This collection, from 2015 Wallace Stevens Award winner Joy Harjo, gathers poems from throughout Harjo’s twenty-eight-year career, beginning with poems from Harjo’s first two chapbooks, The Last Song (Puerto del Sol Press, 1975) and What Moon Drove Me to This (I. Reed Books, 1979), through her collection A Map to the Next World: Poems and Tales (W. W. Norton, 2000), as well as new, previously unpublished poems. In the poems, Harjo draws from themes and stories of her Creek heritage, addressing questions of the power of nature and spirituality, as well as the complicated history of America’s indigenous peoples.
Publishers Weekly writes that How We Became Human “show[s] the remarkable progression of a writer determined to reconnect with her past and make sense of her present, drawing together the brutalities of contemporary reservation life with the beauty and sensibility of Native American culture and mythology.”
How We Became Human also includes contextual notes on some of the poems and an introduction by Harjo herself. In 2016, Harjo's collection was selected for the National Endowment for the Arts initiative the Big Read.