mapmaker, among many other things, and my mom was a teacher. They taught me to love it here. When I was sixteen my mom died, and suddenly the place came to feel empty. I left home and was gone for ten years. Miracle Country tells the story of my departure and return, alongside my family’s story and that of our home. Leaving is what inspired me to start writing this book. I had to do a reckoning with the place that made me. I had to come to terms with its beauty and also its darkness, with my most difficult memories, and with the fraught history of California and the Eastern Sierra, from the theft of the water to the attempted removal and genocide of the Paiute/Nuumu people. I wanted to explore my own need to return home, as I have since moved back to Bishop. Through writing Miracle Country, I was able to reconnect with the great joy I feel just being here, albeit a complex joy, not a simple happiness.

    • As an author, do you view your role in this case as that more of a historian or a storyteller? Is there a difference?

For me, there is no difference. I went to graduate school for writing. I apprenticed with authors and from them I learned storytelling. Storytelling is what gives history traction. It’s what allows me to share the story of my own family and our losses and joys in a way that I hope feels universal. It’s what allows me to put the Eastern Sierra in a book and give that book to someone who has never been here and doesn’t even like the desert, and hopefully that person then comes to care about this place and to think in a new way about their own home. Storytelling is a rhetorical strategy, a way to bear witness to what’s going on and a way to make history relevant. And it’s also art. It’s a way to celebrate the place I love.

    • You mentioned in a recent interview with The Jackrabbit Weekly that after having grown up in the Eastern Sierra, you couldn’t wait to get out and live in the city. But once you moved away, you got really homesick. When you reflect back on your experience growing up in the Eastern Sierra, what are some things about living here that you’ve grown to appreciate?

When I was teenager I thought malls were really cool and exotic and all I wanted to do was lurk around Hot Topic. I now appreciate the absence of malls. I appreciate knowing everyone everywhere I go. I appreciate how the love everyone shares for our communities has the potential to bridge all kinds of divides. I love the kind of thinkers this place draws from elsewhere and I love the loyalty of the people who grew up here and remain. And of course, I love the landscape beyond reason.

    • What concerns you and what makes you hopeful about the future of the Eastern Sierra and its communities?

Miracle Country opens with the Round Fire, which burned one third of the houses in Swall Meadows in 2015, in the heart of the California drought. That was in February, when Swall should have been under several feet of snow. I flew home from Minnesota on a red eye flight and sifted ash with folks for any remnant of their homes that had survived. Now I’m writing this sealed inside my house in Bishop on a day when the air quality is hazardous. Our already wild climate is poised to experience extra severe natural disasters, as climate scientists predict more extreme swings between wet and dry seasons in the West. That scares me. But the strength of our communities and our ability to rally and support each other—see some examples I gathered here of how folks did that during Covid times—makes me hopeful.

    • How does Friends of the Inyo’s mission to protect and care for the Eastern Sierra’s public lands intersect with your values and your life experiences?

Miracle Country is, at its heart, a love letter to the Eastern Sierra. I love the way Friends of the Inyo encourages visitors and residents to take care of the place we all care about. Through the process of writing Miracle Country, I thought a lot about the complexity of our relationship to our homes. Friends of the Inyo embodies the best of that relationship—where we practice reciprocity with the places that sustain us. Also, Friends of the Inyo trash picking days are really fun. Aside from how hard it is to untangle fishing line from bushes.

    • What’s it like publishing a book during a pandemic?

My in-person book tour around the West was cancelled, and the media is focused elsewhere, but I’m doing my best to connect with readers regardless. The Eastern Sierra community has been incredibly supportive. It was so nice to be invited to do in-person book signings by Spellbinder books (masked, in the Bishop park) and Cardinal Village Resort (masked, on the patio for pizza night). I’ve also enjoyed visiting book clubs—if your book club would like to read Miracle Country, reach out! I’m happy to be Zoomed in to answer questions.

    • Where can I purchase your book?

Anywhere books are sold. If you get Miracle Country from Spellbinder in Bishop you can call them up and order it signed and/or inscribed for pick up or get it shipped anywhere in the country. You can get it at Booky Joint in Mammoth and at many other local establishments. If you live elsewhere, I encourage you to buy it from your local indie bookstore.

    • How can we keep track of you?

Keep an eye out for upcoming virtual events (and some safely in-person!) on my website, You can also sign up for a very occasional newsletter and read interviews and other essays. Or follow me on social media (it’s mostly pictures of mountains/my garden/whatever book I’m reading and have brought on a hike lately).


Comments (1)

Thanks Kyle
I ordered the book. Also, was inspired by the link to locals support of COVID19 during lockdown

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