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Cover of Telling a Good One co-authored by Kathleen Mullen Sands
December 2000
University of Nebraska Press

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Telling a Good One

The Process of a Native American Collaborative Biography
Theodore Rios
Kathleen Mullen Sands

"Telling a Good One" is the first comprehensive examination of the collaborative process that creates a Native American life story. Kathleen Mullen Sands draws on her partnership with the late Theodore Rios, a Tohono O'odham (formerly Papago) narrator, to address crucial issues surrounding the inscribing of a life story.

Sands examines the creative, critical and cultural processes behind this increasingly popular mode of self-expression. The impetus, initial negotiations, interview process, narrative content and style, and the editing and interpretation phases of a Native American life story are all given equal scrutiny. Of particular interest are Sands' successes and failings as a collaborator and the influence of Tohono O'odham culture and its tradition of storytelling on Rios's actions and words. Sands examines the effects of her personal background and academic training on her actions and decisions, how her experiences compare with other collaborative autobiographies and biographies and the role of academia and publishers in shaping expectations about the content and format of Native American biographies and autobiographies.


Kathleen "Kay" Mullen Sands was professor of English at ASU from 1977–2003. Sands passed away in 2018.

Praise for this book

"(Sands') book should prove immensely valuable to anyone working on a collaborative autobiography, engaging in fieldwork or conducting oral histories."

Nancy Shoemaker