Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

Chickasaw writer pens first romantic comedy

Danica Nava admits her first novel, "The Truth According to Ember," is at least partly autobiographical.

Nava, a Chickasaw citizen, weaves a contemporary romantic comedy in which Ember, the story's lead character, lands a coveted job based on what seems to be a relatively minor but necessary fib.

Ember checks "Caucasian" on the employment application to obscure the fact she is a First American. This and the fact she has no real experience to qualify for the position soon finds her lies comically multiplying to keep it.

Nava says her own work-seeking travails are reflected in Ember.

"This is what I've encountered when trying to get a job after graduating from college," Nava said. "The ethnicity question is mandatory on all applications, and I wanted everyone to know I am a Chickasaw woman.

"It took me seven years to earn my bachelor's degree, and I was able to go to college with the help of the Chickasaw Nation. I come from very humble beginnings, and the tribe helped me get my paralegal certificate. I get emotional about it. I would not be where I am today without the Chickasaw Nation. I feel so blessed about my connection with my tribe," she said.

"I was trying to get these coveted positions and was having no luck getting any interviews in southern California, and when I moved to Chicago, it was the same thing. I started getting desperate."

She says only after checking the "Caucasian" box did she start getting interviews with large corporations. Upon learning the truth of her Chickasaw heritage, she says an executive at the company she worked with in Chicago expressed genuine surprise she had gained such a high position with the firm.

"I couldn't believe someone would say that to me. I felt inspired and thought, OK, how would a girl (soon to be the fictional Ember) who had never worked in a corporate setting, not knowing what she's doing, handle it? This is comedy gold," Nava said.

"I love storytelling, especially romance. I love romantic comedies but never see any Native American characters in any of these popular stories. That's why, when I wrote this novel, I wanted to show us.

"The funniest people I've ever encountered were my family and my Native friends who come from various tribes. Sometimes we do come from humble beginnings or broken homes, but that doesn't mean we're not worthy of a love story and living happily ever after. We deserve to be there.

"I thought, I'm a writer. What is the story I would tell? How about somebody like me who couldn't get a job for a long time until I checked this box. This ethnicity question, what does it even mean?"

Nava said though she has always been a storyteller, she never envisioned herself writing a novel.

A teacher at her community college and her husband saw what she did not, that she could achieve whatever she wanted.

"I never thought I would be somebody who would publish a book. I always felt like other people – better, smarter, richer – do that. My husband said, 'Why don't you just try?'"

At the time she was holding down a position with a high-tech firm, tending to her newborn child and attending University of Southern California Marshall School of Business classes at night to earn an MBA.

"I wrote 'The Truth According to Ember' in a fever dream almost," she said. "I had to steal time. I was staying up late. I had a newborn baby and was going to school and writing early in the mornings, late at night, on weekends after doing my homework, just trying to achieve my dream."

Nava says since her book deal announcement was published several aspiring First American writers have contacted her asking for advice, which she is glad to provide.

"If there are any writers who want to email me and ask for help, I am happy to do so and to help anyone else fulfill their dreams," she said.

"The Truth According to Ember" will be out Aug. 6, 2024, and is available for pre-order now at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Books a Million, BookShop.org, Hudson Booksellers, Powell's, Target and Walmart.

 

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