Joy Harjos search for identity

Topics: Family, Mother, Abuse Pages: 6 (1604 words) Published: September 23, 2014
Joy Harjo has always been conscious of her gift by stating, “I was entrusted with carrying voices, songs, and stories to grow and release into the world, to be of assistance and inspiration. These were my responsibility” (Harjo 20). In her memoir Crazy Brave, Joy Harjo uses vivid memories, poetry, and dreams to portray her struggles and growth into the strong successful woman she is today. The book starts in her early childhood when she discovers her connection to music and the spiritual world. The sections “East “ and “North” of her memoir contain crucial moments that have molded Joy’s life while on a mission to find her sense of identity. Joy seems to struggle with her identity in much of the first two sections; these struggles with identity come from her gender, race, and family life. While her struggles make a significant impact on the person she is today, the way in which she overcame these struggles is what molds her character and view on life. Joy Harjo found refuge during adolescence in books, music, and poetry, which eventually saved her life. Pivotal moments in Harjo’s life are depicted in the sections “East” and “North” in Crazy Brave, that have impacted her developing sense of identity and her growing desire for independence. Joy learns at a young age that her race was not socially accepted when she started attending the Catholic Church. This passage effects her developing sense of self and her Native American identity. Joy started attending an evangelical bible school in Kindergarten and later explains in the section “North” how she was discriminated for being Native American. She explains, “Most of the children at Church wouldn’t sit with me because I was Indian and my parents were divorced. But I grew to love Bible stories and I hungered for God knowledge” (Harjo 77). Joy knew she did not belong to the Catholic Church, but it was there that she discovered her love for God and was intrigued to read the Bible; “I decided to read the Bible through, searching to make my own sense of it. I found wisdom, poetry, and a great respect for dreams and visions” (Harjo 78). This is when Joy made a connection with God and built her foundation of faith through the poetry of the Bible. Attending the Catholic Church, finding the Bible, and being discriminated for her race are all pivotal moments in beginning to form Joy’s identity. Throughout the first two sections of the book, Joy develops a growing sense of disconnect with the male gender. Her distrust in men starts with her biological father and continues with the psychological and physical abuse of her stepfather. The following two passages depict the turmoil Joy is put through during two different stages in her life and the impact that not having a father figure has on her relationship with men. We learn in “East” that Joy’s biological father is an alcoholic and sleeps around with other women. This particular passage highlights the effect this behavior has on Joy. She describes, “My father was out with girlfriends or coming home drunk and fighting my mother. My father disappeared. And so did I in this world without a father. Emptiness took place of everything I had known to be true” (Harjo 51). Joy yearned for more from her father but never expressed in the memoir that she held it against him. Harjo finds herself to be more like her father as a “fire” spirit and finds it difficult to not have him in her life. Although he was not a positive role model in Joy’s life, Joy does not talk of him in a negative light. She rather speaks of him in a realistic matter by saying, “I adored my father and I feared him” (Harjo 32). She understands and forgives how her father treated himself and their family because she sees herself in her father and knows he is not a bad man. After her parents divorce, Joy’s luck does not seem to improve. The man her mother decides to marry turns controlling and dangerous very quickly. The torment her stepfather puts her family through may have the...
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