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About Deborah

Deborah Taffa is the director of the MFA CW program at IAIA. Winner of the PEN Jean Stein Grant, her memoir WHISKEY TENDER is forthcoming from HARPERCOLLINS HARPER in 2023. A MacDowell, Hedgebrook, Tin House, & Kranzberg Fellow, she’s from the Quechan Nation and earned her MFA in Iowa City.
Deborah Taffa née Jackson is the Director of the MFA in Creative Writing at IAIA (Institute of American Indian Arts) in Santa Fe, NM. Deborah grew up in a Navajo Nation border town in the northwest corner of the state, and now splits her time between Santa Fe and Saint Louis.
deborahtaffa on Instagram “Day 1 of IAIA’s MFA July residency a beautiful desert rain.”

A citizen of the Quechan (Yuma) Nation and Laguna Pueblo, Deborah earned her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Prior to her job at IAIA, she taught Creative Nonfiction at Webster University and Washington University in Saint Louis.

She also served as an Executive Board Member with the Missouri Humanities Council where she was instrumental in creating a Native American Heritage Program in the state.

Deborah’s memoir manuscript won the SFWP Literary Prize in December, 2019. In 2021, the work-in-progress was awarded a PEN America/Jean Stein Grant for Literary Oral History. She has also won awards from Tin House, MacDowell, Ellen Meloy Fund, A Public Space, New York Summer Writers Institute, WNDB, and the Kranzberg Arts Foundation.

She serves as the co-president of the literary magazine, River Styx. Her writing can be found at The Rumpus, Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, A Public Space, Salon, Huff Post, Prairie Schooner, The Best Travel Writing, The Best of Brevity: Twenty Groundbreaking Years of Flash Nonfiction, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading, et cetera.

Her play, “Parents Weekend,” was performed at the Autry Theater’s 8th Annual Short Play Festival in Los Angeles in 2018, and “Digadohi,” a documentary she co-wrote with Stratigraphic Productions, can be found streaming on local PBS channels.

As a performer, Deborah has had the incredible honor of reading a series of poetic interludes for the Chaco Symphony featuring the Grammy nominated flautist, R. Carlos Nakai.

Their performance at the Lincoln Center in 2020 was canceled due to the pandemic.

She can be reached at or followed on Twitter @deborahtaffa.


  • Co-writer with Stratigraphic Productions, “Digadohi: Lands, Cherokee, and the Trail of Tears”
  • Official Film Selection of the International Cinema of Archeology in Rovereto, Italy
  • Official Film Selection of the Tribal Film Festival 2019 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma
  • Co-writer for PBS Season 3: America From The Ground Up


  • Tin House Fellow 2021
  • MacDowell Residency Awarded 2021
  • Kranzberg Arts Fellow 2021
  • Fellowship @APublicSpace
  • Grand Prize, SFWP Literary Award (chosen by Carmen Maria Machado)
  • Ellen Meloy Desert Writer’s Award
  • STL Regional Arts Commission Award
  • Leif J Sverdrup Global Teaching Award
  • Graduate Dean’s Fellow, University of Iowa
  • Elizabeth Furber Fine Arts Fellow, AIGC
  • Mimi Bresner Fellow, NY Writers Institute

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