Gyasi Ross is a member of the Blackfeet Nation and his family also comes from the Suquamish Nation of the Port Madison Indian Reservation where he resides. Aside from being a father, lawyer and a filmmaker, the ever-busy Ross has found time to write two books. His latest, “How to Say I Love You in Indian” (Cut Bank Creek Press) comes out today. Here, he talks about real love, feminism via bell hooks and fatherhood.
The title of your book, “How to Say I Love You in Indian,” might confuse people. What do you mean by it?
Well, there are a lot of fluent speakers of the Blackfoot language in my family, and my grandparents or really most people in my family will say they’re speaking in Indian. That’s just the way old folks speak, and that’s who I was raised by, by grandparents and great aunties and uncles.
What about the love part of the title?
Poor people have different ways of communication, different kinds of love that are not part of materialistic culture. Expressing love isn’t about a Hallmark card. … It’s not about convenience. It’s not always about being vocal and poetic about love, it’s about taking care of each other—like cooking. One of the stories in the book is about stew and how it’s representative of love for a lot of poor people, and Indian people specifically. We always had the worst cuts of meat and the worst ingredients, but through those ingredients, time, love and secret sauce, it turned into a beautiful stew. That’s what the title of the book is all about: physical manifestations of love and the symbols of our love within Native culture.