Baker Books
Hattie Kauffman, the first American Indian to broadcast on national news, has won many Emmys and has now penned a memoir, Falling Into Place.

Native Journalist's Memoir of Overcoming: 'Falling Into Place'

Jenni Monet

Waywardly, Kauffman treats her life as her mother and father often did theirs, with violent self-destruction. At age 15 she receives her first right hook from Sonny, a Native American boy who lives in Seattle’s Beacon Hill district. That’s where the Kauffman family had relocated after leaving the projects in the late 1960s. Kauffman and Sonny’s crazed teenage love leads to young marriage and two children. But after one party turns violent enough to threaten Kauffman’s and her children’s lives, she finds herself facing her first divorce.

Although the overall narrative takes on a darker tone, Kauffman’s account of her siblings provides levity in the form of storied humor. But when later, when Kauffman is 35, admitting she’s an alcoholic and taking on AA’s 12-step program, she is seemingly all alone. Her mother and father have both passed away, as has her older brother John, who also recovered in AA.

It’s at this point that Kauffman begins to share her true awakening to Christ, turning the clock forward to present-day Los Angeles. In 1991 Kauffman is contemplating Step Three: to make a decision to turn one’s life and will over to God.

“I did not know who God was. I knew I was Native American and that we were supposed to believe in the powers of nature,” she writes. And so, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, she wedges an eagle feather between the red rocks and declares, “ ‘I turn my life and my will over to God’ … not understanding at all what I was doing.”

Gradually the pieces of Kauffman’s plot fall into place, apropos to her title. It is everywhere and all things—from the summers she spent on the Nez Perce Reservation with her grandparents, to her first international journey to Mexico, where she is touched by Aunt Teddy’s many acts of kindness.

Many people along the way imbue Kauffman’s story with meaning. There is, for instance, the unknown author who scribbled amid the scriptures of a secondhand bible. Kauffman purchased the book on the eve of her second divorce settlement, not knowing that the marked passages would give her the guidance she needed to officially face the end of her 17-year-long marriage.

“How improbable it was that some person had made these particular notations,” Kauffman wondered. “That I happened to be in on that particular day, in my unique situation.”

Written in economic and engaging style, Falling Into Place is laced with memorable characters, and its delivery of multilayered stories lends depth to Kauffman’s soul-searching depiction of the meaning of family. Here are strong and resilient people struggling to overcome all that life has thrown at them, chronicled by a professional storyteller trained at getting to the guts of the human experience.

"If you think you're falling apart, you're falling into place,” she told KASA-TV in Albuquerque earlier this month. 


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