The Influence of Cultural Storytelling
Published in 1977, Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko examines the life of Tayo, a mixed heritage World War II veteran. Silko, like Tayo is part Native American Indian and part white. Set on the Laguna Pueblo reservation, Silko weaves the beauty and mystic of the southwest with the darkness of Tayo’s post traumatic stress disorder. While this is a non-religious book, the Native American rituals border on religious symbolism and help the reader understand the impact on one’s emotional health. The book examines the healing of Tayo, it served as a healing process for Silko.
Viking Press granted Silko a contract to write either a series of short stories or a novel. Upon starting what she believed to be a humorous story about a World War II veteran and his antics with alcohol, Silko soon realized the story was not humorous (Chavkin 24). She also remembered “the embarrassment and the shame that the Laguna community experienced when they observed the alcoholism of these veterans” (24). As the story of Tayo and his friends unfolds, the reader has a glimpse into the world of alcohol and the part it plays in perpetuating the effects of war.
Silko admits the inspiration for the book is from her own experience on the reservation and the desire to understand the World War II veterans she had grown up with (xvi). The Vietnam War had ended with the communist claiming victory, certainly that is reminiscent of the white man taking the land from The Native American Indians. Yet another influential event, The American Indian Movement staged a protest at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. The protest was an effort to raise political awareness about the condition of the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation (Rich 70). In her article, “Remember Wounded Knee,” Rich states, “Wounded Knee came to stand for simply the site of the 1890 Big Foot massacre in which many of the Big Foot’s people died, running from the advancing U.S. Calvary” (71). With...
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