Summer Reads 2020

"The History in My Blood" / "Something Sweet"

Excerpts from Mehta’s book Bad Indian, available now.

By J. C. Mehta August 1, 2020 Published in the August 2020 issue of Portland Monthly

Image: Molly Mendoza

The History in My Blood

Indian blood is precious, every

drop counts. Me, I’m whitewashed

so I lean hard

on that tribal card and papers

from the BIA. Look, here’s proof!

Evidence of my Native-ness, and suddenly

I’m something special. I can go

to the free Indian clinic, get my teeth

polished with my blood. I picked up

a smattering of scholarships,

all little, but still

it was my descent that splattered

the applications. I check “other”

on all those forms that list White

Black Hispanic Asian and forget about Indians. Like

we were never here.

like we’ve forgotten. Ridiculous,

we remember everything.

It’s here, in our veins, our arteries, rushing

to and from our hearts because we,

we’re marked as Other. Different.

And they’re thirsty for the red stuff.

Something Sweet

Do you want something sweet?

Your toddler came at me like a bacchanal,

mouth open with desire. Imagine

being that trusting, certain

that what was placed on your tongue would please,

the sugar grains scrubbing down your palate,

the ghee melting like perfection down your throat.


Kadri didn’t know I called the besan ladoo sandballs,

that they required the perfect mix of chickpea

and kadalai maavu, that the elachi was the secret

or that you had to sieve the flour just right. All he knew


was that sweet was something good, that hands

were made for his pleasure. Imagine

being that naïve, the beauty in opening your mouth.

—From Bad Indian By J. C. Mehta. Mehta is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a native Oregonian.

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