Leslie Marmon Silko

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“Leslie Marmon Silko is a famous novelist, poet, and short story writer whose work is primarily concerned with the relations between different cultures and between human beings and the natural world.” [ (Fajardo-Acosta) ] Silko was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, under Laguna Pueblo, Plains Indians, and Anglo-American decent. Known as the Old Laguna, she grew up on the Laguna Reservation in Northern Mexico and is a part of a town formed several years ago by Pueblo tribes. “Her family was storytellers among the Laguna; her relatives were among the Native American who taught early twentieth-century anthropologists traditional myths and stories.” [ (Foundation) ] Part of Leslie’s education came in part from her grandmother and aunts in the traditional stories of Laguna people, and as a result caused her to be identified with the native part of her ancestry. She was educated at a Catholic school in Albuquerque, married her first husband, Richard C. Chapman, and went on to receive a BA for the University of New Mexico in 1969. After receiving the National Endowment for the Arts’ Discovery Grant in 1971, she briefly attended law school before leaving to pursue her literary career and marry her second husband, John Silko. [ (Leslie Marmon Silko Biography) ] [ (Fajardo-Acosta) ] In 1972, she gave birth to her second son, Cazimir Silko, and moved with her husband to Alaska. She returned to the Laguna reservation in 1976 where she later divorced her husband and continued on with her career. She published a short story “The Man to Send Rain Clouds,” a collection of poems including “Laguna Women” in 1974, and her first novel, Ceremony, in 1977. “The critical acclaim she earned from Ceremony solidified her position in the literary field and earned her numerous prestigious writing awards.” [ (Foundation) ] This major work, including her other literary works, weaves myths, history, and personal recollection of her Laguna background. It was in 1978 that she formed a friendship with poet James Wright as well as earning the Pushcart Prize for Poetry. [ (Fajardo-Acosta) ] She continues to pursue her writing career to this day in Tucson, Arizona. “Leslie Marmon Silko portrays storytelling as an essential element in Native American identity and cultural practice, and the position of the listener-reader as taking varied roles. Leslie’s ‘Storytelling’ and ‘Storyteller’ stories operate as gifts that anyone can claim but no one can possess, and listener-readers help shape the stories’ natures through interaction.” [ (Brill) ] Silko makes it clear that her place in Laguna community life as a storyteller is at the core of her identity and that her stories must be viewed in that context. Silko’s novels, short stories, and poems are shaped by the Native American heritage through which she grew up under. In Thomas Irmer’s interview with Silko, in her response to his question about drawing from old Indian legends handed down by her ancestors, Silko responded, “When one grows up in the Pueblo community, in the Pueblo tribe the people are communal people, it is an egalitarian communal society. The education of the children is done within the community; each adult works with every child, children belong to everybody and the way of teaching is to tell stories.” [ (Irmer) ] The majority of her works focus on the inferiority of Native Americans in the white society during her time and the importance of native traditions that helped them cope with modern life. “Like many contemporary writers, Silko experiments with the narrative line, weaving in and out of chronological time as she explores the consciousness of her characters.” [ (Velie) ] The Native Americans of the Pueblo see time as cyclical rather than linear. In Ceremony, Silko produces a text that emphasizes this notion by using a nonlinear narrative structure. In most of Western literature, narrative proceeds in a temporal succession from beginning to end and from earlier to...
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