Magpie Earling was born in Spokane, Washington, on August 3, 1957.
She grew up in Montana as a part of the Bitterroot Salish Tribe,
also known as Flathead Indians, and she is a member of the Confederated
Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation
in Polson, Montana. Growing up, Earling heard stories about her
Aunt Louise, the woman who would later become the focus of her
novel Perma Red. Earling dropped out of school at fifteen. By
the time she married at seventeen, she had received her GED from
Spokane Community College. At eighteen, Earling became the first
public defender in the Tribal Justice System on the Flathead Reservation
in Montana. After two years of working in the Tribal Justice System,
she left the state to go to college.
attended the University of Washington in Seattle, where she became
interested in writing. She achieved her Bachelor of Arts in English,
which she completed in 1986 with Phi Beta Kappa honors, graduating
magna cum laude. As a Ford Doctoral Fellow, she studied at Cornell
University in New York from 1988-91, where she graduated with a
Masters in English. She went on to earn her Master of Fine Arts
in Fiction in 1992 at Cornell. From 1991 to 1998, Earling held positions
in both Native American Studies and Creative Writing at the University
of Montana in Missoula. Currently, she is an associate professor
in the English Department there and teaches fiction and Native American
work has appeared in Ploughshares, Northeast Indian Quarterly, and
many anthologies including Song of the Turtle; Contemporary Short
Stories Celebrating Women; Circle of Women; and >Talking Leaves:
An Anthology of Contemporary Native American Short Stories. Her
story most frequently included in anthologies is "The Old Wedding,"
an excerpt from Perma Red. In its review of her novel, The Denver
Post said of Earling, "Like Louise Erdrich, Earling has a mythic
quality in her writing that beautifully suits her tale. Earling
draws on her intimate knowledge of the vast and unforgiving country
and its people to weave this dark and moving tale" (quoted
in Perma Red).
Earling has published many short stories, Perma Red is her first
novel and has been receiving critical acclaim and awards ever since
its release in 2002. It received the Western Writers Association
Spur Award for Best Novel of the West in 2003, the Mountain and
Plains Bookseller Association Award, WWA's Medicine Pipe Bearer
Award for Best First Novel, a WILLA Literary Award, and the American
Book Award. It is a Montana Book Award Honor Book and was chosen
by Barnes and Noble as part of its "Discover Great New Writers"