Florida Seminole Tourism

What Makes A Monster? Rogers’ Darkly Stunning Man Made Monsters

Welcome back to Florida Seminole Tourism’s Summer Book Club! Throughout June, we have been exploring and sharing just a small fraction of fiction novels written and illustrated by Native authors. So far, we have looked at Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Nobel MaillardPowwow Day by Traci Sorell, Tim Tingle’s How I Became a Ghost, A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger, and most recently Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley. Today, we explore a collection of stories by Andrea L. Rogers in Man Made Monsters. On the book dustcover for Man Made Monsters, Pulitzer Prize finalist author Tommy Orange, who Rogers credits as a mentor in her Afterword, is quoted saying: “The book is fun, funny, and dead-serious.” Equal parts heart wrenching, touching, and horrific Man Made Monsters is a dazzling blend of snippets in one family’s history. Each one leads us to ask the fundamental question: what makes a monster?

Like some of our previously shared selections, we encourage readers to take caution and be aware of the trigger warnings for Man Made Monsters. This is a horror anthology, and with that comes certain imagery that some readers may find disturbing.


Man Made Monsters by Andrea L. Rogers

In Man Made Monsters, Rogers weaves a stunning story-of-many-stories. Broken up into eighteen short stories, there are overarching themes, details, and characters that thread each story together to frame a larger picture. Following a single family over centuries, Man Made Monsters bears witness to generational trauma, pain, violence, and the resilience that comes from family, community, and culture.

The first story, set in 1839, centers around sixteen-year-old Ama Wilson and her mother and siblings as they try and follow their community to Indian Territory. Present throughout the collection is a historic framing. Rogers places these stories of werewolves, vampires, water monsters, and ghosts in between moments of historic significance for the Cherokee people. And it begins right from the start, as Ama Wilson and her family try to follow the footsteps of their broken community.

In a 2022 interview with the Cherokee Phoenix, Rogers explains why she started where she did. “So, it starts in 1839, which is a pretty important year for Cherokees because it was the year we were illegally removed from our homeland.” Rogers shares, “But it’s also the year that in Texas, Chief Bowls (Cherokee) and his band were massacred just outside of Dallas. And so that’s actually where the book starts is in Texas.”

This first story, in the context of this family, is the first fracture-point. Rogers ends this first vignette with Ama’s musings about her own potential monstrous behavior. Ama states: “My Tsalagi family had tried to escape to Indian Territory in order to survive, in order to live with our people and be left alone. Still, treaties were broken, and we were chased down by human monsters, monsters who lived on blood and sorrow. Blood is thick salt water – the life-fluid of the earth. Water, blood, power, life. I was once unconscious of these things, but now they are everything. There are plenty of bad men to feed on, and that is what I decided to do.” (17-18)


Interconnecting Threads

Man Made Monsters spans generations of the Wilson family, from Ama Wilson in 1839 to Charlotte Henry in 2039. Two hundred years of one family navigating cultural loss, displacement, generational trauma, and tragedy. Rogers weaves their stories with stories of monsters from Cherokee storytelling, or new monsters invented by Rogers herself. Werewolves, vampires, zombies, aliens; all of these we recognize as ‘monsters’ from our nightmares.

But, more subtly threaded throughout are monsters of a different variety. We see stories of child neglect and abuse, residential boarding schools, war, intimate partner violence, medical experimentation, rape, poverty, and suffering. The protagonist in one story fades to time as we turn the page, and becomes the mother, grandmother, or ancestor of the protagonist in the next. Through this, we see the trickle-down effect of generational trauma, and the scars burned into the family tree from one generation to the next.

As the family tree branches out further, we see those fractures separating and distancing more and more of the Wilson family members from their community and culture. Amidst the trauma and tragedy that is found in each story, we gain more understanding into the question: what makes a monster? Is it a werewolf? A zombie? Or, is it something closer to home? Something more real, and therefore much more terrifying?

In the first story, Ama, quite literally, becomes a monster. But, as we navigate 200 years of the family tree, and witness their stories and experiences, we can see that the real monsters are not the werewolves or ghosts. Those entities provide balance; returning in some ways the natural order. The monsters we should be scared of are more subtle, and much more terrifying.


Rogers’ Cherokee Final Girl

In a 2022 Interview with AJ Eversole for Cynsations, Roger’s was asked what the heart of Man Made Monsters was. She responded: “I think it’s the spirit of the Cherokee Final Girl. I needed one, so I wrote one. I have daughters and I want them to outlive me. I’m a citizen of a tribe, and I want it to survive me. I want our language to thrive. If you look at films about Native people, we’re in the past or we’re ghosts or “the last of.” In reality, we’re still here. We’re not going anywhere.” The Final Girl horror trope refers to the last girl or woman left alive at the end, a survivor. Man Made Monsters, which follows the winding path of the branches of a Cherokee family over time, ends in the future. In this last story, Charlie, a young girl, lives in a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies.

After losing her mother and sister, Charlie finds herself a home within a group of other Cherokee survivors. She ends with a lesson, what generations of her family have poured in her to guide her story. She says:

“Like so many of my ancestors before me, my parents and grandparents could only guide me from within now. But I had a community. I was learning our language, our history, the things that had been schooled out of so many of my ancestors…. There were people who understood being Cherokee together was more important than being Cherokee apart. Before me there would be a life-time of choices that would bring me into balance with the world, or make me a threat to the balance of my community. My mother was no longer here to tell me what to do, how to be, assign me lessons in our language. The rest of my life is on me.” (315)


Discussion Questions

  1. Is Ama a monster? Compare her from the first story to the last. What is the goal of her life? How does she protect her family throughout time?
  2. Rogers uses a number of interconnecting themes and images that are present in all of the stories in the collection. In the beginning, Ama talks about the “life-fluid of the earth. Water, blood, power, life.” (18). How do elements like water, blood, and salt show up in these stories? How does Rogers use these images to further the story and connect the different vignettes together?
  3. What does Ama’s name mean?
  4. Research rabbits in Cherokee storytelling. Why are there so many rabbits in Rogers’ stories?
  5. Choose one story and dive deep into the historic context of that time for the Cherokee people. What was happening at that time? How does it influence the story? Who are the monsters?


About Andrea L. Rogers

From Tulsa, Oklahoma, Andrea L. Rogers is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Rogers graduated with an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. She has had a number of publications across genres, including short essays, picture books, and young adult novels. Her first book, Mary and the Trail of Tears, was on both the NPR & American Indians in Children’s Literature Best of 2020 lists. It is historic fiction, “which is pretty much horror for Native people.”

In the 2022 Cynsations interview we looked at above, Rogers shared her love for horror, and why she chose to write horror stories for young adults. “I loved scary books when I was a kid. I guess I never really stopped. It was hard to find work that was age appropriate and, like many other readers, I read what was available instead. Sometimes that wasn’t the best thing for my still-young heart and brain,” Rogers explained. “For a long time, there wasn’t a whole lot to scaffold up to, especially work that took the feelings of BIPOC kids into consideration. In writing for this audience, I write stories I would have liked to have curled up with on dark and stormy nights. But when I go back and edit, I keep my young adult reader front and center.”

In the Cherokee Phoenix interview in 2022, Rogers further explained that this love was rooted in a need for representation and a craving for good stories. “When I was a kid, I didn’t have any stories like this. People loved to write about Indians, but they weren’t publishing Cherokee people very often, especially for children. All they wanted was dead Indians, all they wanted was the people who are gone. We could only exist in the past,” Rogers said. “What that meant though is our Cherokee cultural values didn’t exist, our language didn’t exist in the stuff that I could find in the library. So, I read ghost stories. That was my thing I enjoyed.”

She has three recent and upcoming releases. A picture book about Southeastern tribes and wild onion dinners When We Gather was released in May 2024, and illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight (Chickasaw). Rogers will release her next young adult novel in Fall 2024. It is Cherokee futurism and called The Art Thieves. Rogers releases a second picture book, Chooch Helped, in October 2024 and illustrated by Rebeccan Kunz (Cherokee).

Andrea L. Rogers

About Jeff Edwards

Jeff Edwards is an award-winning Cherokee graphic artist and has worked for the Cherokee Nation for over two decades. From Vian, Oklahoma, Edwards is a language activist, and passionate about preserving and sharing the Cherokee language in his art. In Man Made Monsters, each story is accompanied by Edward’s illustrations, which incorporate language in each image. Edwards uses “Cherokee Syllabary opposed to English to promote the Cherokee language and likes using old cultural concepts but expressing them with modern electronic tools.” Included in the book at the end is a language page, which translates both words and phrases found throughout the stories as well as the syllabary we see in Edward’s work.

Rogers explained what it felt like to get Edwards to illustrate her stories. “I was absolutely stunned,” Rogers shared in the Cherokee Phoenix interview linked above “I was super lucky to be able to get Jeff Edwards to illustrate it. He would read the stories, and he would pull these threads out of it and every single illustration would just be perfect. I would read the translations of what he had written (in the Cherokee syllabary), and it was just perfect. I mean, he got it. He got me, he got the stories. Seeing those fantastic illustrations; it blew me away.”

In his Afterword, Edwards speaks directly to the concept of being or feeling Cherokee enough, and how the United States has tried to define and quantify that line. He writes that “Being Cherokee is knowing and practicing your culture, traditions, and language and contributing to the Cherokee Community, as a whole, every day, for your whole life. So, I regret to inform you that I am not a fraction…I am a Cherokee.”

Jeff Edwards

Looking for More?

Below, we have compiled a list of more Native written and illustrated books for young adult readers!

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline (Métis Nation of Ontario)

The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson (Dakota)

Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend by Erika T. Wurth (Apache/Chikasaw/Cherokee)

Murder on the Red River by Marcie R. Rendon (White Earth Nation)

Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones (Cree/Métis)


Author Bio

Originally from Washington state, Deanna Butler received her BA in Archaeological Sciences from the University of Washington in 2014. Deanna moved to Florida in 2016. Soon, she began working for the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office. Deanna was the THPO’s Archaeological Collections Assistant from 2017-2021. While at the THPO, Deanna worked to preserve, support, and process the Tribe’s archaeological collection. She often wrote the popular Artifact of the Month series and worked on many community and educational outreach programs. She lives in Lakeland, FL with her husband, two sons, and dog.

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