The Dine, or Navajo, creation story says that there were four worlds before this one, and this fifth world is the Glittering World. For the present-day Dine, it is also a world of glittering technology and influences from outside the sacred land entrusted to them by the Holy People. One of the first books about Dine life to come from within that culture, From the Glittering World, by Irvin Morris, conveys in vivid language how a contemporary Dine writer experiences this world as a mingling of the profoundly ...
The Dine, or Navajo, creation story says that there were four worlds before this one, and this fifth world is the Glittering World. For the present-day Dine, it is also a world of glittering technology and influences from outside the sacred land entrusted to them by the Holy People. One of the first books about Dine life to come from within that culture, From the Glittering World, by Irvin Morris, conveys in vivid language how a contemporary Dine writer experiences this world as a mingling of the profoundly traditional with the sometimes jarringly, sometimes alluringly new. A blend of fiction, memoir, history, and myth, the book is cast in the form of a ceremony. The first of four parts, a retelling of the creation story and the tragic experience of Fort Sumner, concludes with a return to the homeland and a spiritual rebirth. Second is a fictionalized account of the author's childhood and young manhood. Raised both on and off the reservation, he leaves for Los Angeles as a teenager and first encounters the dangers of life on the street. Opportunities to study in various locations draw him into an increasingly larger world. The third part brings him into the present, into the glare and sparkle of modern times. The fourth part, a set of short stories, is the sum of the preceding. Reflecting the totality of myth, history, and personal experience from which they spring, the stories sketch with humor and compassion various aspects of the clash between white and Dine culture. Together they express the rich background and wealth of experience of contemporary Dine life.
The story of the Native American's struggle to survive in two worlds, Native and white, goes back well before the likes of Sherman Alexie, Leslie Marmon Silko and James Welch to Charles Eastman (The Soul of an Indian) and his predecessors. One of the latest to tell the story is Morris, a member of the Tbaah clan of the Navajo Nation and a teacher at State University of New York, Buffalo. He opens with a Navajo creation story about how the Fifth World, the Glittering World, came to be. From there, Morris moves forward, blending myth, fiction and memoir to give readers stories ranging from the Navajo's tragic Long Walk in 1863 to a poignant tale of a lonely Navajo grandmother's struggle to reclaim her grandson from the world of the bilaganaa (whites). Morris's lyrical voice, his sharp eye for detail, combined with lean prose, leads readers into the harrowing, tragic and outrageous land of the Glittering World. Here, the traditional world of Navajo clans, skinwalkers, hogans and other facets of reservation life clash with harsh urban realities encountered in places stretching from Hollywood Boulevard to a Gallup, N.M., jail cell. The stories are sprinkled throughout with Navajo words; this technique, though initially distracting, by the end serves to enhance the theme of the clash and combination of two disparate cultures. (Feb.)
The colorful creation story that opens the book shows an ordered world in which the First Man and First Woman give birth to the Holy People. The Nilch'i dine'e (popularly known as Navajo) are cast out of this perfect world and ascend to the fifth world, the glittering world. An elaborate tale that weaves between comfortable prosperity and menace, like a Shakespearean play or a Broadway musical, one can imagine it being spun out over campfires during long evenings. This story serves as a backdrop to stories about what life for the Dine' is like now, when an uneasy relationship persists between the whites and the Indians. Old cultural elements linger amid a world of highways and laundromats, churches and schools, commodities and deteriorating HUD houses. Most of the book is comprised of stories and anecdotes, like the time a truckload of pigs overturned, inspiring the local people to become pig farmers, a situation that lasted until everyone tired of pork. When someone ordered a strolling Dine' to get off his property, he was tempted to say that it was land originally stolen from his people. Though some of the individual incidents seem trivial, the whole paints a powerful picture of what day-to-day life is like for the Dine' as they struggle to survive amid the cultural crosscurrents of the old and the new. One senses a connection to the earth that continues in the spiritual view of the Dine', a linking of family and land that stretches back to the old days. Chapter titles are a bit hard to follow, as they consist of Dine' words followed by translations, e.g. "Ootil (It is being carried)"; but this is not a major problem. This is a bridge to understanding that should be considered in anycollection that includes personal narratives as well as formal historical materials. KLIATT Codes: A—Recommended for advanced students, and adults. 1997, Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 257p, 22cm, 96-31861, $12.95 Ages 17 to adult. Reviewer: Edna M. Boardman; former Lib. Media Spec. Magic City Campus, Minot, ND, July 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 4)