Frederick E. (Fred) Hoxie
Place of Birth:
Island of Moloka’i in Hawai’i
Punahou School, Honolulu. (No, I was not in Obama’s class. I graduated in 1965; he in 1979.)
Why did you choose to come to Amherst?
I loved American history. I was fascinated by the American Studies readers on key subjects in American history that we used in my AP history class. I had a teacher who went to Williams who urged me to consider Williams, Wesleyan or Amherst (he never said what he thought of my choice). No one from Punahou had gone to Amherst in a long time so I thought I could do something original by going there. (I saw the campus for the first time the day I moved in to Pratt Hall.)
Most memorable or most influential class at Amherst:
Too many. Early on: American Studies, back when it was a large, team taught class. The theme was race and slavery. The fall was devoted to the 19th century—slavery , reconstruction; the spring to race in the twentieth century that ended with a forum on race with several civil rights leaders present. Later on: during senior year, a “revolutionary” class on reading and writing that we persuaded Kim Townsend and several other professors to “teach”. It was an exploration of student centered learning and educational reform. It was the sixties at its best.
Most memorable or most influential) professor:
N. Gordon Levin, Jr.
American social and political history, Native American history, the history of the Pacific.
Awards and Prizes:
2013 Caughey Prize for best book in Western History (from the Western History Association), elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2013. Other prizes: Rockefeller Humanities, NEH, and Mellon Fellowships. American Indian History Lifetime Achievement Award (2012).
The Education of Henry Adams
Michael Ondaatje, Hilary Mantel, the list gets very long but they are on top right now.
Tips for aspiring writers?
1. Be specific and concrete. Events and people can best be understood in nuance, indecision, or confusion. 2. Eliminate 30-50% of your words between rough draft and finished product. 3. Ask yourself: what is this about? (I don’t always follow this advice.)
Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an author.
I learned to write by writing and having wonderful teachers edit and correct me. The process of writing and rewriting never ends and for me, that process has always required a sounding board. I need to present work in progress to colleagues. I read it out loud to my wife (she is very patient). I read it out loud to myself. As I wrote my way through graduate school I began to enjoy it and I began to believe I had something to say that was original. And I thought I could write with some style and precision. I have tried to keep that idea in my head in the years since. I don’t always succeed. Writing is at once the most difficult and the most rewarding thing I do by myself. If you include things I do with others, it would come in a close second in difficulty to parenting and just ahead of golf.