|CHAPTER 6 (B)||Literature||Contents | Subcontents | Go Prev | Go Next|
|Postwar America: The Multivocity of American Literature|
Native American Indian writers born around 1940 and thereafter have been publishing their prose and poetry in a literary atmosphere that has learned to read them as they would want to be read, and as their readership is increasing, so is their output. Of the many noteworthy writers and poets we cannot treat more than a handful, however briefly. Still, a by far from exhaustive list would have to include James Welch, Simon J. Ortiz, Linda Hogan, Leslie Marmon Silko, LeAnne Howe, Luci Tapahonso, and Louise Eldrich. They and many other Native American writers and poets are treated by The Native American Authors Project.
Like N. Scott Momaday’s main protagonist in House Made of Dawn, Leslie Marmon Silkos’ s protagonist in Ceremony (1977), which drew immediate attention to itself, is also torn between two ways of life, unable to belong to either. But Silko’s story is also a spirit story, which runs parallel to the main narrative. Her Almanac of the Dead (1991) is more political in nature, and prophesies the restoration of the Americas to their original inhabitants. Silko (b. 1948), part a Laguna Pueblo and part Mexican, returns to several of that novel’s themes in Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit (1993), a collection of essays on Native American life.
LeAnne Howe (b. 1951) of the Choctaw Nation has been bringing a heady mix of her special Native American imagination for fiction and her personal flair and playful humor to her highly original and enjoyable writings. Her first work of fiction, Coyote Papers, came out in 1985. Her Shell Shaker (2001) is, in the final analysis, is a takeoff on science fiction. The action in the novel alternates between 1738, as a Mississippi Choctaw family prepares for war against the English, and the 1990s, as their Oklahoma descendants, the Billys, fight a Mafia takeover of the tribe’s casino. In trouble with the law and in the fight of their lives, the Billy women must find a way, as their ancestors had done, to join forces. Humor and toughness are the Billys’ only weapons – until the Shell Shaker shows up.
Luci Tapahonso (b. 1953) is a prolific poet and storyteller who, through her readings of her books and poems has helped introduce Native American themes to a wider audience. Raised on the Navajo homeland of Dinétah, she later combined English prose and poetry with Navajo phrases, oral styles, songs, and prayers. Tapahonso published her first two volumes of poetry, One More Shiprock Night and Seasonal Woman, in 1981 and 1982 respectively. Along with A Breeze Swept Through of 1987, her poems indicated the special binds that Tapahonso feels to her family, her heritage, and to the land of Dinétah. They, along with Tapahonso’s subsequent volumes of poems and stories, also reveal the presence of the Navajo storytelling tradition. Wide critical acclaim was given to Tapahonso’s works with the publication of Sáanii Dahataal: The Women Are Singing (1993), in which she discusses the importance of mingling of languages, and Blue Horses Rush In (1999), in which she analyzes Diné storytelling tradition and her use of it in her poems and stories, thus leading to an “exploration of possibilities”.
Louise Eldrich’s works have appeared in various journals including the New England Review and Redbook, as well as anthologies of Native American writing. Eldrich, an Anishinnabe (b.1954), has published poetry collections as well as novels. Her novel, Love Medicine (1984), was published to loud acclaim and was followed by several others, extended histories of families dealt with in Love Medicine. The Painted Drum, her new novel, explores the strange power that lost children exert on the memories of those they leave behind.
Recommended Web Resources
To read the essay “The Border Patrol State” from the author’s new book Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit, which deals with what Silko considers to be the U.S. government’s continuing war on Indian America along the border with Mexico, go to