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From the Belly of My Beauty
     

From the Belly of My Beauty

by Esther G. Belin
 

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If it can be said that Native culture is hidden behind the facade of mainstream America, there is a facet of that culture hidden even to many Native Americans. One of today's generation of outstanding Native writers, Esther Belin is an urban Indian. Raised in the city, she speaks with an entirely different voice from that of her reservation kindred as

Overview


If it can be said that Native culture is hidden behind the facade of mainstream America, there is a facet of that culture hidden even to many Native Americans. One of today's generation of outstanding Native writers, Esther Belin is an urban Indian. Raised in the city, she speaks with an entirely different voice from that of her reservation kindred as she expresses herself on subjects of urban alienation, racism, sexism, substance abuse, and cultural estrangement.

In this bold new collection of poems, Belin presents a startling vision of urban California—particularly Los Angeles—contrasted with Navajo life in the Four Corners region. She presents aspects of Diné life and history not normally seen by readers accustomed to accounts written by Navajos brought up on the reservation.

Her work reveals a difference in experience but a similarity in outlook. Belin's poems put familiar cultural forms in a new context, as Coyote "struts down east 14th / feeling good / looking good / feeling the brown." Her character Ruby dramatizes the gritty reality of a Native woman's life ("I laugh / sit / smoke a Virginia Slim / and talk to the spirits"). Her use of Diné language and poignant descriptions of family life will remind some of Joy Harjo's work, but with every turn of the page, readers will know that Belin is making her own mark on Native American literature.

From the Belly of My Beauty is also a ceremony of affirmation and renewal for those Native Americans affected by the Federal Indian Relocation Program of the 1950s and '60s, with its attempts to "assimilate" them into the American mainstream. They have survived by remembering who they were and where they came from. And they have survived so that they might bear witness, as Esther Belin so powerfully does. Belin holds American culture accountable for failing to treat its indigenous peoples with respect, but speaks for the ability of Native culture to survive and provide hope, even for mixed-blood or urban Indians. She is living proof that Native culture thrives wherever its people are found.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Winner of the American Book Award

""Belin provides graphic descriptions of the 'wounds' one endures remaining true to a 'native lifestyle.'" —Library Journal

"The words are gut-wrenching, authentic, laugh-out loud funny, meditative, and will move you to tears. She is the real thing!" —Irvin Morris, author of From the Glittering World 

Library Journal
This book of compassionate, forthright poetry (and a moving autobiographical essay) tries to come to terms with conflicts between the tribal Navajo reservation ("the rez") and "the place some call the United States." Evoking her grandparents' bond with "the painted desert's magic" and the ordeal of her parents' relocation from reservation to boarding school, Belin provides graphic descriptions of the "wounds" one endures remaining true to a "native lifestyle." Born in Gallup, NM, and educated at the University of California at Berkeley, she found herself transformed by her return to the reservation, opening "a hope chest treasured with stories" when she enrolled at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. Despite the tension between primitive "Third World belly" and "Euro-American" culture, Belin rejects bitterness at "minority status" even as she documents the courage it takes to find "the voices of our nations, our clan relations, our families." Her conclusion is upbeat: "The hunger in my writing feeds from my journey homeward." For larger poetry collections.--Frank Allen, Northampton Community Coll., Tannersville, PA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780816519545
Publisher:
University of Arizona Press
Publication date:
08/01/1999
Series:
Sun Tracks Series , #38
Pages:
104
Sales rank:
854,390
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 6.00(h) x 0.50(d)

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Meet the Author


Esther Belin lives in Durango, Colorado.

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