Skip to main navigation Skip to main content


Layli Long Soldier
WHEREAS her birth signaled the responsibility as mother to teach what it is to be Lakota therein the question: what did I know about being Lakota? Signaled panic, blood rush my embarrassment. What did I know of our language but pieces? Would I teach her to be pieces. Until a friend comforted, Don’t worry, you and your daughter will learn together. Today she stood sunlight on her shoulders lean and straight to share a song in Diné, her father’s language. To sing she motions simultaneously with her hands I watch her be in multiple musics.

—from “WHEREAS Statements”
WHEREAS confronts the coercive language of the United States government in its responses, treaties, and apologies to Native American peoples and tribes, and reflects that language in its officiousness and duplicity back on its perpetrators. Through a virtuosic array of short lyrics, prose poems, longer narrative sequences, resolutions, and disclaimers, Layli Long Soldier has created a brilliantly innovative text to examine histories, landscapes, her own writing, and her predicament inside national affiliations. “I am,” she writes, “a citizen of the United States and an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, meaning I am a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation—and in this dual citizenship I must work, I must eat, I must art, I must mother, I must friend, I must listen, I must observe, constantly I must live.” This strident, plaintive book introduces a major new voice in contemporary literature.

Share Title

Publication Date
Trim Size
7 x 9
The astonishing, powerful debut by the winner of a 2016 Whiting Writers' Award

About the Author

Layli  Long Soldier
Layli Long Soldier is the author of WHEREAS. She is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a Native Arts and Cultures Foundation National Artist Fellowship, and a Whiting Award. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
More by author

Upcoming Events

Layli Long Soldier reading at Syracuse University as part of the Raymond Carver Reading Series

Syracuse Univ in Syracuse, NYview map
Preceded by a Q&A session from 3:45-4:30 PM. Location: Gifford Auditorium, HBC Building (Huntington Beard Crouse).

Layli Long Soldier reading at Just Buffalo Reading Center

Just Buffalo Reading Center in Buffalo, NYview map
Reading with Eric Gansworth.

Heid E. Erdrich and Layli Long Soldier appearing at Performance Space New York

Performance Space New York in New York, NYview map
Appearing with Gwen Westerman and Laura Ortman. Doors open at 6:00 PM. Please RSVP to this free event.

Graywolf at 45: Poetry reading co-sponsored by the Poetry Society of America

National Arts Club in New York, NYview map

A poetry reading featuring Catherine Barnett (Human Hours), Ilya Kaminsky (Deaf Republic), Layli Long Soldier (WHEREAS), Vijay Seshadri (3 Sections), and Monica Youn (Blackacre). Co-sponsored by the Poetry Society of America and hosted by PSA Executive Director Alice Quinn.

Free and open to the public, with reception to follow.


  • Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry
    Winner of the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award
    Finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry
    Finalist for the John Leonard Prize
  • “Using elliptical prose, blank spaces, crossed-out text, and Lakota words, Long Soldier articulates both her identity and her literary undertaking.”The New Yorker
  • “Layli Long Soldier’s lyrical first book, WHEREAS, explores the freedom real apologies can bring—and offers entry points for us all to histories that are not merely about the past.”—Krista Tippett, “On Being”
  • “[WHEREAS] reminded me what careful language can do. It made me recommit to writing . . . and made me believe again in the power of writing and the truths that it can reveal for people and what that remembering and honoring the truth can do for the individual, but also for the group, for all of us.”—Jesmyn Ward, The New York Times Magazine
Back to Table of Contents