Author Interview: Kim Rogers Discusses Impact of Historical Native Representation

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By AJ Eversole

Kim Rogers recently won the 2024 American Indian Youth Literature Award for her picture book A Letter For Bob, illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (Navajo)(Heartdrum, 2023) and the Charlotte Zolotow Award for her picture book Just Like Grandma,illustrated by Julie Flett (Cree–Métis) (Heartdrum, 2023).

Now she is bringing the world her first non-fiction picture book based on the life of U.S. Air Force General Clearance Tinker, for whom the Tinker Air Force Base in Midwest City, Okla. is named. I Am Osage: How Clearance Tinker Became The First Native American Major General, illustrated by Bobby Von Martin (Choctaw)(Heartdrum, 2024) was released in February.

What is the heart of I Am Osage?

The heart of I Am Osage is heritage. No matter the obstacles he faced during a time of forced assimilation, General Clarence Tinker held tight to his Osage heritage, and it ultimately paved his way to success.

General Tinker photo.

Where did the idea for this book come from? 

I was doing research at the Oklahoma Historical Society Research Center when I stumbled upon General Tinker’s bio. I was surprised when I found out that he was Osage and that Tinker Air Force Base was named in his honor. No one that I asked, including my husband who is a retired Air Force officer and still works on base, had ever heard of him. I knew then that I wanted to write this story to shine a light on General Tinker as an unsung Native military hero.

Also, I come from a military family. Six of my family members have been stationed at Tinker or have worked there in civilian jobs.

General Tinker display case at Tinker Air Force Base, Midwest City, Oklahoma.

What did you learn writing non-fiction rather than fiction?

I’ve learned that writing a non-fiction book can change a writer. Writing this book changed me. Like Clarence Tinker, my Wichita family was forced into Indian Boarding school as children and had their clothing, language and culture taken from them. Many of us deal with the inter-generational trauma that comes with colonization and forced assimilation. Writing this book helped heal me in many ways. You can read more about this in the author’s note.

Association on American Indian Affairs, 9th Annual Reparation Conference. With authors and fellow panelists Andrea Rogers, Angeline Boulley, and Green Feather Book Company owner, Heather Hall.

What are you hoping children take away from this book?

My hope is that Native children specifically will read this book and be proud of whatever tribal nation that they come from and see that their culture and values are important. My hope is that everyone who reads this book will see what a hero General Tinker was and that it will propel them to read about other unsung Native heroes.

How did you go about researching about Tinker?

I started online then visited several museums. I read everything that I could find. I wrote a rough outline, did more research and conducted a few in-person interviews to fill in what was missing. I rewrote the manuscript so many times that I lost count—until I finally figured out the right through line.

General Tinker photo.

Did you reach out to any descendants during your research?

In 2017, I interviewed General Tinker’s great niece in Pawhuska. It was great to talk to her in person. We shared stories and had a connection because of our own histories and the fact that both of us come from military families. To me, it’s important to talk to a family member of any potential subject that I’m writing about.

How difficult did you find the research project?

I didn’t find the research difficult at all. In fact, I love research. The most difficult part is knowing when to stop. It’s fascinating to dig deep and learn hidden information about an unsung hero’s life.

Congrats flowers for recent awards.

What’s next for you?

My next picture book, Mother Earth’s Song, comes out in Summer 2026 with Heartdrum/HarperCollins. This is a lyrical ode to the passing of the seasons and Mother Earth’s beauty, illustrated by Mary Beth Timothy who is Cherokee. I love her art and can’t wait to see her beautiful illustrations.

Next, I have a poem included in The Mistakes That Made Us: Confessions from Twenty Poets, edited by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Mercè López (Carolrhoda Books, 2024) that comes out this October. In the meantime, I am still working on books in various stages.

Riley the Chihuahua hogging Kim’s reading chair.

Also, after the unexpected loss of our beloved Chiweenie dog, I am thrilled to say that I have a new writing partner. In December, we brought our new Chihuahua puppy home. Our youngest son named him Riley after one of his favorite video game military dog heroes. He is a demanding but very sweet Velcro dog. To me, a home is not home without a dog by my side. May we write many books together!

Cynsational Notes

Kim Rogers writes books, short stories, and poems for young readers. She is the author of Just Like Grandma, illustrated by Julie Flett that won the 2024 Charlotte Zolotow Award; A Letter for Bob, illustrated by Jonathan Nelson that won the 2024 American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Award; and I Am Osage: How Clarence Tinker became the First Native American Major General, illustrated by Bobby Von Martin, all with HarperCollins/Heartdrum.

She is a contributor to Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids (HarperCollins/Heartdrum, 2021). The cover, illustrated by Nicole Neidhardt, was inspired by Jessie, the protagonist in her short story, “Flying Together.” Her poem, “What is a Powwow” is also included. Kim is an enrolled member of Wichita and Affiliated Tribes and is a member of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. Much of her current writing highlights her Wichita heritage. She lives with her family on her tribe’s ancestral homelands in Oklahoma.

AJ Eversole covers children’s-YA writing, illustration, publishing, and other book news from Indigenous authors and illustrators for Cynsations. She grew up in rural Oklahoma, a place removed from city life and full of opportunities to nurture the imagination. She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and writes primarily young adult fiction. AJ currently resides in Fort Worth, Texas; with her family. Follow her on Instagram @ajeversole or on Twitter @amjoyeversole.