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Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit

Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit

by Leslie Marmon Silko

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Bold and impassioned, sharp and defiant, Leslie Marmon Silko's essays evoke the spirit and voice
of Native Americans. Whether she is exploring the vital importance literature and language play
in Native American heritage, illuminating the inseparability of the land and the Native American
people, enlivening the ways and wisdom of the old-time people, or


Bold and impassioned, sharp and defiant, Leslie Marmon Silko's essays evoke the spirit and voice
of Native Americans. Whether she is exploring the vital importance literature and language play
in Native American heritage, illuminating the inseparability of the land and the Native American
people, enlivening the ways and wisdom of the old-time people, or exploding in outrage over the
government's long-standing, racist treatment of Native Americans, Silko does so with eloquence
and power, born from her profound devotion to all that is Native American.

Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit is written with the fire of necessity. Silko's
call to be heard is unmistakable; there are stories to remember, injustices to redress, ways of
life to preserve. It is a work of major importance, filled with indispensable truths--a work by
an author with an original voice and a unique access to both worlds.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In her title essay, famed novelist, short story writer and poet Silko recalls her encounters with racism while growing up on a Laguna Pueblo reservation in New Mexico (she is of mixed Indian, Mexican and white ancestry), then goes on to explore sexually uninhibited Laguna society before the arrival of Christian missionaries, when women took lovers as freely as men, and hunted and went to war along with the men. That provocative piece sets the tone for an outspoken collection of original essays in which Silko criticizes tribal councils as puppets of the U.S. government and blames President Clinton for what she considers racist immigration policies and for abetting the white and mestizo ruling classes of El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico. She writes beautifully of Maya, Aztec and Mixtec codices, or folding books, relating their visual language to frescoes on pyramids and ancient dwellings. Her explorations of Pueblo myths and oral narratives emphasize the inextricable links between human identity, imagination and Mother Earth, a theme that resonates in an evocative essay, augmented by photographs, on the exotic rock formations around her home in Tucson's hills. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Another collection of essays, this from noted Native American novelist Silko (Almanac of the Dead, LJ 10/15/91).
Donna Seaman
Silko's concise essays are like songs; their harmonies are autobiographical, their melodies topical. The source of their understated emotional timbre is a carefully controlled blend of pride in Pueblo heritage and anger over the perpetuation of injustice against Native Americans. Although these low-key song-essays are free of fancy modulations and theatrics, they're rich in story and observation. Silko, whose mixed Laguna and white heritage has made her exceptionally sensitive to issues of race, weaves episodes from her life into musings on the inclusiveness of the ancient Pueblo vision, how integral place is to the Pueblo ethos and sense of identity, and how stories are a vibrant part of everyday Pueblo life, establishing and preserving a web of meaning, memory, and knowledge. In her arresting title essay, Silko contrasts Native American and European American standards of feminine beauty, then introduces the heroic figure of Yellow Woman, whose strength, courage, and "vibrant sexuality" were boons to her people. Silko's insights fill our minds like sun warms rock, or a quiet rain saturates dry ground.
Kirkus Reviews
In these previously published essays and stories centered on the Pueblo peoples of the Southwest, Silko (Almanac of the Dead, 1991) weaves together autobiographical material with current and ancient Native American tales. She also blasts a broad array of individuals, professions, and government bodies with often unsubstantiated accusations, and plays fast and loose with matters of science and history.

Emphasizing the importance of storytelling as unifier and guidepost in the Pueblo culture, Silko is at her best when recounting stories that demonstrate the strong spiritual relationship of the people to the land's animate and inanimate objects, as in the tale of a drowned child whose clothes magically turn into desert butterflies or in the story of Yellow Woman, who agrees to go away with a buffalo spirit so that her tribe will always have food. Silko also collects modern tribal tales: There is, for instance, a story about a giant stone snake that is discovered at the site of a uranium mine, auguring, Silko suggests, the return of the tribal peoples to their ancestral lands. Elsewhere, Silko rails against the historic confiscation of tribal lands and to some extent details the continuing political struggle for the return of these lands and land-use rights. While her sincerity is unquestioned, and though she has a twice-told run-in with INS agents, readers may become impatient with the barbs tossed without elaboration at anthropologists and archaeologists, and with blanket assertions about "greedy elected officials" or the existence of a "police state" in the Southwest run by the Border Patrol. At best, her evidence for these charges is anecdotal and circumstantial.

One wishes Silko had confined this volume to storytelling and remembrances of her life and her ancestors' lives; the contribution she is capable of bringing to the reader's appreciation of the Pueblo culture is diluted by unsupportable and tired diatribe.

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Simon & Schuster
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Meet the Author

Leslie Marmon Silko:

One of the reasons I felt I must write the essays in this book was to remedy this country's
shocking ignorance of its own history.

U.S. history courses in elementary and secondary schools usually begin with the arrival of
the Englishspeaking Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock or, if the teacher is quite daring, with the
failed colony at Roanoke, Virginia- Yet the true history of the United States begins thousands
of years earlier with the stories of the paleo-Indian mammoth hunters on the plains of what
is now northeastern and north-central New Mexico. These ancestors of the Pueblo Indian
people did more than survive, they learned to thrive under the harsh conditions of the
southwest desert.

In 1540, when the Spaniards marched into what is now Arizona and New Mexico, they found
large, prosperous villages which reminded them of towns in Spain; and so they called the people
"indios pueblos"-"pueblo" is the Spanish word for "town." The "indios pueblos" did not take the
invasion of their land lying down- they resisted bitterly, and in 1680, they expelled the
Spaniards to El Paso for twelve years.

In 1689, to make peace with the Pueblos, the King of Spain recognized each of the Pueblos
as sovereign nations under international law Thus, the Pueblos of New Mexico (and Hopi of
Arizona) were acknowledged as nations by international law, almost one hundred years
before the United States even existed.

If our U.S. educational system actually gave students a complete history of this country,
a great deal of prejudice aimed at Native Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans,
and Spanish-speaking U.S. citizens might be ended as our school children began to understand
who really settled this country, and who really did the work of planting crops, mining ore,
and building cities and railroads.

Until the whole story of the origins of the United States of America is known, there can be
no justice, and without justice, there can be no peace.

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Leslie Marmon Silko, a former professor of English and fiction writing, is the author of novels, short stories, essays, poetry, articles, and screenplays. She has won numerous awards and fellowships for her work. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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