Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer: A Story of Survival / Edition 1

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""A name creates life patterns," Allison Adelle Hedge Coke writes, "which form and shape a life; my life, like my name, must have been formed many times over then handed to me to realize." Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer is Hedge Coke's narrative of that realization, the poet and writer's searching account of her life as a mixed-blood woman coming of age off-reservation, yet deeply immersed in her Cherokee and Huron heritage. In a style at once elliptical and achingly clear, Hedge Coke describes her schizophrenic mother and the abuse that often overshadowed her childhood; the torments visited upon her, the rape and physical violence; and those she inflicted on herself, the alcohol and drug abuse. Yet she managed to survive with her dreams and her will, her sense of wonder and promise undiminished." The title Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer refers to the life-revelations that brought Hedge Coke through her trials, the melding of language and experience that has brought order to her life. In this book, Hedge Coke shares the insights she has gathered along the way, insights that touch on broader Native issues such as modern life in the diaspora; the threat of alcohol, drug abuse, and violence; and the ongoing onslaught on self amid a complex, mixed heritage.
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Editorial Reviews

"This is a harrowing book. Statistics about alcoholism and family violence among dispossessed American Indians fail to show the sheer human suffering it causes and the personal heroism of those who struggle through to an integrated life. Hedge Coke was endowed by her Cherokee father with insights into the Indian way of life, but the pressures of prejudice and her mother's insanity drove her into years of drug and alcohol abuse as well as into abusive relationships. She writes in a stately, unashamed manner of beatings and binges, always connecting her personal sufferings to the larger questions of how Indian people can reclaim their cultural and personal pride and authority."—Booklist
Billings Gazette

"Razor-sharp."—Chris Rubich, Billings Gazette

— Chris Rubich

Quiet Mountain Essays

"This book has the ability to open eyes, and to provide freedom on a deep and pesonal level through the glory of truth, which is a beautiful thing no matter how shocking its origins. Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer is one read that you will not forget."—Diane Zephier, Quiet Mountain Essays

— Diane Zephier

Multicultural Review

“An extraordinary story of survival, compassion, courage, and a balanced comprehension of acceptance and the will to live.”—Maggie Necefer, Multicultural Review

— Maggie Necefer


“Hedge Coke’s childhood and young adult years as recounted in this gritty and courageous memoir are not only a story of survival but a story of strength.”—Campbell
Fourth Genre

“It is through her lush yet controlled use of language that Hedge Coke successfully creates a narrative of both personal and cultural history. . . . She is often unflinchingly succinct in her telling of some painful event, and other times, especially when describing moments when she is close to death, she offers us lyric gems. . . . She travels like a liminal being, moving fluidly across boundaries between prose and poetry, dream and reality, myth and history, animal and human, the personal and political.”—Mira Bartok, Fourth Genre
Billings Gazette - Chris Rubich
“Razor-sharp. . . . [Hedge Coke’s] award-winning skills as a poet bring another element of sharpness to her book—crisp sentences full of detail. Her carefully chosen words are like snapshots in their ability to capture her struggle just to remain alive and, later, her journey to a place of peace. . . . It’s a journey that slashes at reader’s emotions but also celebrates the ability of the human spirit to battle on and the power of the author to let us share the road with her.”—Chris Rubich, Billings Gazette
Joy Harjo
“What I’ve always admired about Allison Hedge Coke’s poetry is her astounding courage. And the ability to seamlessly weave the tobacco fields of childhood with the stark plains and hills of South Dakota. And more than all that—the shining spirit of compassion.”—Joy Harjo, Mvskoke poet and musician
Quiet Mountain Essays - Diane Zephier
“This book has the ability to open eyes, and to provide freedom on a deep and pesonal level through the glory of truth, which is a beautiful thing no matter how shocking its origins. Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer is one read that you will not forget.”—Diane Zephier, Quiet Mountain Essays
Multicultural Review - Maggie Necefer

“An extraordinary story of survival, compassion, courage, and a balanced comprehension of acceptance and the will to live.”—Maggie Necefer, Multicultural Review
Joyce Carol Oates

“[A] beautifully written, courageous memoir.”—Joyce Carol Oates
Simon J. Ortiz

“Telling is one thing. That’s what we do when we tell stories. But coming to know by experience and telling about it is another. Allison Hedge Coke in Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer shows us ‘knowing’ in her unique and wonderful way.”—Simon J. Ortiz, author of Out There Somewhere
Great Plains Quarterly

“Allison Hedge Coke’s intimate narrative details her journey through suffering to wholeness. Her story will inspire anyone who has faced adversity. . . .[Hedge Coke’s] insight is luminous.”—Great Plains Quarterly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803215276
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2004
  • Series: American Indian Lives Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 206
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke currently teaches in the MFA program at the University of Central Oklahoma, is a Great Plains Fellow at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and teaches in the MFA program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She was awarded a residency from the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe. Hedge Coke is the author of The Year of the Rat, Dog Road Woman (winner of the American Book Award), Off-Season City Pipe, and Blood Run, and she most recently edited Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas and Effigies
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 6, 2013

    an emotional and beautiful story, but keep in mind that not all of this is an easy thing emotionally to read

    This is an amazing story. I won't lie, there are some horrible things in this book. Not everything will be pleasant. The most amazing this is not only did Hedge Coke survive these horrors, but she preserved her ability to laugh and revel in the beauty of the world. The writing is sometimes poetic, and sometimes plainly bold in setting forth terrible things that happened without flinching or becoming maudlin. Simply put, they happened she she survived. The book is an emotional and beautiful story. Just be prepared, the writing is enjoyable...but not everything is easy to read about.

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