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Ceremony This is a first for me In the nearly 7 years I ve been on here, I ve never written a review like this I m actually not sure how many stars, if any to give this book not because I can t make up my mind but because this book is just so difficult to review.Plot Tayo is half Native American, half white He has returned from the war and is suffering from PTSD Tayo is an outcast because of his mixed race heritage His not being accepted has really taken an emotional toll on him Since he s come This is a first for me In the nearly 7 years I ve been on here, I ve never written a review like this I m actually not sure how many stars, if any to give this book not because I can t make up my mind but because this book is just so difficult to review.Plot Tayo is half Native American, half white He has returned from the war and is suffering from PTSD Tayo is an outcast because of his mixed race heritage His not being accepted has really taken an emotional toll on him Since he s come back, he s struggling with PTSD, yet he yearns to learnabout his heritage and fill a void within himself The person whom he was closest to, his Uncle Josiah is dead This forces Tayo to mature and really understand what it means to be Native American.What complicates this is that Tayo is very unreliable in parts His memory jumps around, he hallucinates, his sense of time is off Obviously, this makes it incredibly difficult to jump into the story Much of the story is told in a non linear fashion side note many Native American stories and legends are told in this fashion because the Native Americans had a very different sense of time , making this book even harder to review.Much of the story itself is complicated by the factors mentioned above but the character of Tayo is so troubled and complex I honestly don t think I ve really encountered a character like Tayo Though, it is worth noting that many of the side characters are very well developed so that does make it a bit easier.Silko s writing is not for the faint of heart She doesn t tell this in chapters but in increments with a Native American folktale acting as a buffer of sorts Is she a bad writer No Is she difficult to understand Absolutely I ve never encountered a writer like her someone who writes well, is difficult to decipher yet, really can t be categorized beyond that you d really have to read this book to know what I m talking about So, what can be made of this author I m sure many years and re reads down the line I ll have an answer to that, but for now she s in a league of her own that I can confidently say.My professor told me that he read this multiple times over the years and is one of those books that absolutely must be read multiple times to be completely understood I wouldn t say read this, but I wouldn t say don t read this This books is an enigma in every sense of the word, so I ll leave you to make the choice whether or not to read it when i think about this book i picture heart cells putting their feelers out for each other, mending back together into one whole muscle capable of expansion and love this book moved me a friend of mine recommended this when i was trying to read another book written by a white shaman and having a really hard time with it there is no comparison this is a book about a man whose body, spirit, gut and mind are heaving with loss, and the slow careful path to being alive again nothing about t when i think about this book i picture heart cells putting their feelers out for each other, mending back together into one whole muscle capable of expansion and love this book moved me a friend of mine recommended this when i was trying to read another book written by a white shaman and having a really hard time with it there is no comparison this is a book about a man whose body, spirit, gut and mind are heaving with loss, and the slow careful path to being alive again nothing about this book is easy but there is a wholeness in it that is real, it is the way the world is, a full circle, a deep pattern i found myself so absorbed in the flow that i often found myself totally lost in terms of what had happened a few pages back, and would have to skip back and go okay, what s going on again it was a good exercise for my heart and mind to work together like that leslie marmom silko is a brilliant writer, tying together so many threads, the things that have been lost and stolen and buried and the ways that we swallow our own oppression so that we don t have to feel it and the relief at knowing that we re not crazy, that the way it feels inside is a real thing and there is a healing available to us even with all the pain i could relate to the main character s experience of dissolving into white smoke in the hospital and the feeling that it would be better to just return to that nothingness than to emerge into sunlight but he didn t, he stayed, he completed the pattern and he did emerge i feel a deep empathy for the characters and the real people who have to look at the land every day and know that it has been stolen i feel grateful for this book Tayo, a young Native American, has been a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, and the horrors of captivity have almost eroded his will to survive His return to the Laguna Pueblo reservation only increases his feeling of estrangement and alienation While other returning soldiers find easy refuge in alcohol and senseless violence, Tayo searches for another kind of comfort and resolution Tayo s quest leads him back to the Indian past and its traditions, to beliefs about witchcraft and evil, and to the ancient stories of his people The search itself becomes a ritual, a curative ceremony that defeats the most virulent of afflictions despair On the inside back flap of this edition of Ceremony, there is a series of praise quotes, including this from the New York Time Without question Leslie Marmon Silko is the most accomplished Native American writer of her generation On the back cover, Sherman Alexie writes, Ceremony is the greatest novel in Native American literature I get all tense with exasperation when I read these comments But then Sherman goes on to say what needs to be said about this novelIt is one of the g On the inside back flap of this edition of Ceremony, there is a series of praise quotes, including this from the New York Time Without question Leslie Marmon Silko is the most accomplished Native American writer of her generation On the back cover, Sherman Alexie writes, Ceremony is the greatest novel in Native American literature I get all tense with exasperation when I read these comments But then Sherman goes on to say what needs to be said about this novelIt is one of the greatest novels of any time and placeYes This When we pigeon hole writers, plugging their work into neat little categories for our convenience and understanding, we cost them potential readers This happens to women writers all the time there s even a genre known as women s fiction I know I get it I understand the definition and how and why the sub genre matters There is certain value in recognizing and celebration a canon of work that can be classified according to geography, culture, era, and gender, race, ethnicity But what if we were to remove Native American from those sentences above Without question Leslie Marmon Silko is the most accomplished writer of her generation Ceremony is the greatest novel in literature Does the praise then become hyperbole Does she really need to be compared to other Native American writers Can t Leslie Marmon Silko simply be a WRITER The racial and ethnic distinction strike me as a pat on the head And what I think happens is a novel as extraordinary as this gets shelved out of view that slim shelf high out of the way, Native American Literature when in fact it belongs front and center, on the American Literature or Classic Literature shelves, or simply, Literature Okay, getting off my soapbox now Let s talk about this exceptional novel Ceremony is a story of rejection and redemption, identity and independence, suffering and soul searching Tayo, a young soldier of mixed heritage, returns to the Laguna Pueblo Reservation after World War II He has survived the Bataan Death March through the Philippine jungle, but his emotional scars are infected with guilt and grief Although his uniform afforded him a grudging respect from his fellow citizens during wartime, now that he is again a civilian, he is once again demoted to filthy Indian statusFirst time you walked down the street in Gallup or Albuquerque, you knew Don t lie You knew right away The war was over, the uniform was gone All of a sudden that man at the store waits on you last, makes you wait until all the white people bought what they wantedAnd because he is not fully Laguna, his own people hold him at a distance with a certain hostility Tayo is splintered and isolated, and as he moves through this post war life, he seeks solace in a bottle, which sends him deeper into depression Through the wisdom of the past and the mythology of his Pueblo ancestors, Tayo is finally able to integrate his many selves into a whole that both defies and accepts his conflicting identities There is little that is linear in Ceremony Memory rocks back and forth, poetry and legend are woven through in rough and beautiful tapestries, vignettes of the present, even a change in point of view character, all keep the reader slightly off kilter and paying close attention The themes of cultural displacement and unity and the interconnectedness of human and nature are intense and resonate long after the final pages Silko s writing is dense and physical, with a deep sense of place and body Prose that is gorgeous and evocative, a style that is easy to get lost in, until you look up, bearings shaken, uncertain where you are or when The work of reading is challenging, but the rewards are vast Book Circle Reads 168Rating 2 of fiveThe Publisher Says Tayo, a young Native American, has been a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, and the horrors of captivity have almost eroded his will to survive His return to the Laguna Pueblo reservation only increases his feeling of estrangement and alienation While other returning soldiers find easy refuge in alcohol and senseless violence, Tayo searches for another kind of comfort and resolution.Tayo s quest leads him back to the Indian Book Circle Reads 168Rating 2 of fiveThe Publisher Says Tayo, a young Native American, has been a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, and the horrors of captivity have almost eroded his will to survive His return to the Laguna Pueblo reservation only increases his feeling of estrangement and alienation While other returning soldiers find easy refuge in alcohol and senseless violence, Tayo searches for another kind of comfort and resolution.Tayo s quest leads him back to the Indian past and its traditions, to beliefs about witchcraft and evil, and to the ancient stories of his people The search itself becomes a ritual, a curative ceremny that defeats the most virulent of afflictions despair.My Review Pleasant phrase making in service of mundane plot It s by no means a bad book, in fact it s a nice enough novel and I am not sorry I read it.If Leslie Marmon Silko was a Caucasian lady, or worse yet a Caucasian man, this would ve been a midlist novel and would today, almost forty years later, be completely forgotten Rightly so It s a perfectly nice first novel, it s a story we all like returning hero is so badly damaged as to be paralyzed emotionally, finds himself by reconnecting to his deep roots and confronting his past , and it s been very very well edited and honed and massaged into shape.It isn t a classic, sorry to say in the face of so much praise for it over the years, and it s not one bit better than A Farewell to Arms his best book or The Naked and the Dead or The Yellow Birds or Phoenix Rising.It s a perfectly decent novel Except, well, except I really don t buy the dialogue, it s poetical speechifyin and not dialogue Pretty it is, speech it ain t Josiah said that only humans had to endure anything, because only humans resisted what they saw outside themselves Animals did not resist But they persisted, because they became part of the wind So they moved with the snow, became part of the snowstorm which drifted up against the trees and fences And when they died, frozen solid against a fence, with the snow drifted around their heads Ah, Tayo, Josiah said, the wind convinced them they were the ice Lovely But that little tag is part of the writing, not a character like Uncle Josiah speaking He s a stock character with speeches like this, The Wise Old Injun.Well, anyway, I didn t like it that much I suppose most of my impatience is with the way the novel is venerated Sheesh This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License Like the other Native pop novelists of the 60 s and 70 s, Silko s voice is competent when not distracted by over reaching, and like the others, she spins a story which is vague enough to please She also never really escapes the fact that her depiction of Native culture is thoroughly westernized.Her monomyth is tied up with enough Native American spirituality to make it feel new and mystical at least to outsiders it was even criticized for giving away cultural secrets It is somewhat tellin Like the other Native pop novelists of the 60 s and 70 s, Silko s voice is competent when not distracted by over reaching, and like the others, she spins a story which is vague enough to please She also never really escapes the fact that her depiction of Native culture is thoroughly westernized.Her monomyth is tied up with enough Native American spirituality to make it feel new and mystical at least to outsiders it was even criticized for giving away cultural secrets It is somewhat telling that many of these secrets have been so subjugated by colonialism that what she shares never really feels new Though this doesn t mean that what she shared didn t still feel private to her and her tribe.The spiritual philosophy of New Agism aims to recapture a pre Christian view Unfortunately, the cultures held up as examples of this are already too colonized to provide much of a glimpse into that past Often, the only references to their practices were recorded by Christian authors, and any currently living members have had to practice their traditions under that influence.The Native Americans do have this unbroken lineage though they are not free from the influence of the slavery, exile, and attempted conversions of the west This sets them apart from all of the European Pagans, especially the Druids, for whom we have no good source of knowledge Most of New Age beliefs are simply a rejection of Christianity and an embrace of something often anything else.It does not help that such movements were started by egotistical self promoters like Crowley who cobbled together whatever seemed risque without much history or philosophy to connect them It is no less common for Native American beliefs to be overtaken in such a way and represented aspure and balanced than entrenched Western traditions Like most of New Agism, this is bunk made up to sell people things Native Americans were as expansive and destructive as any other peoples, and drove their share of animals to rarity and extinction Indeed, archaeological evidence indicates that the current native Americans came only as recently as several thousand years ago, and wiped out the older aborigine population that had called the Americas home for millennia Another archaeological excavation of some Southern Californian tribes showed that they were driving certain species of bird to extinction until the point when smallpox reached them and they themselves were wiped out.This isn t to say the Europeans saved the animals or any such thing, merely that there is likely no people that is in touch with nature To imagine such a thing is to try to remove one of the great difficulties of philosophy and replace it with a silly romantic notion Of course, this is the sort of thing people tend to be quite comfortable with, as philosophy is hard and pleasant ideas are easy.I would not fall so hard upon Silko as to suggest that she is such a blind idealist indeed, she often gives us moral ambiguity and difficulty This pessimism should be no surprise to anyone who is familiar with the current position of Natives poverty and hardship are understandably common themes in Native fiction.Silko s is an early work in the movement, and like many such, it struggles with finding a voice It is the mark of a strong author when they can conscientiously utilize and reject portions of a dominating culture in order to present a satire or redefinition of the relationship However, Silko may still be too steeped not only in the dominant culture but in its own ideas of the Native American to escape into somethingprofound.It may be that this American culture is too insidious and pervasive to provide the underprivileged with sufficient space to escape it, which may be why some of the Magical Realism coming out South America may work as a better cultural refutation that is, if you can find the relics of differing belief stashed in amongst the endless Catholic fetishism overlaid on top of those traditions.There are still important cultural differences to be found between the West and the First Nation peoples, but Silko is no anthropologist Perhaps she has fallen to the fallacy that growing up around something makes you an expert in it Unfortunately, our position in life often blinds us as much as it informs us A man can drive a car without knowing how to build one Like Achebe, Silko s work arrives colonized and westernized, immediately recognizable to anyone familiar with Western tradition And like Achebe, its concessions to native culture are mainly the savagery and unexplained mysticism that the West already projects onto it Here, then, is another book to make suburban housewives feel worldly and tolerant without really shaking up their assumptions, and which an award committee of high status Whites can condescend to give prizes to without actually forcing them to understand or confront cultural difference I m going to be thinking about this novel for a long time I don t understand its power I m not sure how it works The same actions and perceptions, throughout the novel, can be taken as signs of mental illness, or signs of mental clarity Time sequence is broken over and over again in the novel, and yet the movement of the story from beginning to end feels as propulsive and climactic as any linear story The language feels simple and declarative at first, until I realize that it s highly eleva I m going to be thinking about this novel for a long time I don t understand its power I m not sure how it works The same actions and perceptions, throughout the novel, can be taken as signs of mental illness, or signs of mental clarity Time sequence is broken over and over again in the novel, and yet the movement of the story from beginning to end feels as propulsive and climactic as any linear story The language feels simple and declarative at first, until I realize that it s highly elevated, to the extent that it resembles poetry and then it becomes actual poetry on the page Characters seem simultaneously real and mythological There are no sharp edges between the characters, either rather than having any sense of autonomous self they are defined instead by their relationship to one another What is real and not real is likewise not sharply defined Dream bleeds into memory into a fictive reality and back into dream I didn t feel this novel was written to explain something to me I felt instead that Silko wrote exactly and uniquely to her purpose She wrote something entirely new I ve never read anything like it Brutal and hard reading at points, but wow the language is magnificent and the theme of healing overall and the escape from white supremacy, trauma, and capitalism is inspiring Absolutely brilliant overall, super recommended. There are some things I have to tell you, Betonie began softly The people nowadays have an idea about the ceremonies They think the ceremonies must be performed exactly as they have always been done, maybe because one slip up or mistake and the whole ceremony must be stopped and the sand painting destroyed That much is true They think that if a singer tampers with any part of the ritual, great harm can be done, great power unleashed He was quiet for a while, looking up at the sky throug There are some things I have to tell you, Betonie began softly The people nowadays have an idea about the ceremonies They think the ceremonies must be performed exactly as they have always been done, maybe because one slip up or mistake and the whole ceremony must be stopped and the sand painting destroyed That much is true They think that if a singer tampers with any part of the ritual, great harm can be done, great power unleashed He was quiet for a while, looking up at the sky through the smoke hole That much can be true also But long ago when the people were given these ceremonies, the changing began, if only in the aging of the yellow gourd rattle or the shrinking of the skin around the eagle s claw, if only in the different voices from generation to generation, singing the chants At one time, the ceremonies as they had been performed were enough for the way the world was then But after the white people came, elements in this world began to shift and it became necessary to create new ceremonies I have made changes in the rituals The people mistrust this greatly, but only this growth keeps the ceremonies strong She taught me this above all else things which don t grow are dead things They are the things the witchery people want Witchery works to scare people, to make them fear growth But it has always been necessary, andthan ever now, it is Otherwise we won t make it We won t survive That s what the witchery is counting on that we will cling to the ceremonies the way they were, and then their power will triumph, and the people will be noI found myself in the book, in the story about witch people and how white settlers were created in a contest to show off the scariest thing possble I d already heard Thomas King s version of this story, but it meant something else to me then, it had a different emphasis In this story I myself come into being, a destroyer s vampire ghost From the backs of my thighs to the base of my spine to my stomach s underside I felt a chill crawling up to my chest, I felt myself blur into the world, fibres of my being knitting into the half poisoned London air I am not outside this story It has no borders Its materials, its hero, Tayo, are only one cycle of the sun, one fold of the skein.They live, these materials of the story, these people and lands, written with the clarity of morning light and changing rhythm of a dance that made me read slow, slow, fast, slow Written with ferocity and calm Some of what is real is what I know, and some I am not ready to know and have to pass over as mystery, magic shaken out of a story like sand from a shawl The teachers with their books of science trying to shout over everyone sound so reedy, weak and distant They are inside too, not encircling nature but encircled Outside Plato s cave is the cave of the sky But as usual I am getting carried away, let me stay earthbound, let me stay with our storyteller who is making the dry land of the southwest so sonorous with its mesas and arroyos, cousins so distant from the drizzle rinsed and misty hills that I know view spoiler It took me until the end to realise that Silko made her healing ceremony a book And there I was again, coming through the ceremony, and I can see the healing is for me too it isn t easy, though, it s never been easy for anyone, to travel from rage and loss and pain into love, to mend things that have been broken I had to rethink how race is read when the circle closed and Tayo s connection with the Japanese turned out to be nothing to do with ethnic links resemblance was a misleading sign The people of Nagasaki and Hiroshima were the ones Silko s ceremony came too late to save hide spoiler in my culture many of the stories about witches are lies spread to prevent women from disrupting white male power as propagated through the church and state the divine right of kings As a feminist, and since in Britain witches were often what Silko might call medicine people, those in touch with and learned in ways of healing that involved herb lore, an ethics of care and community, and practical wisdom derived from an oral tradition and personal experience of observing the cycles of nature, I myself am very fond of the word witch, and I appreciate the literature that seeks to rehabilitate it This literature includes Phillip Pullman s His Dark Materials series feminists, give your teens these books Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks and Room on the Broom It is significant that the witch people of Silko s story are not gendered The one who calls the horror into being is described thus no one ever knew where this witch came from which tribe or if it was a woman or a man I will tell you something about stories he said They aren t just entertainment.Don t be fooled.They are all we have, you see,all we have to fight offillness and death.You don t have anything if you don t have the stories Leslie Marmon Silko s Ceremony opens with a defense of storytelling Storytelling is a way of making the world, a way of protecting self and culture Ceremony itself takes part in this process, telling the story of Tayo, a young Native American come home from WWII and severely I will tell you something about stories he said They aren t just entertainment.Don t be fooled.They are all we have, you see,all we have to fight offillness and death.You don t have anything if you don t have the stories Leslie Marmon Silko s Ceremony opens with a defense of storytelling Storytelling is a way of making the world, a way of protecting self and culture Ceremony itself takes part in this process, telling the story of Tayo, a young Native American come home from WWII and severely traumatized by the experience He is sick, depressed, suffering from PTSD, it seems, and unable to re integrate into his society Until he visits Betonie, that is, a medicine man who tells him about the witchery that is at play in the world, witchery that Tayo can help put an end to as he completes a ceremony that will also help him heal Silko s novel is a beautiful reflection on the ways in which we are all interconnected all humans and all of nature but do not see this connection Because we do not see this connection, we continue to destroy ourselves, our fellow humans, and the world in which we must live Tayo finally makes this connection through seeing the connections between Los Alamos and the creation of the atomic bomb and his own experiences From the jungles of his dreaming he recognized why the Japanese voices had merged with Laguna voices, with Josiah s voice and Rocky s voice the lines of cultures and worlds were drawn in flat dark lines on fine light sand, converging in the middle of witchery s final ceremonial sand painting From that time on, human beings were one clan again, united by the fate the destroyers planned for all of them, for all living things united by a circle of death that devoured people in cities twelve thousand miles away, victims who had never known these mesas, who had never seen the delicate colors of the rocks which boiled up their slaughter 246 Upon this realization, he is relieved to find that he had never been crazy He had only seen and heard the world as it always was no boundaries, only transitions through all distances and time 246 The book is a hopeful one, ending with healing and sunrise, with the witchery dead for now 261 , but in it Silko acknowledges that it has never been easy 254 , that It isn t very easy to fix up things again 256 And it is easy to damage things It took only one person to tear away the delicate strands of the web, spilling the rays of sun into the sand, and the fragile world would be injured 38 What happens to one happens to all This works both ways One person s misdeeds or losses affect everyone else whether on a familial and community level or on a worldwide level and so it isn t easy to maintain balance and harmony and we all live constantly in danger of being harmed by someone else however, we each also have the power and the responsibility to begin the process of healing, to engage in ceremonies and storytelling and action to change the end of the narrative, as Tayo does


About the Author: Leslie Marmon Silko

Leslie Marmon Silko born Leslie Marmon born March 5, 1948 is a Native American writer of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, and one of the key figures in the First Wave of what literary critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renaissance.Silko was a debut recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Grant, now known as the Genius Grant , in 1981 and the Native Writers Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994 She currently resides in Tucson, Arizona from Wikipedia


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