“The world begins at a kitchen table.” So writes the Muscogee poet Joy Harjo in a valediction to her anthology of Native American women’s writing, Reinventing the Enemy’s Language. That book began its life in 1988 as the flicker of an idea teased out over coffee: anthologies of Indigenous literature were few enough as it was, but none was devoted to the work of Native women despite the outpouring of their work that had followed the 1977 publication of Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Ceremony.

“That was in the days before the internet, and email was a new thing,” recalls Harjo in a recent phone conversation. “My student and colleague Gloria Bird and three graduate assistants made lists of women writers we wanted to include. But we also took out notices in tribal newspapers around the United States and Canada, finding new communities of writers.”

That work took a decade. Some submissions arrived quickly, recruited from emerging writers who had studied with Harjo and other Native teachers. One was the now-eminent Diné (Navajo) poet Luci Tapahonso, another a young Laguna writer named Debra Haaland Toya, who is now the U.S. secretary of the Interior. Some, like Harjo herself (who would go on to become the nation’s poet laureate), were rising figures in the literary constellation: Louise Erdrich had won the National Book Critics Circle Award for her novel Love Medicine; Linda Hogan completed her third book; Paula Gunn Allen was emerging as an important literary historian, biographer, and poet. But most contributors were relatively new to writing and publishing, and the anthology shines with the excitement that comes with the discovery of unknown talent.

Cultural truths and imperatives emerge from the pages of Reinventing the Enemy’s Language, and the enemy, it would seem, is patriarchal power and violence, the destruction of old ways and words—all things that figure in these pages. The Diné poet Laura Tohe counsels against seeking perfection at the cost of blocking the “doorway leading from [a creator’s] heart.” The Ojibwa activist Winona LaDuke writes vividly of women’s resistance to male violence. And many of the writers celebrate their “aunties,” the wise women of the community. Memorably, the Choctaw writer Scott Kayla Morrison observes that while she’s not sure about the old belief that people’s bones speak to each other in the grave, she has, after much deliberation, chosen a cemetery that will allow her to “be near my aunts so I could spend the next five hundred years in their company.”

A quarter-century on, Reinventing the Enemy’s Language remains in print, considered a classic and widely taught in Native American literature classes. In the years since, nothing has come along to replace its multicultural blend of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, which leads Joy Harjo to muse about whether it might be time for a second edition. Certainly email, the internet, word of mouth, and the heightened visibility of new Indigenous writers would make the job easier than it was the first time around. One thing seems certain: If a new edition is born, it will take life on a kitchen table somewhere out in the world.

Gregory McNamee is a contributing editor.

Above, from left: Louise Erdrich (Photo by Paul Emmel), Deb Haaland (Hutton Supancic/Getty Images for SXSW), Leslie Marmon Silko (from the author), Joy Harjo (J. Vespa/WireImage), Luci Taphahanso (University of Arizona Press), Wilma Mankiller (Peter Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images), Winona LaDuke (Stephen Olker/Getty Images for SXSW)